Enjoying a plum position in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean’s Mascarene Archipelago, the French island of Réunion resides just east of Madagascar, south west of Mauritius, and is an unexplored miracle for many of the world’s true travellers. This place of volcanoes, lush jungle slopes, and fish-filled lagoons represents a confluence of France, Africa and Asia, resulting in a Créole culture that’s replete with natural wonders – and only a quick jaunt from its sister island, thanks to regular service from Air Mauritius.
WHO SHOULD GO
A territory of France since 1642, Réunion’s culture is rooted in its identity as a plantation island. Its long history of colonialism, slave revolts and Tamil immigration live on in the music and cuisine of the present day, making it a remarkable place to visit for cultural connoisseurs and gourmands alike. Adventurers of all kinds will be unstoppable in this natural paradise; 42 per cent of Réunion is a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning that much of its volcanic slopes, tropical trails and reef-rich coastlines are untouched and primed for all manner of hiking, canyoning and diving. Visitors who prefer to experience Réunion at their own speed can do so as well; it offers a wide array of world-class spas, golf clubs and striking sandy beaches.
WHEN TO GO
Réunion is best experienced during its austral summer, which runs from November to April. The average temperature at this time of year is 30°C, perfect for outdoor activities of all kinds. While May to October tends to be the cooler (and less crowded) winter season, particularly at altitude, the waters along the coast and western side of the island can still climb up to 25°C. Visiting during winter is a smart move for whale watchers as well; the island’s humpback migration season falls between June and September.
WHAT TO DO
Réunion’s delightful combination of tradition-steeped heritage and untouched natural resources pave the way for everything from jungle walks to cycling, fishing, volcano-viewing and much more. Lava-lovers have their pick of experiences; the island is home to Piton des Neiges, a dormant volcano and UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its very un-dormant counterpart, Piton de la Fournaise – one of the most active volcanoes in the world. For the Jurassic Park fan in all of us, Réunion’s craggy cirques make for spectacular hiking, providing avid trekkers with a scenic selection of waterfalls, mountain villages and deep canyons. Meanwhile, those yearning for a life aquatic can soak up the bustling underwater scene at Réunion’s marine reserve, which extends along 40 kilometres of untouched coral reef coastline. On the cultural side, the many flavours of Réunion’s Créole culinary stylings cannot be missed; in addition to boasting excellent coffee, vanilla and rum, the island’s signature spicy rougail, simmered carri dish – and perhaps surprisingly, tropical wines – are all must-sample scene stealers on the island.
WHERE TO STAY
As a European territory only an 11-hour flight from Paris, Réunion is considerably well-developed; visitors to the isle can choose from a wide range of three- to five-star hotels, jungle lodges, beachfront resorts, rustic campsites and hiking houses across the island.
HOW TO GET THERE
Air Mauritius offers flights from Mauritius (MRU) to the cities of St. Denis (RUN) and St. Pierre (ZSE) 26 times per week. The airline’s reach also makes it possible for Réunion-bound travellers to depart from multiple cities in Europe such as Paris, London, Amsterdam and Madrid and connect in Mauritius en route to Réunion.
Official website: www.airmauritius.com/en.reunion.fr
Ocean escapes: en.reunion.fr/discover/by-the-sea
Natural retreats: en.reunion.fr/discover/in-the-mountains
Volcanic liaisons: en.reunion.fr/discover/the-volcanic-side
Créole Culture: en.reunion.fr/discover/reunion-island-traditions