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.
Capital: Saint Denis
Area: 2512 sq km
Population: 800, 000 (estimated)
Gouvernement: Department of Reunion
President: President of France Nicolas Sarkozy
People: French, African, Malagasy, Chinese, Pakistani, Indian
Languages: French and creole
Religion: Roman Catholique, Hindu, Islam, Buddhist
GDP per Head: US$ 4800
Major industries: Sugar, rhum, handicraft items
Major trading parteners: France, Japan, Comoros, Bahrain, Italy.
When to go
Réunion’s climate varies more than that of Mauritius. It still, however, experiences only two distinct seasons: the hot, rainy summer from December to April and the cool, dry winter from late April to October. The east coast is considerably wetter than the west, but wettest of all are the mountains above the east coast – around Takamaka, Plaine-des-Palmistesand the northern and eastern slopes of the volcano. As with Mauritius, the cyclone season is roughly December to March.
Temperatures on the coast average 22°C during winter and 27°C in summer. In the mountains, they drop to 11°C and 18°C respectively. Clouds generally cover the peaks and high plains from mid-morning. The drier winter months are the most favourable for hiking.
The peak tourist seasons are during the French school holidays from late June to early September. From October through to the New Year holidays is also reasonably busy, but after this everything eases down during cyclone-prone February and March. The weather normally changes for the better in April, which isn’t a bad time to a visit.
Attractions - St Denis
Francophiles will feel comfortable in St-Denis (san-de-nee), the capital of Réunion. Except for the palms and flamboyant trees to remind you that you’re somewhere sunnier (and hotter), St-Denis could be easily mistaken for a French provincial enclave, with a flurry of trendy shops, brasseries, bistros, and boulangeries (bakeries). Mmmmm…those little pains au chocolat (chocolate-filled pastries) will linger long on the palate!
If that’s not enough, there are always epicur¬ean indulgences. Sip a black coffee at a chic pavement café listening to a séga or maloya soundtrack or indulge in fine dining at a gourmet restaurant. Bon appétit!