Travel to Cilaos – Activity Centre in the Cirque de Cilaos
Located high up above the coast within ‘Les Cirques’ and surrounded by a natural amphitheatre of ancient volcanic mountains, rests the old thermal town of Cilaos. The largest town within Réunion’s cirques and a popular weekend mountain retreat for local islanders, Cilaos is also one of the main ‘activity pursuit’ and hiking centres on the island.
The only road leading to Cilaos starts from St-Louis, some 30 km away, along one of the most breathtaking routes in the Indian Ocean. The slow drive up takes over an hour and a quarter on a road built on cliffs and precipices that almost defies belief – negotiating numerous switchbacks and creeping through narrow rock-hewn tunnels barely wide enough for a car, all set against one of the most stunning natural landscapes on the island. If the drive sounds a little extreme, helicopters can always be chartered!
Once in the pretty little town of Cilaos (1182m) there is a whole range of smaller places of interest to explore. For those looking to pass the time at a relaxed pace the Embroidery House (Maison de la Broderie), the Wine House (Maison des Vins), a small museum (Maison du Peuplement des Hauts) or perhaps a massage at the Thermal Baths may be of interest.
Sunday in Cilaos is market day. As well as being a popular and colourful meeting place for local residents, visitors can find a great choice of typical local specialities on sale, as well as both imported Malagasy and locally-made handicrafts. Local Cilaos wine, honey, cheese, lentils and some fine embroidery can all be found on sale.
For those seeking more extreme activities, mountain biking, mountaineering, canyoning and rock-climbing can be enjoyed in the area. For many, however, the main reason to visit Cilaos is to hike and experience the magnificent scenery of the cirque on foot. Cilaos can be used either as a single-centre or start and/or end point for walks and treks through the cirques. Towering directly above Cilaos is the island’s highest peak, the ‘Piton des Neiges’ (3071m). Maison de la Montagne de la Reunion provides a specialist and comprehensive information and gite/hut booking service covering hiking routes all over Reunion.
For a relaxing massage, head for the excellent Thermal Baths. Cilaos is small enough to be explored on foot, though hiring a bike is another great way to get around here – just be wary of those hills!
- Experience breathtaking mountain landscapes on the dramatic drive up to Cilaos
- Excellent centre-base for walkers and multi-activity enthusiasts
- Old thermal spa town with clean mountain air set in a picturesque natural amphitheatre