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The Plaine des Sables is a plain of ash and lava rock that lies just north of Reunion's volcano. You drive across it as you approach the volcano, and it feels like you are on the moon, with no vegetation in sight. There are places where you can park your car and hike out onto the plain, which we did. After being in the island's tropical lower altitudes, the Plaine des Sables is quite a change of pace and a sight worth seeing.
Written Sep 4, 2009
The Maison de la Broderie is a small museum which showcases the beautiful needlework done by the women of Cilaos and the surrounding villages. Embroidery was originally introduced to the area by the French wife of a local doctor who was looking for something to do during Cilaos' many rainy days. Over the years, a beautiful style of needlework has developed in Reunion which features open lace-style patterns combined with colorful embroidery. The Maison de la Broderie showcases numerous examples of garments, table goods, and other fabric pieces made over the years by local women. Upstairs, it has a section that displays recent pieces that you can purchase.
While we were there, a women was working on a large tablecloth, which is going to be beautiful when it is finally done. Lisa, who does embroidery as a hobby, enjoyed speaking with her as she worked.
Updated Sep 4, 2009
The best scenery on Reunion is in its wild interior, which features 3000-foot deep canyons and calderas, waterfalls, and a volcano. While there are some roads that can take you into much of the island's interior, other parts of it are only reachable by hiking. An alternative for those of us that don't have the time or ability to do long, multi-day hikes is to take a helicopter ride above the island.
We used Helilagon, a helicopter tour company based in the hills above the island's west coast. The ride is expensive (>$200 per person for a 1 hour ride), but the views are fantastic.
Updated Sep 4, 2009
Phone: 262 262 55 55 55
As an island, Reunion is ringed by beaches. However, many of them have rough surf and are not suitable for small children.
We found good beaches on the western coast along the stretch of hotels between St. Gilles-les-Bains and Hermitage-les-Bains. The beaches in this area are sand beaches which are protected from large waves by coral reefs just offshore. Anna, our 8-year old daughter had a lot of fun there wading in the water, looking at the pieces of coral that had washed up, and building sand castles. One thing to watch out for, however, is that there are a lot of pieces of coral sticking out of the sand both in the water and along the beach. Be careful where you step!
Updated Sep 4, 2009
The Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory is an institution dedicated to the study and preservation of Reunion's marine turtle species. Kelonia has a number of rooms full of exhibits about turtles that you can walk through at your leisure, as well as indoor and outdoor tanks in which you can watch the turtles swim around. One of the highlights is an albino turtle that they have in one of the outdoor tanks.
In addition to marine turtles, Kelonia also has an outdoor area which features two species of land tortoises.
Written Sep 3, 2009
Address: 46 rue du Général de Gaulle, Saint-Leu
Phone: 262 262 34 81 10
Reunion's active volcano, the Piton de la Fournaise, looms above the southern part of the island. It is one of the world's most active volcanoes. It was dormant when we were on Reunion, but erupted as recently as 2007.
There is a road that takes you right up to the edge of the caldera surrounding the volcano's active cone, which tops out at 8600 feet above sea level. The caldera is a few miles wide, and you can hike down into it and up to the volcano's summit. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time for the hike, so we just looked at the cone from the caldera's rim.
There is a small visitor center at the caldera's rim, which also sells snacks and drinks.
Written Sep 3, 2009
The Riviere des Remparts (River of the Ramparts) is a small river the flows west to the sea from the volcanic plateaus in the south-central portion of the island. Along its path to sea, the river has cut a magnificent deep canyon, whose steep green walls rise up to 3000 feet from the river valley below. There is a great viewpoint, where you can look out over the canyon, along the road to the volcano. It is best to visit the viewpoint during the morning, since clouds often roll in later in the day.
Updated Sep 3, 2009
The drive to Cilaos is one of the most scenic drives on Reunion Island. The road follows a canyon and rises thousands of feet in about 40 kilometers before finally arriving at Cilaos in the Cirque de Cilaos valley. To accomplish this altitude change, the road twists and turns via a few hundred switchbacks many of which have completely blind turns. The road also narrows in many places to a single lane, so you have to always be paying attention.
The views along the way were great. We were constantly slowing down or pulling over to take photos where we could.
Because clouds often roll into the center of Reunion during the day, it is best to do the drive to Cilaos in the morning in order to get the best views. The, you can spend a few hours relaxing in Cilaos before reversing course and driving back down the same road, which is the only way into the Cirque de Cilaos.
Written Aug 28, 2009
Le Maido is a scenic overlook at the top of a ridge overlooking the Circque de Mafate, one of the three amazing 3000-foot deep circular canyons on the northern half of Reunion Island. Of the three cirques, the Cirque de Mafete is the only one without any roads going into it, so the only way that you can see it is by helicopter, by doing a long hike in, or by driving up to the viewpoint at Le Maido. The drive itself is half the fun. You go up 6000 vertical feet in less than 15 miles, with dozens of switchbacks. The road is paved, but has ditches with steep dropoffs on the sides, so you have to pay attention the whole way while driving. When you reach the top, at Le Maido, there are two main viewpoints along the crest of the ridge that literally sit right on top of the cliff, which goes 1000s of feet straight down.
The views from Le Maido are amazing. You can see for miles into and across the Cirque de Mafate, which is full of rugged valleys that were formed by tens of thousands of years of erosion. To avoid staring into nothing but clouds, you need to get there by 9AM, when the clouds typically start rolling into the Cirque de Mafate. Also, bring sunglasses and sunscreen, because the sun is intense at Le Maido, even in the morning. Also, bring a sweater and/or coat and gloves, because the temperature is much lower than at the coast due to the increase in altitude.
Updated Aug 28, 2009
Situated in the southeast corner of Reunion Island, Piton de la Fournaise is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Erupting for the first time about 50,000 years ago, records note that this basaltic shield volcano has erupted nearly 180 times since such eruptions were first recorded in 1640. The most recent occurred in 2004.
Piton de la Fournaise (Furnace Peak) stretches to about 2,631 meters in height and, since 1980, has been consistently monitored by volcano experts including scientists and government surveillance facilities, just in case an evacuation of residents and guests is required.
The 700,000 residents of Reunion Island have learned to deal with life in the lava path of an active volcano. As a matter of fact, many locals earn money offering guided walking tours and rides to Piton de la Fournaise and the volcano is undoubtedly Reunion’s most popular tourist attraction. Few leave the island without a close-up look at Furnace Peak.
It’s actually quite easy to walk to the top of the mountain and courageous guests can even camp near the rim of the volcano. A helicopter tour is also an awe-inspiring way to experience this amazing sight and such tours are readily available for those who fancy a ride over this bubbling cauldron. In reality, however, the view from down below is the most spectacular. Piton de la Fournaise spews orange and yellow lava day and night, with the evening pyrotechnics topping any first-class fireworks display you’ve ever experienced.
Updated Aug 19, 2009
LUX Ile de La Reunion Saint-Gilles-les Bains