The alternative ReunionScroll
Authenticity, ethics, ecology: far off the beaten track, the Villages Créoles® network enables visitors to discover the small mountain villages of the island's uplands. In the uplands, listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco, nature unfolds in all its glory and the inhabitants preserve a certain way of life. 16 villages or bourgs (market towns) belonging to 13 of the island's communes are members of the network, with accommodation divided according to six different types of 'ambience': Creole huts, marine environment, belvederes, mountain landscape, local and natural.
Bourg-Murat, Entre-Deux, Grand-Coude, Petite-Ile, the Plaine des Grègues and Tévelave to the south; Cilaos and the Makes, Salazie, Grand-Ilet, Hell-Bourg and the Plaine des Palmistes in the inland regions; Le Maïdo Petite-France, Le Plate and Saint-Leu to the west; Sainte-Rose and Saint-Philippe to the east... These bourgs, in some cases formed entirely of small hamlets (referred to locally as "îlets", they are found mainly in the three "cirques" that are characteristic of the island - Mafate, Cilaos and Salazie) chose to unite within a network by the name of Villages Créoles®. The idea? To offer an alternative way to discover Reunion Island by encountering its inhabitants as they practice a way of life that has been long preserved, within a natural environment that is still very much wild.
16 villages, 6 'ambiences'
These 16 villages, distributed across 13 communes, decided to categorise themselves according to six 'ambiences'. In Hell-Bourg (listed among France's most beautiful villages, the Plaine des Palmistes and Entre-Deux one can experience the Creole case (home) ambience. You will then be able to discover the pretty villas that the rich families had built in the small mountain villages, in order to escape the sweltering heat of the Austral summer, or the traditional sheet-metal 'cases'. The houses feature a generous coat of colourful paint, their lambrequins (friezes, cut along the eaves of the roof) bringing the façade to life, and are surrounded by vegetable gardens and flowerbeds, tended to with love. These ‘cases’ transform the most modest ‘bourg’ into a tourist attraction !
In the Makes, or Maïdo and Les Makes, the site of the astronomical observatory, one can expect a belvedere ‘ambience’, and the infinite horizon! If you go a little higher, you will discover the incredible wealth and the natural beauty of the island, classified as a World Heritage site by Unesco since 2010. Within the Reunion National Park, the island's cirques, peaks and ramparts in fact form an astounding spectacle that also houses fragile ecosystems found nowhere else in the world.
Nature is also the common theme that unites Grand-Coude, the Tévelave, Bourg-Murat and the Plaine des Palmistes: waterfalls, primary forests... An amazing spectacle guaranteed !
The marine environment in Saint-Leu, its coral reef and the 'souffleurs', small openings in the coastal rock through which the ocean water shoots into the air like a jet! In Sainte-Rose, the flows of lava reaching the ocean have resulted in the resurgence of large stocks of fish, the only of their kind in the world, while in Sainte-Philippe, the rugged coastline produced by the effect of the sea lives up to its nickname, the Cap Méchant (cruel cape/headland). What a joy it would be to live in Petite-Ile Grande-Anse, where coconut palms, white sandy beaches and huge picnics, in a style typical of the Creoles (with pots of cari and a minimum of twenty people, 'marmailles' [children] and 'granmounes' [grandparents] included) also contribute to the spirit of the island.
The inland ambience and Creole flavours on offer in Bourg-Murat and on its dairy farms (cheeses from the Plains can be enjoyed with strawberry guava jam), pink peppercorn or mountain honey; "safran péi" (turmeric) - Plaine des Grègues-style; citrus fruits, garlic and spices in Petite-Ile; vanilla and palm cabbage, as well as delicious fish in Saint-Philippe and its fishing village.
Finally, Reunion Island offers its visitors the privilege of exploring territory spanning 2512 km², formed of coastlines and mountain villages, each with its own unique features. Cilaos, the starting point for hiking trips to the Piton des Neiges (translates as 'snowy peaks'); Grand-Ilet, at the far end of the cirque of Salazie, with its plunging waterfalls, including the sublime "Voile de la mariée" (Bridal Veil); Maïdo Petite-France, in the uplands of Saint-Paul, with the fragrant smell of the geranium, the essence of which is used in high-end perfumes; Grand-Coude and its tea plantations; Bourg-Murat, a small and peaceful mountain village in the shadow of the Piton de la Fournaise (Furnace Peak), one of the world's most active volcanoes !