In the Indian Ocean, west of Mauritius and dwarfed by massive Madagascar on its other end, lies the island of Réunion. This French overseas department is home to just under a million people and a so-called outermost region of the European Union. Its citizens comprise people who have immigrated here over the centuries from Asia, Africa and Europe and the island's official language is French (Creole is widely spoken too).
Réunion's size may be the same as that of Luxembourg, but this volcanic island packs a surprising punch for such a relatively small island. Mountainous in the interior, the Piton de la Fournaise and Piton des Neiges stand tall above it all. The former ("Furnace Peak") is an active shield volcano (in fact one of the most active volcanoes in the world) with a summit at 2,631 meters. A climb up to the caldera is worth your while as you will come across a variety of landscapes, the last parts taking on an almost Martian scenery.
The Piton des Neiges ("Snow Peak") on the other hand is actually the island's highest point and offers less desolate but not less stunning scenery. Needless to say both the Pitons feature excellent hikes that will bring you to the top, and in general Réunion is a bit of a hiker's paradise with trails featuring waterfalls, pools, mountains, canyons and forests. Best hike of all is probably the Cirque de Cilaos at the foot of the Piton des Neiges.
Although technically speaking you can never get off the volcano as the entire island is one, head to lower altitudes and you will find some of the - without exaggerating - most stunning beaches you can imagine. Best of all are those around Saint Gilles, where a coral reefs and lagoon cordon off the shallow turquoise waters in front of the beach (which is of course of the white sand variety) from the sea. For surfing or diving, this is your place to be as well.
To top it all off, cities like the capital of Saint Denis are actually worth spending time in, featuring gardens and seaside parks as well as an interesting mix of French, Asian and African architecture. [Review by travelindicator]
You can find the best hotel deals in Reunion here.
- Reunion is a region in Reunion. It is situated at an altitude of 5469ft and the best airport to fly into is RUN (Gillot, St Denis de la Reunion)
- The main spoken language here is French / Creole, and the average English skill is intermediate
- The currency used in Reunion is the Euro (EUR)
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More Reunion travel resources
A great list to start off with would be the one at Velvet Escape ("Things to do in Reunion"). Written in a similar spirit is 10 things to do in Reunion Island on Indian-Ocean.com. There is a Wikitravel for Reunion as well as the Piton de la Fournaise, and of course Lonely Planet has a page you can head over to. An article called Tranquility Among the Sharks on HuffPost is quite a rewarding read.