Surrounded by ramparts, criss-crossed with gullies and studded with narrow ridges, Cirque de Mafate is the wildest and the most remote of Réunion's Cirques. Nothing can prepare you for that first glimpse of this geologic wonder, with its shifting colours, blissful serenity (except for the occasional whirring of choppers) and unsurpassed grandeur. No cars, no towns, no stress. Just soaring mountains, giddily deep ravines and a sprinkle of tiny hamlets where time seems to have stood still.
Apart from its grandiose topography, what sets the Cirque de Mafate apart is its relative inaccessibility, despite being very close to the coastal fleshpots. There are no roads that lead into the Cirque (although a route forestière runs right up to the pass at Col des Bœufs), so the villages that are scattered in this giant extinct volcano are accessible only by foot.