The Réunion Island is an overseas department of France located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Mauritius and east of Madagascar.
Its nickname of the Intense Island is more than well-deserved: The island hosts the most active volcano on earth, an incredible diversity of microclimates and landscapes, amazing beaches, charming towns, a melting pot of cultures and so much more!
This post aims to highlight a large selection (around 75 😢) of amazing locations around the island with twice as many images. As this obviously a risk to be a messy article, I’ve separated the island into five areas and described the locations in each area simply clockwise. Anyway, below is a little map to orientate you 😊
THE ISLAND HEART, WITH SALAZIE. MAFATE and CILAOS
While the entire island is full of amazing beauty, la Reunion’s “heart” is its 3 amazing “cirques” of Mountains around the Piton des Neiges (and the volcano area that I’ll cover later) so let me start there …
Fenètre des makes
The Make Window is a very popular viewpoint for an amazing sunrise on Cilaos. From an aerial view, you can better understand why it is called ”The Window” …
It is highly recommended to get toward the( very) sinuous road above the Make village that reach the Window early enough to enjoy the beautiful twilight (yes, means leaving the coast if this is where you stay before 4 AM 😅)
You’ll be rewarded by the sun painting gradually in red the iconic summits surrounding Cilaos, like the Piton des Neiges, the Grand Bénare, and the Taibit pass.
It will then eventually show up …
… and you’ll enjoy the beautiful light on the Cilaos. Time them to go back for a well-deserved breakfast 😊.
The famous Cirque de Cilaos is a must-visit during a stay in La Reunion Island. On the road accessing the village, you should stop first at the Roche Merveilleuse (“marvelous rock”) viewpoint on the village and its surrounding mountains.
Cilaos village is famous for its iconic Notre dame des Neiges church at the foot of the Grand Bénare impressive mountain.
Beyond a few traditional Creole houses and a great market (on Sundays), you can find some beautiful and colorful street art in the village.
Those guys really have some talent!
Piton Maido viewpoint
The Maido panoramic viewpoint in the highlands of Saint-Paul on the west side of the island offers one of the most spectacular views of La Réunion Island
The view, at an altitude of 2200 meters, over Mafate and the mountains is amazing. In the evening, it is stunning, with however a much higher probability of clouds.
Wait however for (hopefully) a magic moment as the sun is going down
While it is great at sunset (when not fully covered with clouds ), Maido is as well one of the most famous and spectacular spots for sunrise. Arrive (very) early for a spectacular twilight over the Roche Ecrite and Cimendeg.
Then enjoy the magic light coming up beside the Gros Morne, and the Piton des Neiges.
And eventually, the sun will show up to help warm your fingers …
Taking a different perceptive (in a ULM), you can appreciate the amazing cliffs on top of which the Maido viewpoint and the small/grand Bénare trails are …
Dos d’Âne- Cap Noir
On the highlands of the northwest side of the island, the Cap Noir to Roche Verre Bouteille hike is offering superb views on Piton Cabri and Mafate, near Dos d’Âne village.
Take the trail up to Verre Bouteille for an amazing view all along and a few impressive and steep ladders to climb on the way 😊.
On the way back (a two hours loop), you can have great views of the Dos d’Âne village in the clouds (yes, here, lot of clouds 😊)
To take a different perspective, below a sunrise aerial view above the cap Noir., Amazing place isn’t it?
Col des Boeufs, Salazie and Mafate
The Col des Boeufs is a remote but amazing spot offering amazing views on both Mafate and Salazie!. From the main parking area, you have a great view (and very different vs cap Noir above) on Piton Cabri with the Port in the background
If you have the chance to take a bit of altitude, here is the view …
As you climb toward the pass, there are beautiful views of the grand Bénare.
You then discover an amazing panorama over Mafate, the Plaine des Tamarins the Trois Salazes, and the grand Bénare.
As a common rule for most of the Island, get there very early, as after 9 -10 am, the clouds are up. This will still offer some photography opportunities but…
Hell-Bourg is a charming touristic city in the heart of Salazie. The most beautiful spot (in my view) not to miss in the town is the Maison Folio and its lush garden.
That authentic Creole house is a true witness of a page of the history of this former spa city in the nineteenth century, and an inspiring field for photography (or contemplation)
Beyond this, the endless number of falls in the mist is for me the main reason to go and spend a day in Salazie. The D52 road (direction Grand Ilet) offers stunning panoramas
Those landscapes are from another world and a paradise for the photographer.
Those are in the direction of (above) the famous Voile de la Mariée (“Bride veil”) that you can as well discover from the D52 road (a better sport to see it than the official Viewpoint)
There is a trail that can bring you in less than an hour at the foot of the cascade for other great perspectives.
It is not encouraged and (plus or minus) closed but many people go.
If you decide to go, access is near Ilet Bananier, through a high and shaky pedestrian bridge above the river du Mât (Refrain if you are sensitive to vertigo 😱
Piton des Neiges
The highest summit of the Indian Ocean (3070 m) is the icon of Réunion Island. That sleeping volcano (for 120 years) created two-third of the Island 3 Million years ago and is part of the UNESCO heritage
The hike can be done from Le Bloc in Cilaos (5 h) or for a longer (6h) but a bit smoother hike from Hell-Bourg in Salazie. You can see on the bottom left of the image the gite among the GR 1 trail.
The 360 degrees views from there (or from above there for more spectacular pictures) is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Takamaka, Saint Benoit
The Takamaka Valley, on the Eastern flank of the Piton des Neiges, is an amazing landscape of cascades on steep ramparts around the river des Marsouins.
The small road that leads up to the valley( from Saint-Benoit in the Northeast) opens at its terminus on a panorama of great nature, an integral part of the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage National Park.
The hike (up to 5 hours) is gorgeous but difficult (slippery), humid, with some ladders or ropes to pass some cascades or challenging areas. So be careful, especially if you’re like me with 20 kg of photo material 😢.
You’ll be rewarded with great views on endless cascades, big and small…
There are two power plants in the valley, made invisible, by astonishing underground engineering, imposed by the very rugged terrain. Some areas can be dangerous (and are described as closed) but a trail goes down to the dam and its (artificial) lake.
From there, you can explore upstream some beautiful cascades but be extremely careful as water levels can change very fast in hydraulic dams…
Belouve forest on Bébour Plateau is an amazing place for hikes in the middle of a jungle of greens
There are many hikes with different durations and, but you’ll feel perhaps like Indiana Jones and for sure very (very) wet and muddy.
One of the popular hikes is the “Trou de Fer” (Iron hole). It is however long, painful, and with, in the end, a far-away and average view on the fall (that is as well covered with clouds most days after 10 AM). If you have the opportunity to fly above, views are more interesting 🤩
This is one of the best views of the island in my opinion (if you can get your pilot in the right place).
The view on la Roche Ecrite and Cimandef from above the Bébour rainforest give a feel of how large and dense is that beautiful forest!
Belvédere de Bois Court
At the end of the road above Le Tampon village, you’ll get a breathtaking view of Cilaos, Grand Bassin. the Îlet of Grand Bassin with its miniature houses standing out from the vegetation.
You can as well see from there the beautiful cascade de Grand Bassin. It is called as well “Voile la Mariée” but the famous bride veil one is in Salazie, so don’t get confused)
To finish on the central part of the island (coming down toward the coastline), have a visit to the Entre-Deux village.
This village between bras de la Plaine and Bras de Cillaos has preserved many ancient creole typical and colorful houses.
A map is available in the (colorful) Tourism office to bring you to the most interesting streets
There are as well nice views of the surrounding mountains.
THE WEST COAST
The beautiful beach of “Ravine des Sables”, near Saint-Leu in the south part of the Réunion Island is a popular place for sunset (for good reasons).
The stunning lava rocks and black sand create a super game field for landscape photography.
And the waves can bring some salty showers to the camera as well 😰.
One of the other natural curiosities to discover in the area is the Souffleur de Saint-Leu (“The Blower”) on ocean drive coastal road (no not the one in California…)
Have a look as well at the colorful Hinduist temple Siva Soupramanien.
It is situated in Piton Saint-Leu, above the Indian Ocean.
Kelonia turtle’s observatory is the opportunity to see and understand better the threats that the human race is creating on that species (like on a million others ).
In a large aquarium, you can as well discover many beautiful exotic fishes.
This is a good educational (and fun) activity, especially with kids. Front the rooftop you can see the Paragliders landing on the beach. Another fun stuff to try…
This is from the air that you can appreciate the beauties of the lagoon there…
The Plage du Trou d’Eau (waterhole beach) is a popular place for locals and tourists.
Sunset watching is one of the tough activities there …
L’hermitage-Les-Bains is a great base camp (many great restaurants and lodging options) for those who want to explore the western and northern part of the Island. Like for La Saline, a view from above is the only way to give justice to that beauty.
It is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island, on both sides of the lagoon around the pass. NB: The pass is closed with some grids to avoid sharks in the lagoon 😰. You still find amazing underwater life and some areas with nice corals
Obviously, the global warming water temperature increase combined with touristic pressure, means that the lagoon corals are disappearing fast, but you can still see beautiful fish.
Please respect the area (don’t touch the corals) to avoid becoming part of the issue! It is even possible to see Turtles around the pass.
It is a peaceful (still popular) place for a beach run in the morning before sunrise.
The beach and the neighborhoods are very lively and busy at sunset (and later) but still, sunsets are beautiful.
The beautiful filaos trees over the lagoon and reef help to create some magic there.
Saint Gilles is undeniably the tourist capital of the island, although it is probably not the most authentic place. The Plage des Roches Noires (“Black rocks beach”) and the seafront are beautiful and, in my view, best appreciated from the sky.
The water around the fishing harbor looks like a pure laguna, especially from far above 😊.
The creole bakery Loulou is as well a famous photography spot.
There are some cool graffiti around the center. Out of many, I like that colorful that “Cuba style” painting…
As well as the fly above Piton de la Fournaise and Cabri …
The Boucan Canot is (historically) one of the most famous beaches on the Island.
There are as well some ocean pools (right side of the beach)
It is a very famous location for sunset and the best spot is to climb on the little rock Cap Homard, for a beautiful view over the beach.
From there, you can embrace both Plage des Aigrettes and Boucan Canot beach. A great spot for photography or simply for looking at the sun going down …
With its alleys lined with coconut trees and flowering frangipani trees, it offers many photo opportunities in front of the black sand Indian ocean shores.
The fairground market of Saint Paul is certainly the most picturesque and the most important of the island every Friday and Saturday morning.
You’ll find all the touristic stuff and local specialties like chili pepper, fresh vanilla, and of course the Rhum arrangé…
THE VOLCANO AND EAST COAST
Nez de Boeuf area
On the way to Piton de la Fournaise, the Nez de Boeuf area offers amazing views “both sides”. Morning twilight and sunrise on the lush forest and the mountains is an amazing spot for photography
A good opportunity to enjoy this early morning on the way to the Piton the la Fournaise (to hike the volcano)
It is famous for its view on Vallée and Riviere des ramparts as per the Misty view below.
Weather is permanently changing, with many challenges and opportunities for photographers and nature lovers
Piton de la Fournaise
The National Park and the Piton de la Fournaise Volcano breathtaking landscapes are a must-see in La Réunion
The first viewpoint is the Pas des sables on the Piton de la Fournaise road, a beautiful location, especially early morning.
When the weather is challenging (often to be honest), this creates landscapes from another world …
The small (famous) road goes then down into the caldera with many bends that are best described through an aerial image
Again there, it can feel like being on a different planet
An aerial perspective helps to visualize the scale and the beauty of that National Park
The road then eventually ends at the Pas de Bellecombe viewpoint (center right on the image below)
The view from there is absolutely stunning
The trail toward the Piton de la Fournaise volcano area starts a few hundred meters from there, with a speed descent in the caldera (that you then need to hike back up on the way back 😅)
The walk the stats to cross the beautiful lava fields at the foot of the Volcano
The trail brings you in the direction of the Formica Leo small colorful crater
The shapes of the lava rocks provide unlimited travel photography opportunities
Get on top of the Iconic Formica Leo crater for different perspectives…
Then the serious part of the hike starts, which we did under pouring rain and sticky fog… for many hours 🤕. As a revanche, I went back again from a plane so that you can see (on the image below) the trail path…
Route des laves (Lava Road)
When driving on the east coastline, you as well cross a portion of the Réunion National Park with a unique landscape created by the successive eruptions and lava flow toward the Ocean.
That area called the Grand Brûlé (“large burned”) offers some lunar and misty landscapes.
Closer to Sainte-Rose, go and have a look at Notre Dame des laves, a church surrounded by lava.
The fact that the church was spared by the lava flow created obviously all sort of miracle beliefs for some (or just photography opportunities for others 😇)
L’Anse des cascades
A few miles south of Notre Dame des Laves, L’Anse des Cascades on the extreme east of the island offers a small fishing port and a picnic area under a splendid coconut grove. It is famous for the multiple small waterfalls flowing on the surrounding cliffs.
A pirate treasure I hidden somewhere so keep looking around …
THE SOUTH COAST AND HIGHLANDS
This touristic spot between Vincendo and Saint Philippe is worth a short stop to contemplate the black lava cliffs that have formed by successive lava flows and plunge into the blue ocean.
The most interesting element is however the arch that you can best see going down on the left (looking at the sea)
The waves crashing the rocks there are beautiful travel photography opportunities
The Cap Jaune (“Yellow cape”) preserved natural area is an opportunity for a beautiful short hike on the volcanic rock formations shores near Vincendo.
The waves crashing on the black lava rocks are on their own makes the hike worth it.
However, the real goal is to reach the Cap Jaune itself and its beautiful formation that you discover from above at the end of the trail.
The trail going at the foot of the rock is closed, very slippery so I’m not suggesting you should go down. The perspective from the “beach” is however very cool 😉.
That area provides endless opportunities for travel photography (but again, stay safe if you go down)
Cascade grand Galet Langevin
In the highlands north of Langevin and Saint Joseph is one of the most famous and beautiful waterfalls of the island, the Cascade grand Galet (or Langevin). It is quite surreal with its turquoise pond.
Grande Anse beach
Grande Anse is in my view one of the most beautiful beaches in La Réunion
It is a very popular picnic spot (read busy) so early morning may be a good time for photography
Sunset is another amazing moment not to miss in Grande-Anse
Of course, despite what my pictures suggest, you’ll not be alone, and it takes some effort to get images without people on them …
The palm trees offer endless photography opportunities
The other trees as well…
Don’t miss, for something a bit different, the black cross on the end of the beach.
Saint Pierre is a good base camp to explore the south, east, and volcano area. Many great restaurants and lodging are available, and it is always good to come back to a lagoon view after a day hike in a rain forest))
This is a famous kite surf spot ad you can have some fun observing and shooting locals playing with the waves …
Near Ravine Blanche, the Tamoul temple Narassigua Peroumal is in a large garden between a big shopping mall and a motorway.
It is however a beautiful colorful temple.
A few hundred meters from there you can find the beautiful Karli Tamoul Temple
Go around the temple (respectfully and with no shoes) for great images of that amazing place
The Terre Saintes little lighthouse of Saint-Pierre is another popular spot for sunset.
The pier is a beautiful place to enjoy the twilight on the city and the highlands with, as usual, many clouds dancing over the mountains
The tip of the devil is as well a popular spot for sunset, or to be appreciated from above.
Saint-Pierre highland’s farms and sugar cane fields are as well a charming part of the island.
THE NORTH COAST
Of course, you do not come to the Intense Reunion Island for its capital city but, for completeness, below are some spots that are worth a visit.
The Villa du département (“state villa”) is a beautiful Créole style palace and garden.
The city hall (“Hotel de Ville”) is a landmark of the downtown area.
The Artothéque, a charming museum of 19th-century art, is a nice colonial-style house with a beautiful garden filled with pieces of art,
In the main street (rue de Paris) you can find many Créole houses, as testimony from past glory that may be interesting for photographers and visitors.
There are many churches but Notre-Dame-de-la-Délivrance at the foot of lush hills surrounding the city has a special charm.
The Indian style Noor-e-Islam Mosque is as well a nice stop
The Jardin de l’état (state garden) is a beautiful, lush park in the middle of the city.
Have a look as well at the Petit Marché, (“Small market”). This is the fruit, vegetable, and food traditional market (in opposition to the other “Big Market” that sell tourist souvenirs and art craft)
PS: get a fruit juice smoothy there they are amazing! The colorful Kalikambal Hindu Temple is worth seeing as well
Like everywhere on the island, there are amazing street art artists so go around to look for nice graffiti like the (huge) one below
Sainte Suzanne and Saint André
Niagara Falls (No, a bit smaller than the one near Toronto, sorry) is a great spot where locals come for a picnic and a (fresh) bath
That beautiful cascade is situated in the northern part of La Réunion island, and is worth a visit (combined with other spots nearby)
A few miles away from the waterfalls, on the east side of Sainte Suzanne, go and have a look at the colorful Bois Rouge Tamoul Temple.
Keep going east and have a look as well at the famous Temple du Colosse in Saint-André.
I hope that (far too long) post has engaged you to go and discover the amazing intense Island of La Réunion !!!