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Reunion Travel & Holiday Tips


Much French culture has seeped into the island’s day-to-day life, intermixing with Réunion’s African, Indian and Chinese influences, and creating a wonderful tropical twist. The predominant spoken language is French, the architecture leans towards the French models; but this is also a land of volcanoes and cyclone seasons. Equally, French dishes may be on the menu but they are usually subverted. It is little wonder that Réunion is a much-kept secret, since the French presumably want to keep this little gem of an island to themselves.

Although this is an island of exceptional and bright turquoise waters, its quantity of sharks mean that swimming and other water sports activities may not be the number-one reason why visitors might want to go to Réunion. Far greater are its stupendous trekking routes across mountain terrain. Cirques – large volcanic valleys surrounded by mountains, creating a natural amphitheatre of about 10 km (6 miles) in diameter – sink into the ground, replete with magnificent waterfalls and other natural features.


The capital is surrounded by mountains on three sides and has several places of interest, including the Natural History Museum and the Léon Dierx Art Gallery with its collection of French Impressionist paintings. There are various temples, a mosque and a cathedral, a sign of the cultural and religious variety of the island population. Around town, a good trip to take is the Plaine d’Affouches in La Montagne, which is lined by lush tamarind trees and calumets, a type of wild fig tree. From Brûlé, a footpath leads to the Roche-Écrite, a 2227 m- (7306 ft-) high summit which overlooks the whole of the northern part of the island and slopes down to the Mafate and Salazie Cirques.


A special feature on Réunion are the so-called cirques – large volcanic valleys surrounded by mountains, creating a natural amphitheatre of about 10 km (6 miles) in diameter. Day-long sightseeing trips to the cirques may be arranged with travel agents in Saint-Denis. There are over 600 km (370 miles) of footpaths leading through the island.

Cilaos, once infamous as a refuge for escaped slaves, is a lovely mountain area rising to about 1220 m (4000 ft) with impressive views from Le Bras Sec and Îlet à Cordres.

The most beautiful cirque is probably Salazie, with its magnificent waterfalls, especially those known as Le Voile de la Mariée (The Bride’s Veil) near Hell-Bourg. There is a day-trip to Grand-Îlet, taking in some spectacularly rugged scenery. Piton des Neiges is the highest point on the island and is an enjoyable hike from Hell-Bourg.

Mafate is the most secluded of the valleys, unconnected by any road with the outside world.

The Volcano

There are tours to the island’s still-active volcano, La Fournaise, which erupted three times in 2005. St Paul also has an interesting street market (Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings) and there are numerous traditional Créole houses.

Nez-de-Boeuf (Ox’s Nose) affords a splendid view over the Rivière des Remparts, 1000 m (3300 ft) below, the Plaine des Sables and the Belle Combe pass. The Enclos Fouque crater and the highest peak of the 2631 m (8632 ft) Fournaise can both be explored on foot. The still active Bory and Brûlant craters are also interesting excursions.
Réunion abounds with tropical flowers, trees and fruit, and there are tours which aim to show the visitor some of the many species on the island, before returning to the Botanical Gardens at Saint-Denis.

The Coast

Réunion does not have extensive beaches, but those on the leeward west coast are beautiful with yellow, black or white sands. Some of the best beaches are to be found at Saint-Gilles, Saint-Leu and Étang-Sale. These are mostly shallow coral, running out to the reef. The Coral Turtle Farm near Saint-Leu is an interesting place. The coral reefs along the west coast are a protected area, but scuba-diving and snorkeling are available. Also on the west coast is the historic town of Saint-Paul, Réunion’s original capital, and birthplace of Leconte de Lisle.





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