Not as well-known as Seychelles or nearby Mauritius, Reunion juts out of the ocean like a basaltic shield cloaked in emerald-green. With the formidable Piton de la Fournaise — one of the world’s most active volcanoes – on its south coast, white and black sand beaches in the west, and many mountains and rainforests in between, the Indian Ocean island offers a getaway that ranges from toes-in-the-sand leisure, to adrenaline pumping insanity.
St-Gilles-les-Bains captures the tropical side of the island, far away from the reaches of the rugged volcanic mountains, with its clear lagoon and golden sand sprinkled with black basalt. Snorkel the coral reefs, dive into waters rich with marine life, or simply soak up the sun. For those who prefer an adrenaline rush over sunburn, hike 2,631m to the top of the volcano, trek through the forests past its inhabitants, pass the mountain villages, or abseil down waterfalls.
Explore the ancient cirques and crumbling ground where volcanoes once stood. The three natural amphitheatres offer kilometres of trails that twist around the cirques and disappear into the mountains, which can be hiked, biked, or traversed on horseback. Reunion is an ethnic mixture of Creole, Indian, Chinese, French, and African cultures, each contributing to the architectural treasures and vibrant festivals.
- St-Gilles-les-Bains captures the tropical side of the island with its clear lagoon and golden sand sprinkled with black basalt
- Snorkel the coral reefs or dive into waters rich with marine life
- The formidable Piton de la Fournaise rises 2,631m into the air and is one of the world’s most active volcanoes
- Trek through the forest past its inhabitants, or canyon down the waterfalls
- Explore the many trails through ancient cirques on a hike, a bike, or on horseback
Facts and Information
Located between Mauritius and Madagascar, Reunion Island was colonised by the French in the mid-1600s. The influx of settlers and introduction of slavery contributed to the island's diverse population and its combination of cultural influences, both of which are still defining factors of Reunion today. The island remained French, aside from a brief British occupation period in the early 1800s, and slavery was abolished in about 1848. In the years that followed the job opportunities that arose attracted even more foreign immigrants. Historically, the island's economy relied on the production of sugarcane and other crops such as vanilla, agricultural products that the island is still renowned for. However, nowadays, due to its spectacular scenery, wide variety of activities, and diverse cultural influences, tourism also plays an important role in the island's economy.
Here are some basic facts and information about Reunion, to help you get to know the place better before travelling there.
Reunion is the baby of the family — it’s one of the world’s youngest islands, having only popped up less than three million years ago. It’s a highly mountainous area, and home to active volcanoes like the 2,631m high Piton de la Fournaise, and extinct volcanoes like The Piton des Neiges — Reunion’s highest point at 3,070 metres above sea level. This volcanic activity is due to its positioning above a hotspot in the earth’s crust. The whole island is 63km long, and 45km wide (2,512km2 altogether), with a coastline of cliffs and beaches, and expansive coral reef along the west coast.
French settlers and their Madagascan servants arrived from France in the 17th century to an uninhabited island. They imported slaves from Madagascar, Africa, and India — the beginning of the island’s alluring diversity. Chinese and Muslim Indian travellers settled in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries, along with more immigrants from France —further adding to the melting pot of people in the area. Today, French is the official language but most people speak Creole.
Reunion cuisine is influenced by a range of nationalities, including French, Indian, Creole and Chinese. Common dishes include achards (finely cut pickled vegetables with chillies); samosas, 'bonbons piment' (chilli dumplings), and Chinese-style meatballs. The spice-flavoured rum 'arrangé' is a great drink.
Being a small island, there are only nine native species of mammals, including rare rusadeers and hares found in forests. Reunion's emblematic animal is the chameleon. There are 91 bird species, including endemic white blackbirds. Sea life includes coralline species and pelagic fish; in the lagoon, you'll find starfish, hermit crabs, boxfish, damselfish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish and crabs. On the other side of the coral barrier are turtles, rays, marlins and sharks.
Reunion has a tropical climate softened by the breezes of the Indian Ocean. The sun shines all year round. There is little difference between day and night temperatures.
The Euro is the official currency here. Credit cards can be used everywhere and automatic cash machines are widespread (Visa and Mastercard). Traveller's cheques are also widely accepted.
No particular vaccine is required before entering Reunion (except for yellow fever, if you are coming from specific countries).
UK, US and other visitors need to have passports, but French visitors only need a valid identity card to visit.
Travelling to Reunion
You can access Reunion by plane or boat. The main airport is Roland Garros international Airport located near Saint-Denis (RUN). Companies flying to Reunion include: Air France, Air Austral, Corsair and Air Mauritius, with direct flights to Paris, Mauritius, Sydney, Bangkok among other destinations. An alternative is to fly to Mauritius and catch one of the short flights between the two islands with Air Mauritius; British Airways fly direct to Mauritius from London, and Emirates fly direct from Dubai. You can also go by boat between the islands of Mauritius and Reunion, by the ferry 'Mauritius Pride'. The overnight journey takes around 12 hours.
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