I feel personally that Reunion is undersold as a destination to travel to – and really has so much to offer!
I have been to Reunion Island myself several years ago. I had stayed with a French speaking family and their culture, although largely based on the French culture (Reunion is the “satellite” island of France) – is unique in its own way. Not your average tropical destination! Reunion Island can best be described as a combination of French, African, Indian, and Chinese cultures. The 700,000 inhabitants of the island speak mostly French or Creole, and about three-quarters of the island’s residents are Roman Catholic, though both the Buddhist and Muslim religions are represented as well. This is largely a society respectful of each other’s diverse cultures and the island has suffered no political or social unrest in almost two centuries.
Thanks to this delightful blending of cultures, you can walk down the streets of the cities and hear traditional ecclesiastic choral music emanating from one of the island’s magnificent churches and listen to the chants of the Muslim’s ringing from the mosque on the opposite corner. Folk music is lively and diverse, often heard during street fairs or performed in cafes or bistros.
Known as the “land of Spice and Coffee” -the cuisine in Reunion is special, too. You’ll find French, Creole, Indian, Chinese and even Italian foods, all prepared with a bit of an island twist, making excellent use of the abundant seafood available here (Seafood is fresh and exquisite of course!) as well as locally grown and often unique fruits, vegetables, and spices that are a traditional part of Reunion Island cuisine.
Reunion is scenic and mountainous with some of the beaches having black sand – as a result of the volcanoes- as opposed to white flat beaches one normally thinks of. The island’s three cirques, however, dominate the topography of the interior portion of Reunion. Often described as “natural amphitheatres” or “calderas”, a cirque – literally a volcano that collapsed upon itself – offers not only amazing photo opportunities but fun and adventure as well. (These are the Cirque de Mafata, Cirque de Salazie and Cirque de Cilaos). The two main active volcanoes are Piton Des Neiges and Piton de la Fournaise. Piton de la Fournaise can be seen in the image below.
Many trekkers head directly to the island’s three cirques to explore these ancient craters and touch the crumbling ground where volcanoes once stood. Nearby forests are full of lush vegetation as well as interesting wildlife, including an amazing array of winged creatures, all waiting to be explored.
If you’re a trekker that prefers the higher altitudes, you’ll love it here! The summit of Piton des Nieges climbs to over 3,000 meters, and Piton de la Fornaise, the island’s active volcano – which has erupted as recently as 1986 – rises to about 2,600 meters and is a favorite destination among trekkers.
Mountain biking is certainly one of the most exciting and intense ways to discover the incredible island of Reunion. Mountain biking here is generally not for the faint-of-heart, as trails are often steep and volcanic.
For those who prefer an adrenaline rush over a sunburn, the possibilities are endless. From hiking Reunion’s unique “cirques” or canyoning the island’s many waterfalls to scuba diving or surfing – there is just so much to do!
The thermal drafts of Reunion Island make it the ideal place for just about any kind of gliding sport, including sky diving. Even if you haven’t tried sky diving previously, there couldn’t be a more beautiful place to make your first jump. Novices can jump in tandem with an instructor, requiring a minimal amount of training before you step out of the airplane. Experienced sky divers will have a variety of choices for landing spots and will be awed by the site of Reunion from thousands of feet in the air.