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    Discover a cultural kaleidoscope in Reunion

    By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
    The inhabitants of Reunion have turned the page on the Chikungunya epidemic: Bourbon island, an island of vanilla, spices and rougail sausage has recovered all the charming features that we know and love it for. There are so many things to keep you busy, those who travel to Reunion will never run out of activities: a diving initiation, a helicopter flight over the volcano, a night in an eco-lodge or mountain lodge (Relais des Cimes) and a geological walking tour in Plain des Cafres. Finally, all you want from a beach lies in the south and west of the island.

    Travel guide

    Bois-Rouge sugar refinery

    The sugary refinery is located on the coastline just 3km north of St-Andre. The time to visit is between July to December when the sugar canes are in harvest. There's the chance to walk around and see firsthand the high-tech plant and the complete process of the making of the sugar from the sugar cane being collected from delivery and being refined into crystals. Visitors are also shown around the distillery next door where the sugar cane juices are turned into rum. The tour finishes at the gift shop where you can truy and buy the rum. There is an age restriction of 7 years and above.

    The capital

    St Denis has definitely got the feeling of French town with boulangeries, boutiquey shops, bistros and brasseries at every corner. However, the capital has more to offer than just a French vibe and retains some Creole charm with colonial buildings and numerous restaurants also serving local food and drinks. There's also the chance to visit various markets, shopping centres, parks, cinemas and even a spot of golf if you fancy it.

    Bebour-Belouve forest

    A wondrous location if ever we've seen one; this forest is home to hundreds of tamarind trees, fanjan trees and moss and upon entering almost feels as if you've stepped onto the set of Jurassic Park. If you have a flexible schedule whilst you're in Reunion, the best time to visit is during the week when the numbers of tourists are low as it's much more peaceful. If you've been biking or walking for a while, as you enter the forest you'll be able to find the perfect place for a well deserved picnic or lunch spot.

    St-Giles-les-Bains

    If you're looking for a spot that's a little livelier in the evenings, St-Gilles-les-Bains hits the jackpot. Since it's a resort complex there's the option of going to several nightclubs and huge selection of restaurants to choose from for eating out in the evening. The beaches here are also a definite highlight and protected by a coral reef they are also one of the safest places to swim seeing as the island has a high shark attack rate.

    Piton de la Fournaise

    If you fancy being fairly active upon your travels to Reunion, climbing to the top of this volcano is definitely recommended. Although it's necessary to be very wary since the volcano is one of the most active in the world and last erupted on September 13 of this year.

    Our Editorial team's advice

    When you're preparing your suitcase for Reunion, don't pack the same things as you would for Mauritius or Antilles. Essential items to remember: hiking shoes, rain coat, wind breaker, fleece, a wooly hat, flask, sunglasses and sun cream. You can't come to Reunion and not experience going hiking even if it's only for a short walk, or without going to visit a volcano. The wild landscape of Reunion is perfect for walking but with the difference is altitudes the weather can be very changeable and temperatures can lower very quickly. One minute the suns beating down on you and the next you completely soaked!

    Don't forget to book your stop over's in high season. They are often quickly booked up by nature lovers. When budgeting your food for your stay don't forget to take into account the higher cost of living that in the city and don't hesitate to eat locally or buy chickens from the sellers on the side of the road, they're most of the time good quality and can save you a lot of money.

    If youre washing yourself in the sea, follow the instructions of the flags and only go on the official 7 beaches that are supervised, you don't want to take anything by chance. If you're bathing in the waterfalls, rivers, gullies etc be wary of the level of the water and don't dive straight in after a hike, the water is cold and there is a risk of cold water drowning.

    Other than hikes in the cirques and the two pitons, if you have a smaller budget for activities whale watching, paragliding and or a helicopter ride are all amazing excursions.

    pros

    • +There is a wide range of unforgettable hikes that you can go on in the cirques (corries) and up and around the volcano.
    • +With the different religions and cultures here, Reunion's cultural kaleidoscope is complete.

    cons

    • -The island only has about 20 miles of beaches, some of which are black sand beaches.
    • -The cost of living is high.

    Traditions

    On the island of Reunion there are many different religions. The most popular are Christianity, Hinduism, Islamism and Buddhism and a lot of the time they are mixed with old beliefs. It's therefore important that when you are in Reunion you respect their religious practices, ritual and religious parties. It is best to avoid shocking them by wearing untidy clothes, particularly in mosques.

    Amongst their various traditions, fishing for bichiques (a little fish) is very popular from October through to March but there is no way that the tourists could every find better spots than the locals. These little fish are caught in the river mouths when they are full of eggs.

    As is usual in the West Indies cockfighting is custom in Reunion, also known as 'batay-kok'. This expression is now banned in the city centre of France.

    Food

    Of French, Indian, Creole and Chinese influence, Reunionnais cuisine is delicious. The most common dish is cari: meat or fish prepared in a tomato, onion, garlic and curcuma sauce. This speciality is served with rice, grains (lentils or beans), paracress (a type of spinach), and rougail (tomato, garlic, ginger and onion sauce). Achards (finely cut pickled vegetables with chillies) are also served with dishes. On the 'Hauts' (heights), following a good hike, it can be nice to find shared tables serving invigorating curries or rougails sausage. In town, it is also possible to eat cheaply by eating on the go: samosas, 'bonbons piment' (chilli dumplings) or Chinese-style meat balls are very popular. As for drinks, try the rum 'arrangé' flavoured with spices, you won't regret it. If you don't like to drink strong alcohol you should the local beer, Dodo.

    Mangoes, avocadoes and other fruits are grown everywhere on the island, season permitting. It's easy to get your hands on plate of freshly prepared exotic fruit. Add to that some fresh fish bought straight from the harbour either finely sliced or whole.

    Ideal Weather Search

    Find weekly weather forecasts for Reunion . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Reunion . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Reunion .

    Souvenirs

    Cilaos embroidery, basketry, Madagascan embroidered clothing and table cloths, perfumed essences, jams and rum... if you like souvenirs, you will love the handicraft from Reunion. All the tourist offices offer a selection of local products and do not miss Saint Paul's market. Shops are open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

    What to see

    The Hauts , Réunion
    The Hauts
    Piton de la Fournaise , 'Piton de la Fournaise' , Réunion
    Piton de la Fournaise
    Cirque de Mafate , Réunion
    Cirque de Mafate
    Cirque de Cilaos , Réunion
    Cirque de Cilaos
    Cirque de Salazie , Réunion
    Cirque de Salazie
    Grand Brûlé , Le Grand Brûlé , Réunion
    Grand Brûlé
    Saint-Gilles-les-Bains , Saint Gilles les Bains , Réunion
    Saint-Gilles-les-Bains
    Saint-Leu , Saint Leu , Réunion
    Saint-Leu
    Saint Gilles lagoon , Réunion
    Saint Gilles lagoon
    L'Etang-Salé-les-Bains , Réunion
    L'Etang-Salé-les-Bains
    Saint-Philippe , Saint Philippe , Réunion
    Saint-Philippe
    Land wildlife , Wildlife , Réunion
    Land wildlife
    Under-water wildlife , Marine wildlife , Réunion
    Under-water wildlife
    Flora , Plant life on Reunion Island , Réunion
    Flora
    Plant varieties , Essential oils , Réunion
    Plant varieties