Reunion is an incredibly easy island to navigate. When you take a look at a map of the island and it’s major roads, there’s basically a ring around the entire coast and a road that crosses through and up the volcano. Easy peasy for self-driving holidays!
Although I had been to Reunion on a work-related trip, P and I decided to head back in December to really enjoy a holiday on the island. We explored a few spots that I had whizzed through on my first visit, and then also took the chance to go to the areas of the island that were last on the list of things to do for a lot of tourists.
After heading up to the volcano early one morning, we decided to head towards the east coast of the island and then make our way all the way around the bottom and back towards Boucan Canot (where we had been staying). It’s a long day of travel that covers quite a bit of distance, but it really was worth it to see what is called The Wild South of Reunion and spend time getting to know the more rural side of the island.
Here are the reasons you should take this same trip in Reunion:
La Plaine de Palmiste
After leaving the Volcano viewing point, we headed towards La Plaine de Palmiste, a small town on the way down to the eastern coast. Here we stopped at a quaint little hotel called La Ferme du Pommeau. The restaurant is quite traditional and serves a great selection of unique Creole dishes. We enjoyed some vanilla duck and a fatty pork dish that wasn’t as delicious as the duck. As with all our Creole meals in Reunion, the generous side dishes were as much the meal as the mains themselves.
Piton Sainte Rose
After our quick lunch stop, we made our way to the coast and stopped in Piton Sainte Rose. This is a tiny town and there really is only one thing to see here: Notre Dame des Laves. This tiny church, translated as Our Lady of the Lava, in the small village was one of the few remaining structures that survived a torrent of lava in 1977.
The legend goes that the lava flow reached the church, split in two and went around both sides of the church. The little damage and the incredible occurrence of the lava not barreling through the church had the local congregation in absolute delight that it was in fact divine intervention that saved their church.
Now whether you believe this or not, it’s actually quite incredible to see the remaining lava hardened around the shape of the church. It splits at the stairs at the entrance to the church and makes it’s way around either side. It’s obvious that lava has been chipped away to make the building accessible to foot traffic, but I just loved the story around this, and truthfully it didn’t matter what the truth is. We all need a little magic sometimes right?
A piece of driftwood carried down by the lava is positioned as a table to the right of the pews, while the stained glass windows supposedly tell the story of the volcanic eruption that caused all this ruckus (I truthful didn’t get the pics, but I’m going to take their word for it).
Anse des Cascades
Further along the coast is the incredible site of what seems like a hundred small natural waterfalls, Anse des Cascades. All of the natural streams running off the cliffs of forest here and into the ocean form thick curtains of water that either drop directly into the sea or run rivers through a gorgeous protected forest area.
We visited on a Saturday and there were tons of families enjoying the humid afternoon lazing about at all the picnic spots and shrieking under the cold showers as they fell from the rocks. Local fishermen also use this as a small harbour and a collection of ragtag colourful boats were all on hand as a photographer’s dream.
The curved coast here is just so scenic and I wish we had packed our own picnic and snuck down here during the week when it’s likely to be quieter. This is really cool spot and a great place to sit and reflect on the island’s beauty!
La Vierge au Parasol
The forests of The Wild South of Reunion seemed to stretch forever, however a break in the treeline once you start to hit the black lava fields, shows the devastation and run-off from the volcano. A small memorial and viewing deck, as well as a tiny caravan selling refreshments can be found along the way, but my best part is La Vierge au Parasol. The Virgin with the Parasol was originally installed as an optimistic hope that any lava would be deterred from running down into Piton Saint Rose. Funnily, in reality though, the statue had to be rescued at one time as the lava threatened to bury it.
The blue Virgin and her umbrella are surrounded by religious tributes in her now (much safer) resting place. I expected her to be wearing a much more alarmed expression and perhaps have the umbrella positioned against the direction of the lava flow, but perhaps that would be considered disrespectful to the Vierge? Not sure, but hey ho.