The volcanic island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean is undeniably a dream destination. And as it’s often said, dreams do come true. I had been toying with the idea of visiting this paradise for quite some time. Three facts make this French overseas department particularly enticing: You can use the Euro as the local currency. There are no wild or dangerous animals. No vaccinations are required. These are three compelling reasons, in my opinion, for choosing a tropical destination.
The flight from Germany to the capital, St. Denis, is quite long, taking about 13 hours (depending on your departure point). However, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by both Air France and the less-known Air Austral. For the long-haul flight, we employed a little trick. With the help of a sleeping pill, we peacefully slept through the night after dinner on board, waking up the next morning. We did the same on the return journey.
Vibrant Rue de Paris
In St. Denis, we only stayed on the day of our arrival. The city doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourism, but it’s worth visiting the Jardin de l’État along with the natural history museum. This is where you can get a first impression of the island’s history. Equally interesting are the many renovated colonial-style villas, which are now either used as hotels or exhibition spaces. The “Rue de Paris” is a striking example of this.
For me, as an avid hiker, the three calderas are the heart of the island: Cirque de Cilaos, Cirque de Mafate, and Cirque de Salazie. Accordingly, we planned our itinerary around them. We set up our base camp in Cilaos for the first six days, followed by five days in Hell-Bourg. Afterward, we spent two days on the high plateau “Plaine des Cafres.” After so much time in the highlands, we settled in St. Gilles-les-Bains for the final five days. This division proved to be practical even in hindsight. We could conveniently reach all our hiking destinations from these four bases.
We are extremely impressed by the diversity of the island, the friendliness of the locals, and the well-maintained and well-marked trails.
Visible social differences
A downside, in my opinion, is the sense that colonialism is still palpable on the island. “White” French people own beautiful vacation homes, frequent expensive resorts, and influence the island’s politics. Creoles, the people born on the island, are mostly found in service jobs and often lead simple lives in rural areas. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are unhappy. This is just an observation on my part – nothing more.