Reunion Island is one aptly named French Overseas Department. Located in the Indian Ocean, nest to Mauritius, the island gets an even better surname: Intense Island. With its diverse origins, Reunion Island of today is surprising and incredible. There are a lot of things that will make you want to visit this island, but its natural environment will definitely be amongst the top. An exceptional natural heritage. Circuses and vertiginous peaks. Beaches and lagoons for relaxation and diving. A strong and warm cultural identity. Breath cut by the diversity and beauty of its landscapes, let yourself be carried by this fantastic and enigmatic island.
If you are a hiker or a seasonal trekker, we got some really interesting place for you. We’ve got an active volcano, gigantic calderas and some of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, welcome to Reunion Island.
Le Piton de la Fournaise
Piton de la Fournaise, located southeast of the island of Reunion, is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet today. It has been sending out an eruption every 3/4 months since 2007. The date of its last eruption was on the 18th of February 2019. It is also one of the most popular ecotourism and nature sport activities.
If it is describable: a lunar and wonderful landscape awaits you at Piton de la Fournaise. Starting from the Pas de Bellecombe (about 2 hours’ drive from St Paul) count about 5 hours backpacking. We advise you to start the climb at dawn, there is no shade along the way and the heat can quickly make your trek tough. Go early to watch the sun rise from the volcano is simply stunning, don’t miss this.
The trail is very well marked, white traces painted on lava indicates the path to follow. The volcano is 2512 m above sea level, so be prepared for some altitude cold and be sure to wear a suitable clothing. The hike takes you to a whole new world, a sea of lava, it’s like being on Mars. The scenery is amazing both along the ascent and at the summit.
You can also see fumaroles inside the crater that reminds you that the beast can wake up at any time (Le Piton de la Fournaise is one of the most active volcanoes in the world). After the descent of the volcano, a little rest on one of the beaches is a great way to reward yourself!
Piton des Neiges
Piton des Neiges is the highest point of the Indian Ocean with its 3070 m altitude. It is a huge dormant effusive volcano, at the origin of the formation of the island. Impressive in size, its flanks gave birth to the three cirques excavated around it. Also, despite what its name suggests, the Piton des Neiges has snow, but that’s very rare. If you are a seasonal hiker, book a guide. If you are a professional hiker, you might still want to book a guide, really this climb can take up to 72 depending on whether and where you start from. The ascent of Piton des Neiges is one of the most beautiful memories of Reunion Island for so many visitors.
Ascent from the Cilaos Caldera for the fastest route but be careful this hike gets quite hard after the first minutes. Allow about 4 hours to reach the Cavern Dufour refuge. After a good night’s rest, you can restart at 4:00am to hike the last kilometers before the summit. After about 1h30 with the help of aheadlamp, you will be able to watch reach the top and the sun rise on almost the whole island, with on the horizon the Indian Ocean and the three cirques, Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos at your feet. A moment simply magic, of wonder and indescribable!
Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie
There are three natural calderas, contiguous to the Piton des Neiges. A natural circus/caldera is a circular space surrounded by mountains. This space can be formed by a depression of glacial origin, it is then a glacial caldera or of volcanic origin as it can be seen and trekked in Reunion Island National Park. The three natural calderas on Reunion Island are Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos.
Reunion Island owes its fame to its natural sceneries which are mostly represented in these 3 calderas. These large mountain enclosures are visited each year by thousands of visitors who are attracted by the prodigious landscapes that can be admired there. These are all sanctuaries of mother nature and discovering them during a hike is quite some unforgettable experience.
The name Cilaos is derived from the Malagasy term “Tsilaosa”, which means, a place we can’t leave. South facing Cilaos is the driest calderas of the three. The road to Cilaos Circus is spectacular. Its 400 turns are easily forgotten so much landscape is beautiful.
Located in the center of the island, in the southern part of Piton des Neiges about 1200 meters above sea level, Cilaos has many resources. Main destination for visitors eager for nature and hiking, the circus is known for its lentils, wine, embroidery and baths. Cilaos is also famous for its canyons.
Quiet and flowery, this “nature city” is particularly embellished with the departure of hiking trails: the GR R1 (Tour of the Piton des Neiges through the 3 circuses) and GR R2 which crosses the island. Many other hiking trails allow you to discover the natural fruitfulness of Cilaos.
Mafate is the only caldera that is accessible only by foot. The only other way is by helicopter. The rugged and chaotic terrain of Mafate prevents the road from accessing it, and that add to the charm of this place.
Trekking in Reunion Island
What better way to live the Intense Island Experience than hiking in the most natural surroundings? You’ll cherish those little moment where you might get surprised by a panoramic point of view, the calling of waterfalls, the bend of a hiking trail, there is a lot to hike. The island counts 500+ hiking trails.