Once we get over the pandemic, an escape to some remote and tranquil place is what most travellers will crave. Like you, we have been keeping our antennas out for such destinations. What if we tell you that we’ve found just such a spot; one so remote it can only be accessed by foot or...helicopter.
If your idea of a holiday includes untouched landscapes wrapped around vivid cultures and tranquility, we suggest bookmarking Cirque de Mafate on Reunion island.
Located in the Mascarene Archipelago, La Réunion is a tranquil island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and southwest of Mauritius. Reunion Island’s volcanic peaks, craters and ramparts—which coincide with the core zone of La Réunion National Park and cover 40% of the island—have been classified as natural World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The island is also home to the most active volcanoes on the planet, with an average of one eruption every nine months.
The island was discovered by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Initial inhabitants included slaves fleeing from their masters, followed by farmers after the abolition of slavery. Today, giving the island its ethnic mix is a close-knit community of European, African and Asian cultures.
The topography of the volcanic origin island is contrasting and varies in the form of rugged mountains, complimented by torrential rivers and their basins. Reunion Island is home to three cirques (a steep-sided hollow opening on a mountainside), out of which Mafate is the one that can be accessed only by foot or helicopters.
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Cirque de Mafate is unperturbed bliss lying in the heart of a collapsed volcano, surrounded by ridges. The inhabitants—descendants of the original settlers—live in the islets complimented by their colourful shacks.
Along with its nature trails, Mafate also boasts of a varied ecosystem—including a number of endemic birds, insects and plants—much of which has evolved over the years due to the isolation this place enjoys. The valley is home to 20 indigenous bird species, out of which six can be found only on the island, including the famous marsh harrier.
Apart from the occasional sound of choppers, the only other noises that can be heard are those of gushing rivers and waterfalls. The amphitheatre-shaped valley started getting noticed after it was declared a World Heritage Site in 2010.
The hiking trail is flanked by a dense rainforest in the east, savannah or sugarcane fields in the west, and lunar landscapes on the volcanoes and walks along the shoreline.
Mafate is a hiker’s dream come true with over 900km of marked hiking trails which begin from beaches and, within a couple of two hours, lead you to craters, through a rainforest and a lunar landscape. There are no roads. The criss-cross trails run through varying altitudes. While hiking you will also experience differentiated temperatures depending upon where you are. Occasionally the sun might seem too harsh, at other times the wind will be running wild through your hair.
And if you want to get back to 'civilsation', just hit up mainland Reunion where each corner has a boulangerie thanks to it being an old French outpost.