This article focuses on one of the most amazing excursions to do in Réunion Island. Even if you are not fond of walking and trekking, the mere fact of entering the territory of the Parc National de la Réunion and venturing on the slopes of one of the most active volcanoes in the world, will be a very exciting experience. The Piton de la Fournaise is in fact a giant whose summit reaches 2632 m and is among the most checked on the planet. Nothing exceptional so far, but perhaps what you don’t know is that it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Read on to learn more.
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The island of La Réunion was born thanks to the activity of two huge volcanoes, the Piton de la Fournaise (2632 m), still active, and the Piton des Neiges (3070 m), dormant. The eruptions of Piton de la Fournaise are very frequent, on average once a year; it is worth a visit but take into account that in case of eruption the access to the park is prohibited.
The Piton de la Fournaise is located in the south-eastern part of the island and the visit is made easier since you can reach the Pas de Bellecombe (2354 m of altitude) following the Route Forestière du Volcan (volcano forest road) by car. However, unless you have a 4×4 or a off-road vehicle, be ready to tackle a particularly bumpy stretch of road. Expect to cover the last 5 km in about 30 minutes (not counting the stops for photos, of course): the road is unpaved, there are many deep holes, you will not be able to go more than 15-20 km/h…don’t worry, we traveled it aboard a Wolkswagen Up, so you can do it even with a simple city car.
This monstrous dark and foggy road as soon as is kissed by the sun appears like a wonderful strip of red earth, which winds through an arid and barren territory made up of lunar expanses, millenary craters, lava formations. The shades range from red to black and a hyper-pigmented vegetation stands out among the rocks of this inhospitable environment. Well, this scenario is already worth the trip for us.
The Volcano Tourist Route starts from Bourg-Murat and leads to the Bellecombe pass. The landscape changes by the way, passing from the pastures of Bourg-Murat, to the cryptomeria forest, to the arid plains full of volcanic rocks.
Along the way there are several points that deserve a stop to admire fascinating and unreal landscapes: the Nez de Boeuf viewpoint (2050m), the Commerson crater viewpoint (2320m) and La Plaine des Sables (visible from Pas des Sables, 2350 m), which cannot leave you indifferent with its lunar aspect.
At the Bellecombe refuge, you can order a hot drink, especially if the day is cold and cloudy…at these altitudes the temperatures can drop by 15-20°C compared to the coast, so bring suitable clothing with you to face any eventuality.
If you love trekking and the weather conditions allow it, two hiking circuits start from the Bellecombe pass: the Nez Coupé panoramic path in Sainte-Rose (medium difficulty – 3 and a half hours return trip – 350 meters in altitude) and the Dolomieu balcony (high difficulty – 5 hours round trip – 500 meters in altitude) to get closer to the volcano and admire the beauty of the desert expanse of the Fouqué enclosure.
Who wish to learn more about volcanoes, in Bourg-Murat will find a center designed for this: the Cité du Volcan is in fact a museum that uses innovative methods such as augmented reality and holograms to give you an interesting and pleasant experience (for info).
To experience something different, there is also the opportunity to participate in one of the excursions in the lava tunnels. These are real underground tunnels dug by the lava in the bowels of the volcano. Among the agencies that organize guided tours we point out the Rando Volcan and the Kokapat Rando; for more information we suggest you consult the respective websites.
Finally, if you are not such an adventurous and dynamic person, know that the effects of the destructive force of the volcano are visible not only under the ground but also in the sunlight: in particular, along the road that connects Saint-Philippe to Saint Rose you can admire the lava flow of 2007, also a UNESCO World Heritage, it was so impetuous that reached the sea.
Don’t be skeptical, this time the tour guides aren’t exaggerating at all. This place will amaze you. It is an environment so different from what you would expect to find on a tropical island. The sharp contrast with the coast and the area rich in vegetation will fascinate you. Do not miss the opportunity to have this incredible experience, it is undoubtedly the most incredible thing you can see in Réunion.
See you soon