Réunion is a little-known gem: a French island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about 200 kilometres south west of Mauritius, its nearest island. Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France, an outermost region of the European Union and part of the Eurozone.
This small volcanic island, part of the archipelago of Mascareignes, is only 207 km in circumference but is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, snow-capped Piton de Fournaise,
There are two volcanic massifs, with one situated in the southeast still erupting on average every other year. The combined influences of the erosion and the volcanic activity give the island a varied topography with the lower regions being largely occupied by sugar cane, while higher altitudes give way to cultivation of geranium, vétiver and market garden crops.
The capital, St. Denis is very attractive city and has retained its 18th-century French colonial look. Stroll along streets lined with historic wooden houses, painted white; a cathedral, Chinese and Tamil temples, mosques and Buddhist pagodas reveal the island’s ethnic diversity; the seafront promenade has restaurants and cafes and an area full of fascinating little boutiques. St. Denis also has a botanical garden and a horseback-riding center.
The town of Cilaos is near the island’s center, lying within the Cirque de Cilaos, one of three mountain basins. Ringed by Grand Bernard, Gros-Morne and Pitton des Neiges, the area is a great place for hiking and with Les Thermes (hot springs) just above town to relieve aching muscles.
Good roads make touring enjoyable and self-drive is a viable option; the road into the mountains provides breathtaking scenery; cycle tours on rough back-roads are an option for the brave and the extremely fit.