The Piton de la Fournaise is the island’s main tourist attraction, and offers outdoor activities and original visits, such as the lava tunnels to be discovered on the coast, or the Cité du Volcan museum. Get ready to be amazed.
The Piton de la Fournaise
The Piton de la Fournaise, despite its sulphurous reputation, is accessible to all, whatever the age or level. This is Reunion Island’s first touristic attraction, with 400,000 visitors coming to see it every year. Totalling 2,631m, it is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. But visitors can walk from head to toe, from the waves lapping at its base to the clouds caressing its summit. You can get there on foot with unforgettable hikes, during which there is an option to be accompanied by professional photographers. And even though walking round the main crater, known as Dolomieu, is no longer possible since its collapse in 2,007, alternative routes are just as attractive. They include the inside of the Enclos Fouqué, the heart of the volcano or around the outside. There are also routes starting close to the volcano’s forest path, on the marked-out paths of Mont Langevin, Piton de l'Eau and the Oratoire Sainte-Thérèse.
Fans of horse-riding can take the horse trails on the Plaine des Sables with its lunar landscapes up to the exceptional view from the Pas de Bellecombe mountain pass, which looks over the enclosure. Lovers of cycling can discover Nature’s beauty with a mountain bike ride. Another incredibly original idea is a hike on a Segway, a self-balancing personal transporter which moves when the user leans slightly forward. An astonishing sensation which you’ll want to enjoy again and again !
For the hardiest walkers there are hiking routes which link the coast and the summit, with more than 2,000m in height difference! But you can also go up and down by car, by using the volcano’s forest roads. They lead you through the lush forest, which thins out to present the fascinating Plaine des Sables. No vegetation grows in this highly acidic volcanic soil, and the top of the Piton de la Fournaise looks like a desert worthy of Mars! You would be forgiven for thinking you were in another world when traveling on the RN 2 main road, nicknamed the Lava Road, which runs along the volcano’s southern side. Destroyed by a lava flow in 2007, the road was rebuilt and now crosses the damaged area of the Grand Brûlé area. It is impossible to guess that underneath you can visit a lava tunnel, where adults and children can be guided by a potholing guide. The underground excursion, which lasts three and a half hours, is so extraordinary that you get the impression that you’re on another planet! The journey takes you through the bowels of the volcano and the galleries formed by the gas pockets during the 2,004 lava flow. It looks like dark chocolate is oozing out of the ceiling. Stalagmites stand like miniature pine trees, and strange shapes and colours get the imagination racing…
The Cité du Volcan Museum
Those who have not been lucky enough to live this experience can discover a rebuilt lava tunnel at the entrance of the Cité du Volcan Museum, situated at Bourg Murat, just before the Piton de la Fournaise forest road. This family museum is both fun and educational, and has been revamped after three years of construction work. The visit continues with the exploration of undersea volcanos thanks to the Bathyscaphe, a machine worthy of Jules Verne. The interactive exhibition for adults and children then presents volcanic phenomena, the tectonic plates, the singularities of Réunion and its evolution since its birth more than three million years ago. Being immersed in this incredible universe is emphasised by the 4D cinema and a panoramic film. The children love it, which is lucky, as everyone under 15 can visit for free until the end of 2014 !
There is so much to see and to do at the Piton de la Fournaise, that sometimes it’s practical to be able to sleep on the volcano’s slopes at the Volcano Lodge. Total calm and a complete change of scene are guaranteed in a unique, mineral environment, for one unforgettable night.