Introducing Le Maïdo & Around
Be prepared to fall on your knees in awe: far above St-Paul and St-Gilles-les-Bains on the rim of the Cirque de Mafate, Le Maïdo is one of the most impressive viewpoints in Réunion. The lookout is perched atop the mountain peak at 2205m and offers stunning views down into the Cirque and back to the coast. As with other viewpoints, you should arrive early in the day – by 7am if possible – if you want to see anything other than cloud.
Getting there is half the fun. The sealed Route Forestière du Maïdo winds all the way up to the viewpoint from Le Guillaume (14km) in the hills above St-Gilles-les-Bains, offering a scenic drive through majestic cryptomeria forests. On the way, the hamlet of La Petite France (1000m) is famous for its traditional distilleries producing essential oils from geranium, cryptomeria and vetiver leaves (nice smell!). You'll also find a smattering of attractions along the way to keep you entertained.
A word of warning: expect traffic snarls on Sunday when hundreds of picnicking families set up base in the shade of trees along the road.