Detailed Map

Full Name
(French Constitution)

2,512 sq km

Capital City
St. Denis

  French, African, Malagasy, Chinese, Pakistani, Indian

French (official), Creole.

Parliamentary Democracy!

President Jacques CHIRAC of France
represented by Prefect Dominique VIAN  

Few people outside la métropole (mainland France that is) know of Réunion and even fewer know of its spectacular natural and scenic wonders.

The island's dearth of world-class beaches probably has a lot to do with its lack of mass tourism, but whatever Réunion lacks at sea level, it more than makes up for in its wildly dramatic mountain country.

The forbidding mountains and gorges offer a ton of trekking possibilities. If you love Nepal or New Zealand, you'll also love Réunion, which has similar high-quality hiking and trekking - but with a tropical twist.

The island of Réunion lies in the Indian Ocean, about 800 km east of Madagascar and roughly 220 km south-west of Mauritius.

Just in case anyone was in doubt about its origins, its active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise, erupted in 1986, spewing lava into the sea and adding a few square meters to the island.

There are two major mountain zones on Réunion; one covers two-thirds of the island's western half. The highest peak is Piton des Neiges at
3069 m (10,066ft) an alpine-class peak. Surrounding it are the three immense and splendid amphitheaters: the cirques of Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie. The smaller mountain zone lies in the south-east and is still evolving.

There are established clubs for just about every sort of activity you can imagine. However, more than anything, Réunion's geological history has made it a haven for the serious and occasional trekker.

There are dozens of day hikes and multi-day hikes throughout the island. The volcano and high-rugged cirques of Cilaos, Salazie and Mafate are superb. The terrain has also led to an explosion of interest in mountain biking and the appropriate vélo tout terrain or VTT is easy to rent for half or full-day excursions.

Diving is concentrated around St-Gilles-les-Bains, as is snorkeling, swimming and other water activities. For adventure seekers, there's the exhilaration of canoeing, challenging you to abseil down rugged gorges and cliffs into water holes or lagoons below.

One of the main pleasures of visiting Réunion is experiencing its Créole-flavoured French culture, or French-flavoured Créole culture. It is interesting to see how the local séga (traditional dance) differs from the Mauritian, Seychellois and Malagasy versions.

There are more variations in Réunion because the slaves adopted and adapted the dances of the white settlers, particularly the quadrille, to their own African rhythms. The more traditional slaves' dance in Réunion is called the maloya, a slower, more reflective rhythm, similar to the New Orleans blues. Instruments used by the bands range from traditional home-made percussion pieces, such as the hide-covered houleur drum and the maraca-like caiambe to the accordion and modern band instruments.