Cirque de Cilaos
Travel to Cirque de Cilaos – Most Southerly of Reunion’s Cirques
The Cirque de Cilaos is a caldera formed from the collapse of the Piton des Neiges volcano. It is the most southerly of Reunion’s three Cirques, and also the driest. There are several settlements within the Cirque, the main one being Cilaos, a pretty, flowery and peaceful little town, and a thermal resort.
The only road leading to the Cirque de 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!
Numerous trekking routes cross the Cirque into the neighbouring Cirques of Mafate and Salazie. 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.
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.
Cirque de Cilaos is reached by travelling inland from the town of St-Louis. The drive is an experience in itself, with sheer drops, tunnels and hair-pin bends.
- Experience breathtaking mountain landscapes on the dramatic drive up to Cilaos
- Excellent choice for multi-activity enthusiasts
- Hiking in a picturesque natural amphitheatre