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Reunion

Reunion Holiday

Overview

No more than a green dot in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Reunion is part of the Mascareignes archipelago, lying 800km east of Madagascar, and only a 35 minutes flight away from Mauritius

Its main attraction is its diverse landscapes, all within a few kilometres of each other. Visitors can round off an early-morning volcano walk with an afternoon swim in the lagoon, watching the sun set behind the coral reef.

The island was uninhabited until the middle of the 17th century, when it became a stopover on the trade routes. The French were the first to populate the island, using it as a penal colony for convicts from Madagascar. The first convicts landed in 1643, followed by the first colonists around 1663, who were accompanied by Malagasy servants.

With the development of the coffee culture, slavery was introduced, with white settlers purchasing their workforce from the slave traders, who uprooted men, women and children from the Malagasy and East African coasts. The coffee plantations disappeared towards the end of the 18th century and were replaced by sugar cane.

Slavery was abolished in 1848 but sugar cane still needed a workforce. Indian and African volunteers were then called upon and the plantation society lasted until the Second World War.

A climbing orchid, vanilla, was imported from America and the island also discovered that its climate was ideal for producing geraniums and vetiver, which give essential oils that are used by the major perfume makers.

The island was granted the status of Overseas Department of France in 1946, and today has 800 000 inhabitants of diverse and often multiple origins.

Weather

The island enjoys a tropical climate tempered by the proximity of the Indian Ocean. The coastal temperature varies between 18 and 32º C. Each region has its own microclimate and it is sunny all year round.

Highlight of Reunion

Piton de la Fournaise (The Volcano)


The magnum opus of Mother Nature in Réunion, Piton de la Fournaise is the island's most famous natural attraction. Simply dubbed le volcan (the volcano) by Réunionnais, Piton de la Fournaise is not a dormant monster, but an active geological wonder that erupts with great regularity; in April 2007 the central, 900m-wide crater collapsed by 300m, and new lava fields were formed on its southeastern flanks, down to the coast. In early January 2010 a new eruption occurred, though less powerful.


The good news is that it's one of the world's most accessible active volcanoes, and it's possible to hike up to the crater. You can also fly over the volcano, approach the area from the saddle of a horse or simply enjoy the scenery from a viewpoint at Pas de Bellecombe (2311m), the 'entrance' to the volcanic area, right on the crater's outer rim, where the road ends.

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