Reunion Island, although it sits in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar in Africa, is actually an overseas territory of France. This makes it the outermost border of the European Union. The first explorers were from Portugal, and the French laid claim to the island in the 17th century.
The island peeks out of the of ocean invitingly, blanketed in lush, green vegetation and inspiring journeys for its likeness to Hawaii, only on a much smaller sale. On route to your final destination on the island, the landscape changes like a traveling chameleon; from sprawling lava fields edged by volcanic mountains to verdant forests and from rocky, sharp peaks to immense cities lined up along the coast. Along the west coast you may think you’re visiting a smaller version of the Riviera, with a continuous stretch of suburbs pinpointed by magnificent beaches and several resort towns willing and able to cater to almost any kind of beach vacations. Most glamorous of all is Boucan Canot, where luxury accommodations and fine dining go hand in hand.
Adventurous travelers, or even just the mildly curious, might opt for a jaunt up to the most popular volcano at Reunion Island, Piton de la Fournaise. It is one of the most easily accessed active volcanoes in existence and may even afford you the amazement of gurgling up some burning vermilion lava. Away from the volcano, there are still plenty of things to do; trekking along mountain ridges, horseback riding on the beach and interior, and paragliding from west coasts’s St Leu. Surfing is yet another of the top activities drawing surfers from all over the world. Count on adrenaline rushes, fascinating natural backdrops and morphing landscapes but don’t forget to dip your toes into some of the cultural aspects of Reunion Island. Attractive villages with scads of endearing qualities, beautiful Creole architecture, and vibrant festivals that pair perfectly with the island’s best religious assemblies.
As beautiful and profoundly tropical as Reunion Island is, it doesn’t quite fit the familiar tune of sun-drenched paradise. There are no monster resorts here which would inevitably bring on huge crowds. Instead, you will find palm-lined beaches, soft, silky sand, and plenty of French accoutrements, but what you won’t find (thankfully for most) is the mass marketing, all encompassing sky-high prices, and scads of sun-soaked beach seekers taking up any room on your beach vacations.
Top image: Philippe AMIOT (flickr)