Often referred to as an "intense" island, Reunion can be as different as night and day, depending on where you travel within the island. From the flat coastal areas where watersports are king to the mountainous interior where adrenaline sports offer nail-biting excitement, Reunion Island greets travellers with the most amazing holiday experiences. The fun is doubled by the island's friendly residents, representing a variety of cultures yet all living together in true island harmony.
Reunion's rugged interior is formed by Salazies Mountain - an extinct volcano - in the west and the Grand Brule Mountain in the east, where visitors will find the island's still-active volcano, the Piton de la Fournaise. The interior's highest point is Le Piton des Nieges, standing a majestic 3,069 meters tall.
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.
But the interior of Reunion is much more than just lava-covered mountains and ancient crumbling craters. On this volcanic island, guests will find amazing lush, green forests like the Bebour-Belouve, where you'll view birds that you'd be hard-pressed to see anywhere else in the world. Waterfalls are abundant and spectacular as well, literally trickling in the dry months but offering crushing flows during the rainy season, when monsoons are a natural occurrence. You might even stumble upon a dairy farm or two while exploring Reunion's varied interior.
Due to its more manageable and people-friendly terrain, the coastal lowlands of Reunion Island are where cities and villages have sprung up throughout the centuries, since the time the French settled on the island in 1642.
The west coast towns offer warm, relaxing bea ches as well as plenty of opportunity for enticing watersports. The lively town of St-Gilles-les-Bains attracts scuba divers with its nearby coral reefs and St Leu is the perfect location for avid surfers. Pretty St Paul boasts a fun outdoor street market and lots of traditional Creole houses for guests to admire.
The northernmost coastal capital city of St Denis is really a mecca for tourists, but often overlooked in favor of the beaches or mountains. You'll find interesting island architecture on a tour of this friendly city as well as art galleries, beautiful gardens, and the island's best variety of restaurants, ranging from formal sit-down establishments to island take-out joints, where you can grab some quick Creole finger foods to enjoy during your downtown stroll.
East coast towns offer fields of sugar cane and vanilla, attractive architecture, luxurious vegetation, and lots of waterfalls. The sea, however, is rugged on this coast and not appropriate for swimming or other watersports.
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.
The cuisine is special, too. You'll find French, Creole, Indian, Chinese.even Italian foods, all prepared with a bit of an island twist, making excellent use of the abundant seafood available here as well as locally grown and often unique fruits, vegetables, and spices that are a traditional part of Reunion Island cuisine.