More about Reunion
Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean about 200 kilometres south-west of its nearest neighbour, Mauritius, Réunion has an area of 2512 km² and is one of the regions of France.
Formed 60-80 million years ago by an active volcano in the Indian Ocean (which also created Mauritius and surrounding islands), Réunion is one of the more beautiful islands in this ocean. It has a surprisingly large variety of scenery, mainly due to the contrast between the tropical sea-beds and the active volcanoes that formed the island and is a good beach holiday destination for those looking for a quieter vacation.
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There are two volcanoes; Piton des Neiges and Piton de la Fournaise. Piton des Neiges is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with an eruption once every ten months (on average) and is an unforgettable sight.
The beaches are beautiful and varied, from black volcanic sand to pure white sand. This, along with the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, makes it an ideal beach destination. The waterfalls and lakes of the island have crystalline turquoise water running through them, and can be swum and dived into off surrounding rocks; a fun way to spend an afternoon.
The sea-beds can be explored through scuba diving in the many lagoons or in deep water, and tropical species that can be seen here are barracudas, moray eels, parrotfish, groupers, coralfish, manta rays, sting rays, clownfish and dolphins. Occasionally sharks and whales are spotted, but this is not a regular occurrence. Some incredible sunsets can be enjoyed from the beaches or from the mountains, with the clear skies being painted a stunning set of colours as the sun slips below the horizon.
The south coast is the least built up area, with dark green forests growing in the rich volcanic soil and a rugged coastline with houses that seem to come from a past age...giving an enchanting atmosphere and a picturesque scene on which to feast your eyes.
The island has more than 1000 km of footpaths, allowing you to explore all of these natural landscapes at your own pace, up close and personal.
For a more cultural experience, the Saint-Paul market is a must see for visitors to the island. Located on the waterfront in Saint-Paul, it opens at six in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays, and it sells every foodstuff available on the island as well as beautifully crafted items that are the pride of the people who sell them. From homemade coconut-flavoured ice-cream to samosas, straw hats to baskets, this colourful experience will leave you with a delightful impression of the vibrant people who live here.
Water-sports can also be indulged in, whether it is a trip to Mauritius in a catamaran or a spot of fishing and diving.
Finally, the island's main religion is Islam; the mosque of Saint-Denis has an Indian design, and was the first mosque built in a French territory. The mosques name is Noor-e-Islam, which means light of Islam, and it is the perfect description of the mosque. The entrance opens onto a courtyard, and anyone may enter provided they remove their shoes first. From the courtyard you move onto the main prayer room, or to a second prayer room that is 32 metres high and gives panoramic views of the city. This is the room which has earned the mosque its name due to the large amount of natural light entering through the windows.
The winter is May to October, and is dry and cool, whilst the remainder of the year is very hot and when the sun isn’t shining, wet. The cyclone season occurs during this period, but the preventative measures and weather warning systems are very good.
Réunion is definitely for those trying to escape from more mainstream locations. Pemba Island, the Mafia islands and Príncipe all fall into this category offering stunning beaches, intriguing small island cultures and a distinct lack of tourists!
Highlights would probably include sight seeing on Piton de La Fournaise (Furnace Peak, 2632m) which is still active today and regularly erupts offering a startling sight that becomes more magical as you get close to the mountains and lava flows. The highlands of the region are stunningly beautiful as you pass along Route National 3 and the whole area is great for hiking. For a look at a different side of France that very few people know about. A really strong French flavour can be experienced at the Saint-Paul market which allows you to taste some traditional French cuisine, and fruit and vegetables that are freshly picked or simply not available in mainland France.
Cilaos, Salazie and Mafate are three cirques formed from huge land collapses and open onto the sea in narrow passes. Along them are countless hiking trails, cascades and gorges making the cirques a major attraction for mountain lovers.
Cilaos: is a beautiful quiet and flowery city, decorated with a pond. Thermal springs are a great attraction as well as Cilaos's famous embroidery.
Salazie: a real garden of greenery and waterfalls where the water flows in from the mountains and tumbles down the slopes like white curtains.
Mafate: this is the most inaccessible and remote of the 3 cirques and most attractive to walkers.
The most reliable way to get to Réunion is using Air France, which runs a fairly regular service to the island.