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Country Reunion – An Island of Volcanoes

The active, covered volcanoes; dense forests, numerous waterfalls, serene beaches, adventure sports and water sports define the country Reunion. Known for its three cirques, Reunion was formed by the erosion of volcanic eruptions of - Piton des Neiges - one of the most active volcanoes in the country. Surrounded by the Great Indian Ocean, Madagascar and Mauritius, it is renowned for its bio diversity (flora, fauna and bird species) specially the native Panther chameleon. Due to the presence of rich coral reefs, the west coast of Reunion harbors sea turtles, sea urchins, parrot fish and conger eels.

Accommodation Options
Beach resorts, star hotels, business hotels and budget hotels are widely available in cities like St Denis, St Gilles les Bains and St Leu. The island hotels have the exclusive facility of water sports apart from restaurants and casinos. The two star hotels in Salaize, Hell-bourg and Cilaos offer economic accommodation with game rooms and pool.

History
Reunion was firstly conquered by the Arab Sailors in 11th century who called it the ‘Island of Destruction’ due to the volcanoes found here. In 1635, the island attracted Portuguese who named it Saint Apollonia. The island got its name ‘Reunion’ in 1793 by the ruling French dynasty. In 1801, Reunion got its name ‘Lle Bonaparte’ kept after the great emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The Royal Navy annexed the island in 1810, restoring its old name ‘Bourbon’.

Once again, in 1815, the island became a French province. It retained its identity as ‘Bourbon’ till the French Revolution of 1848, when it was again named ‘Reunion’. Till 1942, the island was controlled by the Vichy Regime. Reunion got independence immediately after the World War II in 1942.

Popular Places
The island of Reunion has plethora of tourist destinations. If somebody is interested in spending time on beaches, enjoying swimming or snorkelling, deep-sea fishing in the charter boats; he should head towards St Gilles les Bain. The glistening golden sand and 20 kilometers long lagoon are the special attractions of St Gilles les Bain.

Hell-bourg, a scenic mountain village of Reunion welcomes tourists with its eye catching gardens and buildings boasting Creole architecture. Cilaos is famous for its fine embroidery work and Irene Accott Thermal Centre which offers curative thermal baths. The capital city St. Denis is home to a number of historical museums, beautiful gardens and art galleries.

Piton de la Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, is a must see. Piton des Neiges (3070 meters) is the favorite spot of hikers and wildlife aficionados with 200 plus plant species and countless animal species. Salazie with numerous valleys and waterfalls tempts the travelers for canoeing. The east coast towns are popular among the tourists for their sugar cane and vanilla fields, landmark architecture, waterfalls and dense forests.

Getting Around
Frequent flights are available for the major destinations of the country and outside from the Roland Garros Airport. Ferry service is also there, operated from Mauritius, the island nearest to Reunion.

Places of Entertainment
For water sport lovers, St Leu is an ideal surfing centre. Cilaos is also popular as a trekking and hiking destination. Scuba divers can find a perfect refuge at St Gilles les Bains. The other adventure sports worth a try are rafting, canoeing, skydiving, hang gliding, paragliding, kayaking and mountain biking.
 
The restaurants and eating joints of St Denis offer a range of cuisines varying from Creole, French, Chinese, Indian and Italian to the indigenous seafood cuisine. At Cilaos, tourists can pick their favorite French vine or enjoy a local dish with home grown lentil, spices, fruits and vegetables as major ingredients. The music lovers can hear original folk music of Reunion in bistros/cafes.

Many of the bungalows, villas and flats are available on rent, which are economic and comfortable with facilities like bed, washroom, washing machine, dryer, full/partial kitchen and swimming pool (optional).  Mountain Houses (Gites) are also available for the tourists.

Language(s) Spoken
French is the only language recognized officially in Reunion. The other languages include Reunion Creole, Chinese (Hakka, Cantonese and Mandarin) Tamil, Gujarati, Arabic and Urdu.

Currency
Initially the French Franc, the official currency now, is Euro, since 2002. The currency exchange is offered by almost all the hotels and banks. Currency exchange rates can be known from the news or a news paper.

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