International > The picture of the week > Tourist attractions in Reunion Island
Picture of the week (No.36): Tourist attractions in Reunion Island. Share
Periodically (previously every week), Willgoto selects here a nice picture. The tourist attractions of Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean are the theme of the thirty-seventh picture in this series. Reunion Island is indeed a dream destination for most outdoor tourist activities such as hiking and paragliding. It deserves to be better known outside the French-speaking world.
Mafate Cirque in Reunion Island. © CTR
The destination. Along with Mauritius and Rodrigues Island, Reunion Island forms the Mascarene Archipelago which is located in the southwest of the Indian Ocean. It is located about 750 km east of Madagascar and 200 km south-west of Mauritius.
Reunion Island is an overseas region of France. In addition to local Creole, French is spoken in the island. The currency is the euro. Like the other outermost European regions, such as Guadeloupe, the Canary Islands and Madeira, Reunion Island is an integral part of the European Union; however, it is not included in the Schengen Area. The island benefits from medical resources comparable to those available in Europe. Its hospitals are among the best equipped in the Indian Ocean.
The area (2504 km²) of the island is similar to that of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Reunion Island has a volcanic origin. It has been entirely formed by two volcanoes: the Piton des Neiges and the Piton de la Fournaise, The Piton des Neiges which rises to 3,070 m above sea level, has not been active for more than 12,000 years while the Piton de la Fournaise (2,632 meters above sea level) is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with 2 to 5 eruptions per year in recent years.
As a result of severe erosion and collapses, three huge depressions, called cirques, formed on the slopes of the Piton des Neiges: Mafate Cirque, Cilaos Cirque, and Salazie Cirque. Each of them is a world apart, with its own natural features and history.
The three cirques and the Piton de la Fournaise are natural sites classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. They form the heart of Reunion National Park which covers no less than 42% of the island's area. The national park includes 816 kilometers of hiking trails. The park's forests are home to a rich biodiversity.
The coastline of the island, which stretches over two hundred kilometers, includes about thirty kilometers of sandy beaches on the west coast. It is on this coast that the Marine Nature Reserve of Reunion Island is also located. The reserve has an area of 3,500 hectares. In particular, it protects the coral reef that borders the coast at this location. The water temperature varies between 22 and 30 °C depending on the season. The quality of the bathing waters complies with European standards.
Due to the employment of a large number of African slaves and, subsequently, Indian and Chinese workers in the 18th and 19th centuries, the current population (850,000 inhabitants) of the island is very blended. Its culture and traditions are characterized by a rich diversity. Just over 40% of the population is under 25 years old.
Agriculture and food industry, in particular the activities related to sugar cane and its by-products (sugar, rum, energy) are, along with tourism, the main economic resources of the island.
You may want also to see these beautiful pictures from Reunion Island:
Holidays. Like its neighbor – Mauritius -, Reunion Island benefits from many tourist attractions. However, these attractions are very different on both islands. While Mauritius mainly offers seaside vacations, Reunion Island is a tropical paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
Thanks to its magnificent landscapes and its natural attractions, Reunion Island is a dream destination for trekkers with hikes of all levels (from the short family walk to the most sporting trek) and of all kinds (loop, round trip, or one-way itinerary). Hikes are done with or without a guide. Among the easy hikes, you find for example the loop of Ravenales (1h45) in Saint-Benoît or the round trip from the Bélouve gite to the famous Trou de Fer waterfall (4h). More difficult are classic treks such as the trek from Maïdo to Grand Bénare (15.4 km round trip, elevation gain of 858m) or that from Cilaos to Piton des Neiges (7.3 km one way, elevation gain of 1662 m) or from Mamode Camp to La Roche Ecrite (18.5 km round trip, elevation gain of 1050 meters).
Reunion Island is home to three GR routes (long-distance hiking trails) of 40 to 135 km. The oldest, the GR R1, bypasses the Piton de Neiges by crossing the three cirques for 60 km with sometimes steep climbs and descents. It offers breathtaking views. It was voted the French's favorite hiking trail 2019. It is possible to hike only a part of it or to couple it with other trails.
Each year (except in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic) in October, the island hosts four major international trail races over long distances, The most famous of them are the Grand Raid Réunion, also known as Diagonale des Fous (about 160 km from Saint-Pierre to Saint-Denis across the whole island, 9,700 meters of elevation gain) and the Bourbon Trail (110 km through the three cirques, 6,400 m of elevation gain).
Paragliding is another tourist attraction in Reunion Island. Thanks to the trade winds as well as the relief and microclimates of the island, Reunion Island is one of the best destinations for paragliding enthusiasts almost all year round. With fifteen flight sites, Reunion Island offers an appropriate choice both for beginners (mainly at Colimaçons in Saint-Leu on the west coast) and more experienced athletes (especially at Maïdo). For the uninitiated, many local agencies offer first paragliding flights.
Many other outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, find their favorite terrain in Reunion Island. Two of them have particularly developed in recent years: canyoning and discovery of lava tunnels.
Seaside recreation and water sports (kitesurfing, snorkeling, big game fishing and other sea trips) are also among the favorite activities of holidaymakers in Reunion Island. In May 2020, two shark nets were permanently reinstalled in Boucan and Roches Noires.
Religious traditions and festivals (in particular the Cavadee festival, the Dipavali festival and the fire marches), culture (for example, Maloya dance and music which is part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO), Reunionese gastronomy, Péi crafts and the many local markets are among the other tourist attractions of Reunion.
How to get there. Most foreign visitors arrive to Reunion Island via Roland-Garros airport located near Saint-Denis in the north of the island. In Europe, flights depart only from airports in mainland France. Outside Europe, they depart from other islands in the Indian Ocean (Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte and Seychelles) or from a few cities in Africa (Johannesburg) and Asia (Bangkok and Chennai).
Currently (November 2020), due to the Covid-19 pandemic, travel to Reunion Island can only take place for compelling personal or family reasons or for professional or urgent reasons.
The author of the photos. Most of the above photos belong to the Reunion Regional Tourism Committee. See all the pictures from Reunion Island (over 70 photos).
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