Piton de la Fournaise
Travel to Piton de la Fournaise – Volcano Ascent!
For travel addicts, the Piton de la Fournaise is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of Reunion. This very active volcano erupts frequently, each time drawing thousands of both local and international spectators to observe spectacular natural fireworks. When not erupting the best way to experience the ‘Peak of the Furnace’ is on foot.
For some years now a nearby observatory has closely monitored eruption signs. When it does blow, most of the lava runs down to the southeast, clearly observed from the road that runs around that side of the island. Lava flows from the 1931, 1943, 1961, 1976, 1986, 1998 and 2004 eruptions can be explored on the scenic drive between St. Rose and St. Philippe.
Several viewpoints are strategically placed to allow travellers to appreciate the diverse volcanic landscapes and views en route. At Nez de Boeuf (2136m), there is an overhang some 1000m high, providing dramatic views down the ‘Gorges de la Riviere des Remparts’. A little further on a short trail (100m) leads to a viewing platform over the Commerson Crater. Next, after crossing the Plaine des Remparts, the road zig-zags down to the lunar landscape of the Plaine des Sables before finally running out near the Pas de Bellecombe (2218m) – start of the hiking trail that leads down into an enormous volcanic enclosure.
This enclosure, known locally as ‘Enclos Fouqué’, is a vast bowl some 8 km in diameter. From its depths rises the huge landmass of the Crater Bory (2632m). A second crater, Dolomieu, sits behind. This is a truly impressive sight early in the day before the developing mists and clouds quickly obscure the view. For non-walkers, the entire panorama can be viewed from the upper rim of the enclosure.
For those active enough to undertake a moderate early morning walk, a white marked footpath leads down into the enclosure and up to the volcano (from 3 to 6 hours return). After descending from Pas de Bellecombe into the enclosure, the crater of Formica Leo is an obvious detour before crossing the lava plain, and making the ascent to the crater rims (3 hour option). Most walkers head for the two crater rims, but an entire circumnavigation of the volcano is possible (5 to 6 hour option).
For experienced hikers, Maison de la Montagne de la Reunion provides a specialist and comprehensive information and gite/hut booking service covering hiking routes all over Reunion. Adrenaline-pumping mountain bike trips of varying durations can also be organised in the area.
The road that leads to the visitor centre, crater viewpoints and start of the summit-hiking trail, is called the ‘Route du Volcan’. From Bourg Murat on the Plaine-des-Cafres, a 23 km-long well-maintained all-weather road is clearly signposted as it twists and turns en route towards the summit car park.