Things to do in Reunion

Réunion is a fascinating geological destination with rugged valleys and volcanic landscapes fringed by lush forest. This vaguely otherworldly combination of features is strikingly beautiful and will certainly delight nature lovers - particularly those who seek something a little different.

Intrepid visitors should head to the Plaine des Sables, a stark ash and lava rock plain at the foot of Réunion's volcano that feels rather lunar-like. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano, the only active volcano on the island, and indeed one of the most active in the world, is accessible to adventurers. The Riviere des Remparts Canyon is a steep and beautiful river valley, while the three cirques, deep circular canyons, lure visitors with scenic overlooks and thrilling hiking trails.

Of course, Réunion is also a celebrated beach getaway; its tropical climate and lovely coastline among the chief reasons holidaymakers flock here. Visitors should note that the beaches on the western coast of the island, between St Gilles-les-Bains and Hermitage-les-Bains (where many hotels can be found), are sandy and comparatively safe, making this the best stretch of coastline for families and those seeking calmer waters. Much of Réunion's coast, though beautiful, is rocky, with rough surf. Those keen for a snorkel or a swim should also bear in mind that shark attacks do occur off the coast of the island, although very rarely, and it is worth researching where the attacks most commonly take place and consulting locals and the coast guards when in doubt.

Those fond of marine life should visit the Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory, which is dedicated to the study and conservation of Réunion's resident turtles.

The Cirques photo

The Cirques

Réunion is blessed with spectacular natural beauty and the island's three main cirques are among its most remarkable features. A cirque (or caldera) is a natural amphitheatre crea…

The Cirques

Réunion is blessed with spectacular natural beauty and the island's three main cirques are among its most remarkable features. A cirque (or caldera) is a natural amphitheatre created by the movement of ancient glaciers or, as in the case of Réunion, volcanoes collapsing in on themselves. Salazie is perhaps the most striking and is home to lush vegetation and roughly 100 waterfalls. Cilaos is the site of a spa resort and has provided thermal baths for wealthy locals since the 1800s, while Mafate is the most remote of the three, its name derived from the Malagasy for 'lethal,' illustrating the difficulty of reaching the area.

Piton de la Fournaise Volcano photo

Piton de la Fournaise Volcano

Rising 8,635 feet (2,632m) above sea level,Piton de la Fournaise is one of Reunion's principal attractions and one of the world's most active volcanoes. Its high cliffs, deep crate…

Piton de la Fournaise Volcano

Rising 8,635 feet (2,632m) above sea level,Piton de la Fournaise is one of Reunion's principal attractions and one of the world's most active volcanoes. Its high cliffs, deep craters, le grand brûlé (the burnt slopes) and lava streams come together in a starkly beautiful way, creating a stunning scene that never fails to astonish and enthral visitors. The walk to the summit takes roughly five hours and it is worth checking the weather forecast in advance, as cloud cover can roll in quickly and prevent hikers from making the climb. An alternative, though pricier, option is to explore the area by helicopter. Saint Paul, the former capital of the island, is the closest town to the volcano. It has a lovely street market (on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings), two miles (3km) of black-sand beaches, fine examples of traditional Creole houses, a seaside cemetery and other historic sites.

Saint-Gilles-les-Bains photo

Saint-Gilles-les-Bains

Close to Saint-Paul, on the northwestern side of the island, Saint-Gilles-les-Bains is a highly popular weekend destination, boasting a beautiful lagoon and gorgeous white-sand bea…

Saint-Gilles-les-Bains

Close to Saint-Paul, on the northwestern side of the island, Saint-Gilles-les-Bains is a highly popular weekend destination, boasting a beautiful lagoon and gorgeous white-sand beaches. Once a sleepy fishing village, Saint-Gilles is now Réunion's most popular resort, attracting crowds of visitors intent on enjoying its wealth of leisure activities, watersports and lovely beaches. Snorkelling, scuba diving and swimming are all highly recommended here, but those tired of the beach can head to the Garden of Eden, a lovely botanical garden with roughly 700 species of tropical plants. Saint-Gilles also has plenty of hotels and restaurants, though these tend to get crowded at peak holiday periods and over weekends.

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