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The famous Mafate cirque on Reunion Island

- © Serenity-H / Shutterstock
La Réunion
La Réunion

A trip that promises an explosion of sensations

La Réunion in short

Agarden island for some, a land of sensations for others, a French department in the southern hemisphere, a melting pot of cultures blending Africa and the Indian Ocean... Réunion has all the charms: vanilla, spices, sausage rougail, hiking at altitude, lounging by the sea.

This piece of France in the heart of the Indian Ocean has everything to please nature lovers. The island of all sensations vibrates to the rhythm of its volcano, the Piton de la Fournaise. Its strong character and mixed race make it a unique island in the world. Réunion is unlike any other French island in the world. This volcanic land in the Indian Ocean has always been a land of mixing and contrasts.

The island has always been culturally mixed and is an example of tolerance and cross-fertilisation. All religions live side by side, temples rub shoulders with mosques and churches in a serene and soothing atmosphere. This atmosphere, found nowhere else in the world, is one of the attractions of the destination.

But what attracts so many tourists to the island, and makes the Réunionese so proud, are the incredible landscapes of volcanoes, cirques, cliffs, jungle and beaches. Reunion Island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and trips to the island promise an impressive natural spectacle.

The majestic nature of Reunion Island

- © Narha / Shutterstock

To discover this area, which continues to grow thanks to the regular eruptions of the Piton de la Fournaise, you can go from Saint-Gilles to Saint-Philippe (on the beach side), from Saint-Paul to Saint-Denis (on the nature side), from Salazie to Cilaos, not forgetting Mafate, with its spectacular vertical drops. The star of the island remains the Piton de la Fournaise, its Plaine des Cafres and its crater trail (accessible when not erupting). Take a helicopter or microlight over the summit to see its geological history in action.

Although the island is not renowned for its beaches, the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters are concentrated on the west coast of the island. The lagoon around Saint-Gilles is the only safe place to swim in the sea. This is also where luxury hotels and hotel residences have taken up residence, with their feet in the sand.

Réunion is an ideal destination for combining hiking and relaxation, sport and rest. While hiking remains the main sport practised on the island, canyoning and paragliding are also highly developed activities. The extremely well-marked footpaths allow everyone to enjoy walking in the midst of this rugged natural environment.

The island's turquoise lagoon

- © Aymeric Bein / Shutterstock

For some years now, regular shark attacks have been damaging the destination and more particularly the hotels on the west coast, renowned for its beaches, but it's important to know that seven beaches are protected by nets, the lagoon, beacons and lifeguards. All these measures mean that bathing is perfectly safe. All other beaches are closed to swimming and water sports.

The coral reef stretches for more than 12 km, making the lagoon the ideal place to swim and watch the fish! Bordered by numerous filaos trees, notably at l'Ermitage, Salins-les-Bains and Saint-Leu, Réunion's beaches have a special charm all of their own. Sunbathing in the sun alternates with siestas in the shade, and once the weekend arrives, the locals gather under the filaos for an afternoon picnic. The hammocks are stretched out, the coolers are out, and sometimes there's music too. It's a unique, convivial occasion that brings together all the island's social classes, with the turquoise sea as a backdrop. That's what Réunion is all about.

The Langevin waterfall on Reunion Island

- © infografick / Shutterstock

There's more to Réunion Island than the sea - the waterfalls are an excellent playground for water sports activities and offer the perfect spot for a picnic and a refreshing dip in the water. Some of the best known are Anse des Cascades, the Niagara and Biberon waterfalls, the Bassins Bleu, La Paix and La Mer, as well as many other spots to discover on a stroll.

The island's capital is Saint-Denis, in the north. Little visited, it attracts mainly business people, yet its historic centre has a certain charm.

How to get there?

Fly to Réunion Island! It's easy to find direct flights to the capital, Saint-Denis de la Réunion, from Orly airport in Paris. Several airlines fly to the island, including Air France, Air Austral, Corsair and Air Caraïbes. Allow between 11 and 12 hours' flying time to reach the island.

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Where to stay?

Reunion's beauty lies in its combination of wild, green landscapes and beaches overlooking the turquoise lagoon. Here is our selection of the most beautiful waterside hotels on the western side of the island, where you can hike during the day and swim in the Indian Ocean in the evening!

Practical information

👉 Key figures

Surface area : Réunion Island has a surface area of 2513 km² km2

Population: 839,000 Réunionese live on the island. inhabitants

Time difference : + 3h winter/+ 2h summer

👉 Airports

Roland-Garros airport is 11 km from Saint-Denis. Expect to pay €25 to reach the city by taxi. There is also a shuttle service during the day (approx. €5). Completely renovated in 2013, it now boasts a modern style and quality pistes.

👉 Safety

Generally speaking, Réunion is a safe destination, in terms of the safety of people and property, provided you observe the basic rules of caution (avoid displaying jewellery and leaving objects in view in cars).

When hiking, make sure you wear appropriate clothing and follow the signs. Watch out for cyclones: in the event of a red alert, we strongly recommend that you avoid going out. Don't forget to keep yourself informed if you are travelling to Réunion during the cyclone season.

Take care when swimming too: the waves can be dangerous for inexperienced swimmers, especially on certain beaches such as Boucan-Canot.

Since the shark attacks of 2012/2013, certain beaches have been closed to bathing or are supervised at certain times of the day. Be sure to obey the flags and to swim in complete safety, prefer beaches protected by the coral reef.

👉 Language

French is the official language, but most Réunionese use Creole, a language created by African slaves.

Formalities and visa

Réunion is an overseas department. An identity card is sufficient. Even children must travel with a document in their name. Minors living in France who travel abroad alone, or without being accompanied by at least one of their parents, must have authorisation to leave the country. This requirement also applies to Réunion.

👉 Religion

Catholicism is the main religion, but there are other religions as well, starting with Hinduism, which has a number of major festivals each year: cavadee, during which penitents pierce their cheeks and tongues with silver needles; teemedee, with fire walking; dipavali (festival of lights); holi (festival of colours); pongal (or pongol, thanksgiving). Islam is also practised.

👉 Currency

The currency is the euro, divided into 100 cents. Credit cards can be used everywhere and ATMs are legion (Visa and Mastercard). The same applies to traveller's cheques. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm.

👉 Getting around

A car is the ideal way to explore the island at your leisure. All the major rental companies are represented at Roland-Garros airport. Prices are similar to those in mainland France, as are rental conditions. Roads are generally in good condition, especially along the coast. But beware of traffic jams in Saint-Denis and between Saint-Denis and Saint-Gilles-Les-Bains, when city dwellers rush to the beach. The roads in the cirques are not for the faint-hearted: there are lots of bends and precipices.

You can also opt for a taxi (around €200 a day) or use the cheaper shared taxis.

👉 Health

No vaccinations are required before entering Réunion. The usual recommendations for tropical climates apply: stay hydrated to avoid heatstroke and protect yourself from the sun. Inland, don't forget woollens and rainwear, as hypothermia can also affect careless travellers.

👉 Electricity

220 V. Sockets identical to those in mainland France.

Tips

Tipping is generally included and haggling is not customary. However, prices can be negotiated in the markets.

👉 Telephone

To call from France, dial 0262 before the number.

To call mainland France, dial the ten-digit number.

👉 When to go?

Reunion can be visited all year round, except perhaps between January and March, as this is the cyclone season.

👉 What to pack

When packing for Réunion, you don't pack the same things as for Mauritius or the Antilles. Things not to forget include hiking boots, a waterproof windbreaker, a fleece, a hat, a water bottle, sunglasses and sun cream. After all, you can't come to Réunion without taking a hike, however short, or going for a walk around the volcano and the cirques. At these altitudes, the weather is highly variable and temperatures can drop very quickly. You can't even feel the sun beating down, and yet...

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

As well as hiking in the cirques and the two pitons, if you have a small budget for activities, whale watching, paragliding and/or helicopter flights are exceptional outings.

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Tips for your trip to Reunion Island

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