Oh la la! After a long-haul flight, you step off the plane and you’re greeted with a bonjour. Then you breakfast on croissants and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). At first glance, Réunion is like a chunk of France teleported to the tropics. But beyond the Gallic panache, you’ll soon realise it’s a resplendent tapestry, which also blends Indian, African and Chinese influences.
Jutting out of the ocean like a basaltic shield cloaked in green, Réunion is a mini-Hawaii, with astounding geographical diversity. Within an hour or two, the landscape morphs from lava fields to lush primary forest, from jagged peaks to sprawling coastal cities. The West is Réunion's Riviera, a long string of beach suburbs and resorts towns, including glitzy Boucan Canot. The pièce de résistance is Les Hautes & the volcano. Piton de la Fournaise is one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes and depending on nature’s whims, you might even witness fiery-red molten lava. When the volcano has finished working its magic on you, there are horses to ride, majestic mountains to trek up in the Cirques, or paraglide from in St-Leu, drop-offs to dive from, big waves to surf, extinct volcanoes to fly over, and canyons to explore. But it’s not all about nature, landscapes and adrenaline – Réunion has its cultural gems as well, with stunning Creole architecture in cute-as-can-be villages, as well as colourful religious buildings and festivals.
We’ll be honest, though. Réunion is a tropical island, but one that doesn’t fit the cliché of a sun-soaked Edenic paradise. Sure, you’ll find appealing palm-ruffled stretches of sand, but none that rivals the super-sexy beaches that are de rigueur in the Seychelles or Mauritius. All the better for you: mega-resorts are nonexistent. Open the Pandora’s box, and you’ll leave the island proclaiming to the world that La Rénion lé gadiamb (‘Réunion is lovely’, in Creole).
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009
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