Travel and Tourism

The landscapes of Reunion Island.

Islands evoke images

Images of swaying palms and sandy beaches, of colourful cocktails, exotic fruits and sunset sails in a calm turquoise bay.

Of bikinis and board-shorts, surf boards and scuba gear, sun kissed islanders cooking fish at the waters edge.

Endless summer dreams.

St Gilles le Ness, Reunion Island
Hotel Ness in La Saline-les-Bains

And then there is Reunion Island.

An island where the focus is not the just the beaches.

A place with so many wild landscapes that 40% of the island is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. 

A tiny island with 200 micro-climates and a landscape to match each one.

Forests of Japanese trees contrast with lunar like craters, snowy alpine mountains overlook an active volcano and black lava fields scar the earth on their route to the sea.

Green shoots adding colour to the lava flow landscape

An overview of the geography of the island

La Reunion is situated between to Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator in the Indian Ocean. It is part of the Mascarenes, the collective name for the islands of the Mascarene Archipelago, which consists of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion.

The shape and size of Reunion Island can be compared to a circle with a diameter of about 55km.

The Piton des Neigres is the highest point and is more or less in the centre of the island. This peak is 3071 m high and is surrounded by three huge cirques or amphitheatres, the Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie.

On the South East coast, the active volcano, the Piton de La Fournaise is the dominant feature, reaching a height of 2631 meters.

Dramatic peaks and lush vegetation

The roads.

La Reunion is an overseas department of France and the infrastructure on the island is very much first world. The roads are in excellent condition, although mostly single carriageway, and traffic congestion in the towns can be heavy during peak times.

Approximately 200km of road follows the coast around the island, providing easy access to the 16 major coastal towns.

The N3 is the only road that cuts right across the island, it separates the 3 cirques from the active volcano. Roughly 45km long, it links St Pierre on the coast in the south, rises to 2000 m where it provides access to the volcano, before descending to St. Benoit on the north east coast.

 The N5 goes from St. Louis on the coast through the Cirque de Cilaos, to one of the highest towns on the island, Cilaos. Navigating the 30 km of road with 200 hairpin bends and another 200 twists and turns, flanked by spectacular scenery takes well over an hour and a half, that’s without stopping to admire the views. 

driving the scenic roads is an activity in itself.

Helicopter views

Click, seat belt on,

tuk  tuk  tuk , the rotors start their slow warm up revolutions and the engine rumbles.

Jostling for space with laps full of cameras, excitement mounts as the blades pick up speed.

The helicopter sways from side to side and static crackles as I adjust the headphones.

Pierre the pilot announces lift off and up up up we go.

A patchwork of green is broken by small towns, juxtaposed by the bright blue of the Indian Ocean as we head towards the coast.

Views of Boulcan-Canot, Reunion Island

Gaining altitude, we head inland towards the soaring blue grey mountains framed by wispy clouds.

Brace yourselves says Pierre the pilot.

We sweep around in a wide arc and suddenly we are flying like something out of a James Bond movie. We twist and weave through a narrow gorge, surrounded by sheer green and brown walls of stone on either side.

In this narrow space we turn a full circle to marvel at a waterfall tumbling down into the pool below.

Pierre the Pilot
Views from the helicopter and Pierre the pilot’s mad flying skills

And then we are up again and overlooking the gritty browns of the Plains de Sables where the road zig zags down the mountain before the long straight stretch to the volcano.

And there she is, the Piton de la Fournaise. What a thrill to see the few wisps of smoke curling out the side from small eruptions earlier in the week.

We continue past the neutral tones of the volcanic landscape to the wild seas and black rock of the lava flow and then head inland again.

Le Plaine de Sables
The active volcano, the The Piton de la Fournaise

Alpine mountains and quaint villages come into view, bursting with colour after the drab views earlier.

We fly across the rim of a cirque, and once again Pierre the pilot warns us to be prepared.

The earth falls away, and we all gasp as we crest the edge of the world and the caldera is spread out before us.

All too soon the coastline is our view and we approach the landing strip of Helaglion.

What a ride.


Land views

The contrasts of this tiny island are mind blowing and there are many roads where you just have to stop and admire the views.

Here are a few of my favourites.

The lava fields
Green shoots adding colour to the lava flow landscape
Lighthouse seen from St Pierre

Volcanic sand beach at St Paul
Wild seas at Cap Mechant

Exotic trees at Cap Mechant
Adventures deep in the canyon. Image courtesy Nick Orsmond
mountains from the road to Cilaos

Getting there and general information.

Three flights a week direct from Johannesburg to Reunion with Air Austral

VISA FREE for South Africans

Reunion Island is a Department of France. The currency is the Euro and French is widely spoken.

La Reunion is situated between to Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator in the Indian Ocean. It is part of the Mascarenes, the collective name for the islands of the Mascarene Archipelago, which consists of Mauritius, Rodrigues and Reunion.

Get inspired with more information from Reunion Tourism.

My visit was part of a media trip hosted by the Reunion Tourism Board.


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