The Land of the Senses: Tropical flavours and scents
On the coast, beautiful beaches lined with restaurants invite you to relax for the day. The party begins at nightfall, with bars, music performances and clubs providing you with the opportunity to experience the frantic rhythm of Maloya. There are an abundance of festivals and cultural trips, led by the famous Sakifo festival, which electrifies the town that never sleeps. The city centre houses many architectural treasures worth visiting, such as the buildings of the Compagnie des Indes, traditional houses and religious sites.
In Petite-Île, Reunion Island's vegetable plot, with its market gardens, the Maison des Abeilles [Beekeeper's House] will let you discover the secrets of making honey. There is also a street lined with charming gardens where artisans have set up shop, using their imagination to create handicrafts from all kinds of materials: wood, volcanic rock, enamel, porcelain, and bamboo. You can also find ironwork and traditional jewellery. In Saint-Joseph the maze in Champ Thé leads you through the white tea bushes where a cup of tea awaits you. Savour it carefully since its the only tea that grows on the island! In Plaine des Grègues, your immersion into the land will become even more poignant. A visit to Maison du Curcuma, the saffron country, will show you the process for making this spice, which is a main ingredient in the dish cari. In the village of Grand Coude, the precious perfume from Pointed Bourbon coffee wafts out from the Maison Laurina. A bit further along in Saint-Phillipe is where the cultivation of vanilla takes place. Mare Longue forest, which was recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to magnificent endemic species of tree such as takamaka, ebony, bois de couleur and apple wood. In the Jardin des Parfums et des Épices [Perfume and Spice Garden], an expert guide will take you on a sensory journey, while introducing you to the virtues of biodiversity.
Creole charm and impromptu strolls
The sugarcane fields flanked by ramparts define the countryside in the South. Saint-Louis is the anchor point for the agricultural history of this part of the island, where the Gol factory is experiencing something of a boom. You can visit it during the sugar season. On this former coffee plantation, which was then transformed into a sugar plantation, the MADOI (Musée des Arts Décoratifs de l’Océan Indien [Museum of Decorative Arts of the Indian Ocean]) is a little gem that is simply unmissable. Further on, La Saga du Rhum [The History of Rum] shown at the Isautier distillery in Saint-Pierre, offers you different perspectives on this trade, covering the human aspects, as well as techniques and history.
Grand Anse is a hotspot for a Sunday picnic in a forest next to the beach where families gather around a zembrocal [traditional Creole dish], playing cards, singing and dancing until the evening. You can invite yourself along to enjoy an authentic Creole experience. L’Étang-Salé is both a popular bathing spot and a renowned surfing area. There are plenty of activities for young and old alike. You can play a game of golf, take the children to the crocodile park, lark about in the parc AkOatys or relax under the shade of the filao trees on the volcanic sand beach, which is a soft mixture of basalt, olivine and coral.
The forest of Étang-Salé is a popular spot for pony trekking, hiking or bike riding, among the filao, tamarind and bay rum trees which have been planted over the course of time. If you follow the coastal path, which leads to Saint-Pierre, you will happen across the traditional fishermen, who set themselves up on a rock from dawn, and a special surprise is awaiting you at "le Gouffre"! Imagine the ocean rushing through a corridor of black rock and surging back in a deafening gush of foam, glittering with stunning turquoise reflections. More tranquil, l'Entre-Deux is a charming village nestled between two branches of a river. An olden day charm still prevails around its colourful houses, decorated with valances. The local handicraft consists of weaving choca [green aloe], which you will appreciate for it its fineness and multiple uses.
From there, a hike taking on the majestic mountainous area of Dimitile will bring you to Cilaos, from where you can enjoy stunning views. The primary forest of Tevelave is waiting for you among native scents and birds who come to seek shelter in their thousands. From the top of Saint-Louis, the Fenêtre des Makes offers you a magnificent view out over Cilaos, from where you can take a hike through the cirque if you wish. Under the full moon, the Makes Observatory, which was founded by Hubert Reeves, enables you to contemplate the starry sky under the tropic of Capricorn, the premise for enchanting dreams...