Reunion travel guide
One of the last vestiges of the French colonial empire, you can hardly blame Paris for keeping hold of this slice of paradise. Floating in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, Réunion serves up an enticing mix of Creole culture, exotic fauna and natural wonders.
Administered directly from Paris (it also flies the tricolore and is part of the Eurozone), the island has a distinct cultural identity, which has resulted from 400 years as a remote outpost of empire.
Its history is best absorbed wandering through the old heart of Saint-Denis, the island’s de facto capital. Edifices that would not look out of place in the French capital line streets and public spaces buzz with the sound of French, Creole, Cantonese and Tamil, among myriad other languages. English is almost never one of them.
The beaches are a big draw, but Réunion’s flora and fauna is equally enticing. The island’s fresh water lakes, rivers and waterfalls support some 90 species of bird, while its coral reefs harbour an abundance of marine life. Whales are also regularly observed from the beaches between May and September.
Away from the coast, much of the island’s forested and mountainous interior is protected and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A variety of activities are available, from paragliding to rock climbing and hiking. Trekking paths lead to natural wonders such the 3,000m (10,000ft) extinct volcano Piton des Neiges (the highest point anywhere in the Indian Ocean), or the lunar landscapes around Piton de la Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
With centuries of influence from Europe, Asia and Africa, Réunion offers Gallic charm with a tropical twist, an island where history and natural beauty abound.
2,507 sq km (968 sq miles).
867,214 (UN estimate 2016).
336.5 per sq km.
Réunion is an Overseas Department of France and as such is an integral part of the French Republic.
President Emmanuel Macron since 2017, represented locally by prefect Jacques Billant since 2019.
President of the Departmental Council Cyrille Melchior since 2017.