Reunion Island travel guide

The more you read about Reunion, the more you find the phrase ‘what’s not to like’ popping into your head. This small island to the southeast of Madagascar and close to its more famous neighbour Mauritius seems to have it all: beautiful beaches with white (and sometimes black) sand; pretty coastal towns; dramatic volcanic landscapes swathed in forest and sliced through with waterfalls; and fantastic hiking trails that range from forest walks to challenging multi day treks. Its laidback blend of Creole, African, Indian, Chinese and French influences was created by centuries of immigration and is still present in the architecture, historic sites and food. The island is also home to the Piton de la Fournaise, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, but don’t let that put you off; there’s way too much to enjoy on Reunion to let a little lava deter you.

Our top Reunion Vacation

Hiking holiday in Reunion and kitesurfing in Mauritius

Hiking vacation in Reunion and kitesurfing in Mauritius

Hiking trip in Reunion and experiment kitesurf in Mauritius

From 3750 to3900 15 days ex flights
Tailor made
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If you'd like to chat about Reunion or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Cultural highlights

Reunion is a French overseas territory, proud of its cultural diversity and multi ethnicity. Its abundance of architectural gems, historic sites, colonial and religious building and lively festivals are the enduring evidence of its long history of trade and immigration. For a taste of Creole village life, visit Hell-Bourg in the Cirque de Salazie and also L’Entre-Deux, an authentic 19th century settlement where local residents will show you round and explain more about Reunion’s history. For French colonial grandeur, head to the west coast and the resort town of Saint-Leu with its smattering of handsome stone buildings including the mairie (town hall) and church.

Reunion’s food is a delicious jumble of Creole, Indian, Chinese and French influences. Tuck into barbecued fresh fish, local rum, exotic fruits, and baguettes, croissants and cakes from the bakeries and pastry shops dotted around the island.

Natural wonders

Reunion is an island-sized dose of pure drama. A staggering 42 percent of it is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its volcanic nature has produced sheer peaks and deep gorges cloaked in emerald forests, and three extinct calderas, knowns as cirques. The most impressive is the Cirque de Salazie, a gorgeous green amphitheatre with around 100 waterfalls thundering down its sheer sides, home to hills and valleys that you can hike though. It’s also worth visiting Cirque de Cilaos, which has the feel of the Alps in summer. The village of Cilaos, which lies within the cirque, is pretty and peaceful, a great place to unwind after driving up here from the coastal plain, on a road with more than 100 hairpin bends.

Piton de la Fournaise dominates the southeast of the island; the volcano that has earned Reunion the nickname ‘the Hawaii of the southern hemisphere’. Venture into its shadow, near Saint Philippe, and the greenness of the landscape gives way to the Grand Brûlé, or ‘Big Burnt Area’, where this very active volcano has scarred the landscape with lava flows. Not that the lava is permanently destructive. The Jardin des Parfums et des Épices grows on an 800 year old lava flow in the Mare Longue forest. Ylang-ylang, clove trees, cardamom, orchids and vanilla all thrive here.

Practicalities

French is the official language of Reunion but Creole is actually the most used language on the island. The distinctive version of Reunion Creole mixes in several Tamil and Malagasy words. Being a French department, the currency is the Euro. Reunion has a breezy tropical climate, with year round sunshine and warm temperatures. May to October is fresher and drier, and the best time to go to Reunion.

Direct flights connect Reunion with Comoros, France, India, Mauritius, Mayotte, Thailand, the Seychelles and South Africa. If you’re flying in from further afield you’ll need to use a connecting flight from South Africa, Mauritius, Asia or France. Small group organised tours of around two weeks combine Reunion with other overlooked Indian Ocean gems, taking in the Comoros and finishing up on Mayotte, the French overseas territory that belongs to the Comoros archipelago.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Yoann Boyer] [Intro: Vicente Villamón] [Cultural highlights: Thierry Caro] [Natural wonders : Hendrix Baby]
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