Reunion Travel Guide
Besides the French, there aren’t many people who have ever heard of Reunion and even less that are aware of its awesome natural beauty. The island’s lack of top-class beaches has a lot to do with why you will not find large crowds of tourists on the island, but the abundance of wildly dramatic mountainous areas certainly compensates for Reunion’s inadequacies at ocean level. This tiny French department situated in the Indian Ocean will guarantee an exotic dream holiday in a setting that is like ‘tropical Himalayas’. However, if you are planning to visit this beautiful paradise, it is advisable to learn some basic French phrases or you may never find your way off the island again – perhaps not a bad thing!
During the last decade, the tourism industry here has become more significant. Today, tourism brings in more money than geranium, vanilla and sugarcane together, while the picturesque island remains unspoiled by mass-tourism. You can find good accommodation near St Gilles les Bains and in the capital city as well, while seafood can be found island-wide, forming the basis of most meals. The interesting ethnic make-up of the island also ensures Indian, Pakistani, French and Chinese flavors all make their way onto the menu.
When to Go
The climate on Reunion is tropical and hot, consisting of two seasons; the rainy and hot (when cyclones might occur) summertime from October to March. The dry and cool wintertime lasts from April to September. Rainfall on the east coast is higher compared than rainfall on the west coast. In the mountains, temperatures are significantly colder, and it can even freeze here during night-time.
Getting There & Away
Because Reunion belongs to France, it is most lucrative to take an inexpensive flight to Paris and then purchase a ticket for a flight which departs from the French capital. From other destinations, travel costs will be much higher. The major airport on the island is Roland Garros International Airport, situated near Saint Denis. Roads are well-maintained and car rental services are available at the international airport, St Denis and at some other significant towns. The island is served by a bus company which covers most destinations, and buses are recognizable by their yellow color.
Health & Safety
In general, Reunion is a safe place. You must however bear in mind some simple issues. Do not show off valuables, as it might happen that it is somebody else showing them off later. Do not walk alone at night in the larger towns and avoid getting involved in alcohol-related aggression, especially if you can’t speak French. But if you do get in a bar brawl, medical facilities on the island are of outstanding quality. If the drunken locals don’t get you, the mosquitoes may, with the Chikungunya virus being an epidemic here.
Two or three days in Saint Denis
Two days exploring and relaxing in St Gilles les Bains
Half a day enjoying the stunning scenery at Le Maido
Four days exploring the two main mountainous regions
One day to reach Piton des Neiges, the island’s highest point
Saint Denis: unjustly overlooked by many visitors, the capital of Reunion is a laid-back and vibrant place. The city boasts restaurants serving mouth-watering cuisine, wonderful architecture and the pretty Government Park.
St Gilles les Bains: the beach scene might not be Reunion’s main attraction; however, during holiday periods and at weekends, this 12 mile stretch of lagoon and while coral sand beach is filled with huge crowds of visitors. Throughout the day the traffic snarls, while the busy dining establishments suffer from overcrowding.
Le Maido: situated on the rim of the Cirque de Mafate, far above St Gilles les Bains, it is at Le Maido where you can find the most stunning viewpoint on the island. The scenic point is perched atop the mountain summit at 2,205 meters (7,232 feet) and provides mind-blowing panoramas of the coast and down into the cirque. If you want to enjoy cloudless views, it is recommended that you climb to the peak early in the morning.
Domaine du Grand Hazier: garden enthusiasts will particularly appreciate a visit to this 18th century classic residence of a sugar planter. The facility is listed as an official French historical monument, boasting a vast gorgeous garden vegetated with a wide range of fruit tress and tropical flowers.
Musée de Villèle: this house was constructed in 1787 and is filled with elegant period furniture. After the guided tour, you have the option to explore the outbuildings and the huge surrounding park. The property is solely accessible by guided tour.
Shopping: Saint Denis is a nice place for those who love to shop. Travelers might be amazed at how quickly cash goes!
Eating out: Saint Denis represents a number of good restaurants serving cuisine which is influenced by different cultures such as Chinese, Indian and French
Surfing: surf enthusiasts should head to Saint Leu, the island’s well-established surf spot.
Boat trips: you can make refreshing boat trips between Reunion and another lovely island destination, Mauritius.