Reunion things to see and do

Tourist offices

French Government Tourist Office in the UK

Lincoln House, 300 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7JH, United Kingdom
Tel: 09068 244 123 (calls cost 60p per minute).
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 1000-1600.
www.uk.franceguide.com

French Government Tourist Office in the USA

444 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY, 10022, United States
Tel: (514) 288 1904.
www.franceguide.com

Comité du Tourisme de la Réunion

Maison Carrère, 14 rue de Paris, Saint-Denis, 97400 , Reunion
Tel: 02 6241 8300
www.reunion.fr

Things to see and do

Beaches and coral reefs

Good swimming and diving are to be found along the Sous le Vent coast, especially at Saint-Gilles-des-Bains, which has a reef-protected lagoon. On the more remote beaches, sharks may be a danger, so it is best to enquire locally. Surfing can be practised in Saint-Gilles, Saint-Paul and Saint-Pierre. Réunion does not have extensive beaches, but those on the leeward west coast are beautiful with yellow, black or white sands. Some of the best beaches are to be found at Saint-Gilles, Saint-Leu and Étang-Sale. These are mostly shallow coral, running out to the reef. The Coral Turtle Farm near Saint-Leu is an interesting place. The coral reefs along the west coast are a protected area, but scuba-diving and snorkelling are available.

Botanical Gardens

Inhale the scent of Réunion's exquisite tropical flowers, trees and fruit; there are tours which aim to show the visitor some of the many species on the island, before returning to the Botanical Gardens at Saint-Denis.

Cavadee

See the amazing rites of Réunion's Indian community, principally made up of Tamil Hindus. These rites include Cavadee, which is an Indian sacrificial procession that essentially involves body piercing and other gruesome but reverential symbolism. This takes place in Saint-André. Other rites include fire-walking.

La Fournaise

Take a tour to the island's still-active volcano, La Fournaise. Nez-de-Boeuf (ox's nose) affords a splendid view over the Rivière des Remparts, 1,000m (3,300ft) below, the Plaine des Sables and the Belle Combe pass. The Enclos Fouque crater and the highest peak of the 2,631m (8,632ft) Fournaise can both be explored on foot. The still active Bory and Brûlant craters are also interesting excursions.

Mountain walks

There are excellent walking opportunities in the mountains. The island has over 600km (370 miles) of marked footpaths. Good climbing is to be had among the volcanic peaks. Cilaos, once infamous as a refuge for escaped slaves, is a lovely mountain area rising to about 1,220m (4,000ft) with impressive views from Le Bras Sec and Îlet à Cordres. There is a day-trip to Grand-Îlet, taking in some spectacularly rugged scenery. Piton des Neiges is the highest point on the island and is an enjoyable hike from Hell-Bourg. Mafate is the most secluded of the valleys, unconnected by any road with the outside world.

Saint-Denis

Saint-Denis, the capital, is surrounded by mountains on three sides and has several places of interest, including the Natural History Museum and the Léon Dierx Art Gallery with its collection of French Impressionist paintings. There are various temples, a mosque and a cathedral, a sign of the cultural and religious variety of the island population.

Saint-Paul

See the island's many communities gather together in Saint-Paul for the interesting and tasty street market (Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings). The historic town was the island's original capital, and birthplace of Leconte de Lisle.

Trekking

Go trekking around the Plaine d'Affouches in La Montagne, lined by lush tamarind trees and calumets, a type of wild fig tree. From Brûlé, a footpath leads to the Roche-Écrite, a 2,227m- (7,306ft-) high summit which overlooks the whole of the northern part of the island.

Volcanic valleys

A special feature on Réunion are the so-called cirques - large volcanic valleys surrounded by mountains, creating a natural amphitheatre of about 10km (6 miles) in diameter. Day-long sightseeing trips to the cirques may be arranged with travel agents in Saint-Denis. The most beautiful cirque is probably Salazie, with its magnificent waterfalls, especially those known as Le Voile de la Mariée (The Bride's Veil) near Hell-Bourg.

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