The stunningly beautiful Reunion Island, is located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and southwest of Mauritius. It is one of France's overseas departments and a region of France. With the proliferation of cheap flights nowadays, places like Reunion have now become accessible to budget travelers. Budget hostel accommodation on Reunion has now appeared, making it an even more attractive destination for backpackers.
This little island has so much to offer the more adventurous traveler. Mountain peaks, an active volcano, and beautiful beaches, are all crammed onto this tiny rock. The beaches and coastline are the primary draws that attract thousands of mainly French tourists every year. Snorkeling is very rewarding at Lagon De L'Ermitage, Lagon De St. Leu, and Etang-Sale, all on the west of the island. Shallow coral reefs here accommodate triggerfish, surgeonfish, moray eel, and the very occasional stingray and turtle. Diving and dive courses are centered around St. Leu and St. Gilles, also on the west coast.
Dolphin and whale watching, again primarily off the west coast, is a major draw. Twenty-two species of cetacean have been recorded in the ocean around Reunion, including the hereto unknown Risso's Dolphin, found in the early twenty-first century.
One of the most famous attractions on Reunion is the Piton de la Fournaise ('Peak of the Furnace') volcano on the south of the island. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world; its last recorded eruption was within a year of this writing. When it is quiet, it can be hiked and is a memorably barren and eerie landscape, in total contrast to the steep, forested mountain slopes and ravines of the interior. Walking trails are marked, but be prepared for sudden changes in weather and swathes of cloud!
The mountainous interior is a magnet for serious hikers with more than nine hundred kilometers of marked hiking trails. The Cirques de Salazie, Mafate, and Cilaos offer wonderful (though strenuous) walking routes with basic mountain huts on the way, as all long-distance walks require overnight stays. The views are spectacular and the mountain scenery is some of the best in the world away from the major ranges. For such a small island, Reunion offers so much.
Accommodation is prolific on Reunion. Budget travelers will find many hostels in Reunion, mainly focused on the hill towns of Cilaos and Hell-Bourg, gateways to the long-distance hikes over the mountains. Reunion hostels offer dorm accommodation, and are the cheapest ways to stay on the island. They are also great sources of information, particularly regarding the long hikes.
Accommodation is off a high standard on the island and luxuries like Wi-Fi and a self-caterers' kitchen are provided free in most Reunion hostels. Although there are no Reunion hostels in the capital St. Denis at the time of writing, the island is small enough to be able to pick a Reunion hostel anywhere else on the island, and get to where you want within an hour or two. Public transport is very well developed on Reunion, with numbered bus routes and timetables. Virtually the whole of the island is covered by at least one bus route. One of the most spectacular routes is the St. Pierre/St. Benoit S1 route, around the southern coast which crosses the Piton de la Fournaise lava field (le Grand Brule). Another scenic trip is by bus Route 60 from St. Louis, through a spectacular steep-sided valley to Cilaos. You could spend several days just riding the mountain road buses across and around the island, with stunning views wherever you look!
With cheaper access than ever before and plenty of budget accommodation, Reunion is finally starting to be discovered by the more adventurous backpacker, rather than the resort holidaymakers of the past.
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