Réunion Island: what to do, what to see…

In the heart of the Indian Ocean lies a lush land of fire: a spectacular volcanic island. Here, luxuriant vegetation runs riot in stark contrast to the spectacular black cliffs of Cap Méchant and the lava flows of Le Grand-Brûlé. It is in these amazing surroundings that La Réunion celebrates a multicultural richness of traditional festivals and refined Créole cuisine.

Not to miss sights in Réunion Island

• The active volcano of Piton de La Fournaise

This is the star of the tourist sites of Reunion. Since August 2014, at the Plaine des Cafres, the Cité du Volcan museum reveals the secrets of this huge mountain capping at 2,631 meters (8631.89 feet), whose silhouette is everpresent on the island.

• The Trou de Fer (Iron Hole) canyon

This geological depression of the Piton des Neiges massif is a chasm bottoming out at nearly 300 meters (984.25 feet) deep. The rivers form a fall of 725 meters (2378.61 feet) in altitude here, creating a river called the Bras de Caverne (the Arm of Cavern), which flows into the Rivière du Mât (Mast River). Discover the Iron Hole by helicopter to discover its full splendor!

• The Piton des Neiges

At 3,071 meters (10075.46 feet), this sleeping volcano is the highest peak in the Indian Ocean. Accessible by hiking trails, its ascent, which requires a good physical condition, begins from Cilaos. A stay overnight at the shelter allows you to witness dawn break from the summit.

• The Cilaos, Salazie and Mafate Cirques hiking trails

The majestic Cirque de Cilaos is a paradise for sports enthusiasts. Accesible by a single road, the cirque of Salazie, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a gateway to the Cirque de Mafate, the inhabited heart of the National Park of Réunion. There are so many beautiful sites to discover for nature lovers in this part of the island!

• The Kélonia Sea Turtle Observatory

An ancient species of over 230 million years, the kélonia turtle is a highly protected species in Reunion. Saint-Leu is the center of studies and discoveries for these turtes, where marine and terrestrial turtles are kept for breeding, or are in care for pollution, fishing and injury-related reasons.

• The volcanic peak of Maïdo

Located at 2190 meters (7185.03 feet) above sea level, Maïdo Peak is one of the most spectacular views of the Mafate Cirque. This natural site, accessible by car, offers a remarkable panorama of the of Mafate and the west coast of the island. This is definitely must-see spot!

• The spectacular Voile de la Mariée (Bridal Veil) waterfalls

The waterfall of the Voile de la Mariée owes its name to the visual effect of the long waterfalls, so reminiscent of a draping bridal veil. Legend has it that the origins of the falls are thanks to a tragedy: a young bride on the run slipped into a precipice, losing her veil in her fall.

• Roches Noires beach

The supervised bathing area, open to the ocean, is deeper than a lagoon bathing area due to the absence of a coral reef. With its fine and white sand, it is the ideal place for the fans of idleness and sunbathing. This may be a paradise of nature, but the comforts of cafes, restaurants and clubs are nearby.

• Anse des Cascades

The Anse des Cascades is home to a fishing port and sometimes small waterfalls. Picnic areas located on this site are very pleasant and quiet.

• The volcanic peak of Le Grand Bénare

At an altitude of 2,898 meters (9507.87 feet), the Grand Bénare is considered the third highest mountain peak on Reunion Island, after the Piton des Neiges and the Gros Morne.

Things to do in Réunion Island

• Watch the sun's journey from the Piton des Neiges

After ascending the Piton des Neiges, spend the night at the shelter of the Cave Refuge Dufour to climb to the top at dawn and witness the sunrise and awakening of the three cirques: Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos.

• Take to the skies on a helicopter sightseeing trip

Réunion overflights choppers circle the cirques of Salazie, Mafate and Cilaos, the Iron Hole, the lagoons, as well as the volcano, including after an eruption!

• Dive into one of the island’s underwater nature reserves

Reunion has as many wonders under the sea as on land. Don a diving mask to immerse yourself in a real natural aquarium, accessible to all lovers of deep sea, from beginners to experts. In the waters of Réunion, fish and corals waltz in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes.

• Get wet canyoning or white water rafting

The East and the South Wild are favorite playgrounds for white water rafting lovers in a multitude of natural pools, for beginners or extreme rafters. Splash through gorges, in the heart of the forests, past spectacular cliffs in kayaks, canorafts, rafts or in hydrospeeds.

• Wander around the Saint-Paul street market

This colorful market brings together more than 300 exhibitors all day on Friday and Saturday mornings on the waterfront of the city. This is a hodge-podge of local products, spices, fruits, vegetables, clothing, crafts and animals. Pro-tip: go there on Friday morning for more selection and less crowd!

• Visit a Tamil temple and watch a fire walking ceremony

Every year, from December to January, the firewalking ceremony (tikouli) glorifies the purity of the Hindu goddess Pandialé, who performed a similar feat, braving the flames to prove her fidelity. After 17 days of Lent, rites and prayers, the penitents are ready to face the test of fire in exchange for a divine grace.

• Tour the historic Creole villas of Entre-Deux

In the Creole village of Hell-Bourg, in the heart of the Saliazie cirque, this community built around the thermal baths has kept all its old-fashioned charms. Authentic Creole houses, gardens, modest huts and bourgeois villas, Entre-Deux is ripe for travelers in search of authentic discoveries.

• Go dolphin and whale watching in the Indian Ocean

Swimming with whales and dolphins: this is a child's dream that comes true every day in Réunion Island! Jump into the water to observe the animals in their natural environment, (gently so as not to disturb them): it's a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

• Explore the wild south and the lava road

The Lava road crosses the Grand Brûlé, the coastal part of the last volcanic caldera (crater) formed by the Piton de la Fournaise, Enclos Fouqué. Here, signs tell the story of the lava flows that swept through during the eruptions of Piton de La Fournaise.

• Dance to traditional Maloya rhythms

At the same time music, song and dance, Maloya is the beating heart of the traditions of the island. Since 2009, it appears in the list of Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Maloya expresses the pain and revolt of slaves of Malagasy and African origin in the sugar plantations of Réunion.

Getting to Réunion island