Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island is a little gem of an escape that combines discovery, stunning landscapes, hiking, extreme sports and gastronomy with a vibrant mix of people and colourful culture. L’invitation au voyage begins …
The diversity of landscapes
Reunion is a land of contrasts. From East to West, you will see wild vegetation in a desert environment to tropical, white sand beaches. The island covers an area of 2500 km², but what should you see first?
The best thing is to go around the island for a day, see and enjoy the most popular landmarks while making pit stops along the coast.
Reunion Island is primarily a volcanic island. The Piton de la Fournaise, 2631 meters in height, is the active volcano of Reunion. Entry near the volcano is regulated considering the safety risks that may be involved, but a visit should be at the top of your To Do list! Different flows that have occurred since 2001 are visible and are differentiated by signs when you go through the road between Santa Rosa and Saint Philippe.
Lovers of camping and hiking will be happy to have a wide variety of walks of varying distance on offer. Three picturesque areas of the island, Cirque de Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos, are lined with towering walls of vegetation. They are located inside the island. The Salazie is most accessible by car. To get to Cilaos, it is preferable that you are accompanied by a driver since the road is notoriously difficult. Finally, Mafate and the area surrounding the the village are timeless spaces that have nothing to do with the hustle and bustle of the coastal cities.
It is in the western part of the island you will find the most popular beaches: Boucan Canot, Roches Noires and Hermitage, to name a few. If you like quieter places in the south between St. Joseph and Grand Bois, Grand Anse Beach is a beach to visit. Surrounded by vacoas and casuarina trees, it is a place much loved in Reunion to picnic with family and enjoy the water. Swimming at the beach is tranquil as it has a natural boundary surrounding the area composed of large volcanic rocks.
A few years ago, the Reunion Office of Tourism used the slogan “The World’s Reunion” to praise the multiculturalism of the island.
Throughout its history, the island of Reunion has been the territory of several communities: Indian Tamils, the Chinese and the Malagasy, descendants of French settlers. Reunion Island today remains a very mixed and diverse community.
The miscegenation on the island is evident by the diversity in the places of worship. Located in Saint Denis, Noor al-Islam Mosque, built in 1905, is the oldest mosque in France. Inspired by Indian architecture, its refined decor is marked with copious amounts of green and white.
A few kilometers from the Noor al-Islam Mosque is Saint Andrew, a city populated mainly by people of Tamil origin and the Hindu Temple of the Colossus. Although the best time to see the Hindu festivals is the month of January, the Temple of the Colossus is an experience not to be missed. This is the opportunity to see Hindu places of worship on French soil without visiting the Indian subcontinent. The colours, the statues of the gods and the size of the temple will leave a lasting memory.
Finally, on your getaway to the volcano, make a stop at St. Rose at Notre Dame des Laves. This church was miraculously surrounded by lava during the eruption of Piton de la Fournaise in 1977.
Paradise for gourmands
One thing is common on Reunion: people love good food!
From cocktails to dessert, it is imperative to taste the Reunion specialties: samosas, plugs, sarcives (pork or chicken cooked in barrels with honey and soy sauce) plus carris chutney, mango josé, victorias pineapple, honey candy… the list goes on! We shouldn’t fail to mention the rum, which is a large part of the history of the island.
Do not miss the restaurant Cape Naughty located in Saint Philippe. You could taste something new, such as palm gratin, the specialty of the house.
The view from the lagoon, Cocoa Beach, in Saint Gilles is a perfect destination for relaxation after a day of hiking. Cocktails and parties that follow spoil anything in the appreciation of the place.
Every Saturday morning, the Reunion street markets, as they are known locally, are traditional places to experience the city life of old. The market of Saint Paul, in addition to having an open market where you can find local fruits and vegetables, has a section dedicated to the arts and crafts of Reunion and Madagascar. This is the place where you can stock up memories!
After seeing all this, sit on the terrace of a bar truck with your sunglasses and order a beer and a tray of dodo plugs. It’s time to enjoy the view of the beach of Saint Paul. That’s the taste péi*!
*péi : country in Creole
From London, your best bet is getting to Paris and taking a direct flight to one of two Reunion airports: St. Denis De La Reunion Gillot (RUN) or Saint-Pierre De La Reunion Pierrefonds (ZSE). Air France, CorsairFly, Air Austral and a variety of charter airlines fly direct to Reunion Island for approximately £600 per person RT.
- Myriam Moby