24 hours in Reunion Island

And as our journey comes to a close, we come to the land of extremes, otherwise known as “The Intense Island”. Given the name Reunion during the French Revolution, the island has stayed true to its name; located on volcanic soils and in a cyclonic zone, Reunion offers rugged landscapes and vertiginous waterfalls, where the land is a confused mix of town and desert.

Piton de la Fournaise, spitting its fiery molten lava into the Indian Ocean several times a year, is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet - just like a cork expelled from a bottle… just for the hell of it!

And the roads can still be seen smoking from the last volcanic spill, on mineral-rich, fertile soils, born again from the ashes. And don’t miss out on more than 1,000 different plant species on the island, providing essential oils of the finest quality.

And last but not least, while the Pitons may have featured on the World Heritage List since 2010, the island also happens to be the most densely populated French overseas department, with 816,000 inhabitants and bursting with life and creativity. From Hotel Lux* Ile de la Reunion in Saint-Gilles-les-Bains, the height of luxury on the island, complete with yoga retreats and inspirational cuisine. Or perhaps succumb to a night under the stars in a traditional yurt.

10.08am Early morning markets…

Reunion is renowned for its colourful market stalls, and boasts a vast array of indoor markets, small fruit markets, extensive Madagascan craft markets, not forgetting market days and fish markets… Check out Saint-Paul, Saint-Louis or Saint-Denis, sometimes as early as 4am, to hunt for spices and coconut shell nick nacks. A visit to “Chez Loulou” in 
Saint-Gilles-les-Bains is also strongly recommended, famed for its spectacular turquoise façade, so typical of the island, and its local delicacies, including “sarcives” pork and honey samosas, sweet buns known locally as chocolate “macatia” and “bonbon piment”, a savoury speciality originating from India, made from turmeric and white Lima beans.

 1.36pm Adventure-filled memories

The “Intense Island” is also known as the “Island of Sensations”, offering canyoning, surfing, horse-riding and 4-wheel drive tours and paragliding. Whether seeking extreme sports or calmer pursuits, in a single day you can try your hand at water sports or aerial action, and in the evening, retreat to a mountain hideaway to savour the romantic sunset. Difficult to believe!

Other than skimming the sky in pursuit of some idyllic pastime, a whole host of major events form a tempting proposition; celebrated in true majestic fashion with a glass of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte of course! Check out the famous Grand Raid, otherwise known as the “Diagonale des Fous”, the Madman’s diagonal crossing, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in October, setting off from Saint-Philippe. Or there’s the Tram-train Marathon, or even the Lexus Open Pro Golf at Bassin-Bleu in Saint-Gilles-les-Bains. Bassin-bleu golf course boasts spectacular ocean views, no less, eucalyptus-lined avenues and looks out to the 19th century Chappelle Pointue (1841)… not withstanding the terrifying prospect of losing a golf ball at sea during half of the course. Never! After a well-negotiated round, a panoramic restaurant is the perfect location to recharge the batteries and plan all manner of festive activities.

Journey of discovery | Published on: 13 July 2012
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