poster_ambiance_terre_sentiersAmbiance Terre de Sentiers

The Cirques

In the Land of Trails, that sweating brow is worth it. Roaming its paths means walking in the footsteps of runaway slaves in the uncompromising, raw beauty of this region. This is the heart of the island, where everything began and the ultimate experience. All around you, the history of Reunion Island can be read in the craggy contours and dizzying peaks. Look up and let yourself be transported back to another time.

Bereft of artifice, the place still has a palpable intensity. This force, anchored in the countryside, contrasts with the inherited gentleness of the “tan lontan” and the welcoming nature of the inhabitants. Very quickly, the enclosing cirques become a safe haven and the traveller’s isolation is transformed into a moment away from it all, which gives rise to an intense inner peace. It’s a sensation of well-being known to adventurers, who will find that the Land of Trails is an open-air playground.


Mafate, one of a kind

Only accessible on foot, the cirque of Mafate is, in essence, a unique, unspoilt place, where an atmosphere of tranquillity and peace reigns. Once you reach the heart of this natural, rocky crown, having walked there on beautiful yet demanding trails, a real rough diamond awaits you. Despite its abrupt ramparts and the feeling of being at the end of the world, the cirque of Mafate has a rich history, genuine inhabitants and sumptuous countryside.

Once a haven for runaway slaves, today the enclave still retains much of its past intensity. The authenticity of its hamlets demonstrates this perfectly. Marla, Aurère, Grand Place and Ilet des Lataniers, are all tiny enclaves full of old-fashioned, captivating charm. Passing backpackers and locals meet in a typical atmosphere, somewhere between seclusion and human warmth, getting away from it all and passing on knowledge.

While you can escape to Mafate for a day, it’s only by spending a night there that you will appreciate and understand the cirque, cut off from the world under an intensely starry sky. It’s like a journey to an exotic land where you will be welcomed with warmth and simplicity in a gite or a guesthouse. Sharing a delicious cari cooked over a wood fire will be a time to chat and listen, your host and their other guests will no doubt be keen to tell you the story of what brought them to the cirque.

Spending the night at the heart of these hamlets means escaping from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. At the heart of the ultimate experience, each new morning becomes a magical moment in which, as time passes, the cirque of Mafate slowly reveals itself.

Accessible from the iconic Le Maïdo trail, from Col du Taïbit in Cilaos, via Col des Boeufs in Salazie or in a 4×4 from Rivière des Galets, Mafate has so many exceptional views and a tranquillity that will make you fall in love with the Land of Trails.

Spellbinding Salazie

Compared to the cirque of Mafate, Salazie reveals itself almost instantly. Just let yourself be transported by Rivière du Mât to get into the cirque and discover its luxuriant countryside. The light filters through the stunning shades of green, as if to better guide visitors who have come to see the show.

Keep your ears open! Very soon, a steady hum can be heard. Hurtling down the ramparts, water gushes in countless waterfalls. As soon you enter the cirque, Cascade Blanche surprises you with its sheer size, then comes the iconic Voile de la Mariée, known both for its beauty and for the legend that accompanies it.

The land of chayote squash has many secrets to reveal to travellers. Stroll along its winding paths and you will discover splendid landscapes with a mixture of forests, undergrowth and farmland. You can climb Piton d’Anchaing, set off to discover Grand-Sable and its history, or even tackle the legendary Cap Anglais trail that leads to the roof of the Indian Ocean: Piton des Neiges.

At the heart of this green oasis, time has immortalised the beauty of Creole villages, untouched examples of the prosperity of the past and life in days gone by. From Maison Folio to its ancient hot springs, a visit to Hell-Bourg, listed as one of the most Beautiful Villages of France, is like stepping back into the history of Reunion Island. Take the time to stroll among its brightly coloured Creole houses and their gardens full of intoxicating fragrances and make a well-deserved stop to taste a chayote squash gratin.

Cilaos, out of the ordinary

“The important thing is not the destination but the journey itself”. Don’t take it from us, that’s what Robert Louis Stevenson said. With its famous winding road featuring 400 bends, getting to Cilaos illustrates this perfectly!

The interminable route with tight curves sneaks, slides and snuggles its way between the cliffs and slowly brings you to the heart of the cirque. Before your eyes, extraordinary panoramic views are revealed, with a blend of grey, warm brown and deep green. Zoom in and capture the beauty of the countryside surrounding you.

Once you get there, Cilaos turns out to be full of surprises. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, the cirque is everything you could wish for. What with canyoning at Fleur Jaune, climbing at Trois Salazes, hiking to Bras Rouge waterfall or Piton des Neiges on the Le Bloc trail, the various activities in the Land of Trails will soon get the sportiest of you addicted.

With so many stark contrasts Cilaos reflects the diversity of Reunion Island itself. Its abrupt and steep mountainous land clashes with the laid-back, peaceful atmosphere of the village. Cilaos Thermal Spa and its waters with curative powers can treat physical and mental ailments. With its farms growing the famous Cilaos lentils, Cilaos wine tasting or Jours de Cilaos – traditional embroidery – the cirque will amaze and surprise you in equal measures. And what about Ilet à Cordes, a tiny village perched atop an isolated plateau and apparently at the end of the world. Beneath the watchful eye of Piton des Neiges, Cilaos has a wide range of experiences to offer those who seize the opportunity.

Immersion in Cirques