Fascinating Facts About Reunion Island
Despite being very, very far away from the homeland, Reunion Island is part of France whether you can wrap your head around it or not. The 51km wide island forms part of the African coast and is home to almost 900,000 people.
The island is tropical and boasts white, sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters around the entirety of its circumference.
In order to travel here you’d have to treat your trip the same way you would were you to travel somewhere in France, like Paris for example. If you require a French or Schengen Visa to get into Paris, then you require the same to get onto Reunion Island.
I took some time to better understand how this historic French colony works and what one can expect from a journey there. I can conclude early on that Reunion Island may be one of the most overlooked yet unmissable parts of France — here’s why:
The History of France and Reunion Island
Known to the French as La Réunion, the island found its first settlers back in the 16th century when migrants from both France and Madagascar made their way to its shores.
Slavery in French colonies was abolished on the 20 December 1848. Each year this date is celebrated across the island amongst the people. The island itself was only actually dubbed an overseas department of France in 1946.
There is not much information available as to the inhabitance or life on Reunion Island prior to the settlers who arrived in the 16th century. One can imagine that the natives to the land were quickly wiped out by the European forces or pushed into slavery up until its abolition many centuries later.
Today, La Réunion is an extension of France and both the currency and language are the same between the two.
Getting from France to Reunion Island
Because France and Reunion Island are technically not separate places, the flight between them is simply a domestic one. Yes, it takes 11 hours to get from one place to the next — but you’ll enter and exit the same way you would any other domestic flight within France; no immigration procedures or security checks.
As I said — if you can wrap your head around it, its really not that wild.
A flight from Paris to Reunion Island will set you back just a few hundred euros. Technically you could wake up in the French capital, enjoy an early coffee and croissant on the Seine & maybe a free guided walking tour through the city before heading off to Charles de Gaulle Airport and making it to the island for a late dinner on the sand — beautiful!
Fun Facts about France and Reunion Island
If your mind isn’t already slightly stretched by the concept of a piece of France floating around the Indian Ocean, lets divulge further…
The most expensive road in France is on Reunion Island. The coastal road in Saint-Denis was recently built to solve the landslide problems that the island’s port has been dealign with for years.
The new road is 12.5km long and cost €1.66 billion to built due to the columns that had to be built up from out of the ocean.
Saint-Denis, which is the islands capital, also happens to be the 21st largest French city; and officially the largest French city not physically attached to the land of France.
Reunion Island is home to the heaviest rainstorms on the planet. While most of the year is spent in sun and surf, there are periods of intense rainfall where the island sets records in terms of cyclone size measurement.
Life in France and Reunion Island
Wet season aside, life on La Réunion is as “islandy” as it gets. Sun, sand and laid back vibes are the order of each day and, surprisingly, the island is not overrun by tourism or resorts.
Unlike France, and the capital of Paris in particular, there is just one five star hotel on the entire island. Lux Saint Gilles is found on the west side and is on par with the five star hotel experiences we’ve come to appreciate from Paris itself.
The impressive infrastructure found in Paris has managed to spill over into the island region. La Réunion’s roads are wide and smooth; traffic flows freely and roadworks are completed in a timeous fashion.
Best Time to Visit France and Reunion Island
One thing that will really blow your mind is coming to accept that Paris and Reunion Island are part of the same country but exist in completely different time zones… and hemispheres!
The summer in Paris means the winter on Reunion Island, and vice versa. Thanks to the tropical nature of La Réunion, however, winter is virtually non existent and temperatures never drop below 20°c.
I am often asked when the best time to visit Paris is, and I struggle to answer each time. While Paris is breathtaking in the summer with all the blossoming greenery and street side cafes spilling across the streets; there is something equally as magical about the Eiffel Tower sparkling on a cold, winter night and roaming the Christmas markets for sweet treats .
Pick your poison, I say, and rest easy knowing that Reunion Island sits a mere domestic flight away in a perpetual state of summer and sun! The longest domestic flight in the world, yes… but domestic nonetheless!