Reunion Island Hiking Guide

September 5, 2017   /   bynatalie  / Categories :  Travel, Uncategorized

Reunion Island is the ultimate hiking destination for South African travellers. With no dangerous land animals, poisonous snakes or spiders (or even poisonous plants) you don’t have to worry about nasty encounters in the middle of nowhere. The weather is warm all year round, with temperatures around 26-28° Celsius even in the middle of winter. And as part of France (as in, imagine a piece of France literally broke off and floated into the Indian Ocean and is now run by the French government) the emergency services are excellent, so if you do need help it’s only a helicopter away. I hope you enjoy my Reunion Island Hiking Guide!

reunion island hiking guide natalie roos salazie waterfall

There are some amazing waterfalls along the drive to the starting point of the hike to the remote village of Mafate in Reunion Island

driving to col des boeufs reunion island

The drive from the west coast to the starting point at Col des Boeufs is full of twists and turns, but man is it beautiful

reunion island hiking to mafate

The trail to Mafate is absolutely beautiful, with a huge variety of landscapes and plant life

There are literally thousands of kilometers of hiking trails to choose from on Reunion Island, but for the casual or occasional hiker like me, I’d recommend a 2-day hike into the remote village of La Nouvelle, in the Cirque of Mafate.

Reunion Island Hiking Guide

hiking boots reunion island

The hike is pretty easy, with steps and well-maintained trails. Hiking boots are recommended, to help with grip and ankle support

reunion island hiking guide

Part of the hike, shot on my DJI Spark from WeFix. It’s small enough that I could fit it in my backpack – and it only weighs 300g!

reunion island hiking guide la nouvelle mafate

The route is easy to follow and even families can manage the trail

reunion island hiking trail mafate

It would be pretty hard to get lost, with sign posts all along the way and the trail easily identifiable and a dream to navigate

The remote village of Mafate on Reunion Island

The Cirque of Mafate is known as an “island within the island”. It was formed when the now dormant Piton de Neiges volcano collapsed, cutting this part of the island off from the rest. The smaller “island” is surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains, which makes it totally inaccessible except by foot.

A collection of small villages make up the Cirque, with La Nouvelle and Marla being two of the most easily accessible for overnight stays. Since Mafate is completely inaccessible by car, everything and everyone has to travel into the cirque either by foot or by helicopter – from the local priest to weekly groceries.

In order to live in this unique part of the world, you have to be born there. There are only 900 people living in Mafate, and to say everyone knows everyone would be the understatement of the year. Inhabitants make their living by running tourism establishments like gîtes (mountain accommodation) and restaurants, and working for the national forestry services as custodians of the national park. English is not that common in this part of the island, and even the French in Mafate is more Creole-style than European French.

Electricity is completely solar powered and recycling gets picked up once a week when the helicopter delivers groceries. Teachers and the postman hike in and out of Mafate every week, and it’s remarkable to come across them on the hiking trail, watching them basically run the route while you breathe heavily.

Hiking from Col des Bœufs in Salazie to La Nouvelle in Mafate

hiking to la nouvelle in reunion island

We arrived at Col des Boeufs to lots of mist, but it was completely clear the next day, so we could take in the amazing views

hi-tec hike reunion island

For an overnight stay, you really just need something to wash with, something to sleep in and something to wear the next day – there are bedding and towels at the accommodation. It gets really cold at night, and the temperature in Mafate was a whole 10° colder than the west coast, so make sure to pack something warm

This is the first view along the trail – and it only gets better from here!

Make sure to start the day early and leave the west coast, (which is where I reccomend staying) by 7 am. The drive is technically 2 hours long, but with lots of windy roads and hairpin bends, it could take you up to an hour longer. If you’re using a GPS or Google Maps, you can just search “Col des Boeufs” and it will take you right to the starting point of the hike. The road is beautiful and lined with hundreds of waterfalls, so you might also want to get out for pictures a couple of times.

col des boeufs reunion island

We could easily manage the hike without a guide or even a map – it’s very easy to follow

It’s a 2 to 3-hour hike from Col des Boeufs to La Nouvelle, so if you start around 11:30 am, you’ll get there in time for lunch. There’s a big parking lot at Col des Boeufs, where you can park your car for 10 Euros per night. From here, you can just follow the signs along the trail to La Nouvelle.

The hiking trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, so it’s easy enough to follow. There are a couple of steep uphills and rocky downhills, but most of the hike is very easy. You don’t need to be particularly fit and if you’re able bodied, you’ll manage.  Once you reach the village of La Nouvelle, where you’ll spend the night, check into your gîte and grab yourself a cold Dodo (beer). The pace of life up there is super relaxed, so chill out and soak up this isolated spot. Give yourself a moment to really put it into perspective; you’re on an island, within an island, within the Villa Islands, in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Budgeting for a hike on Reunion Island

reunion island gite mountain accommodation reunion island

The quiant pre-school in La Nouvelle

la nouvelle view point mafate reunion island hiking guide

This view point is a 5-minute walk off the beaten track, but well worth going to see. Just ask anyone to point you in the right direction once you reach La Nouvelle, then follow the signs

la nouvelle hiking guide reunion island

If this little town were covered in snow, you could easily believe you were in the French Alps

Accommodation in Mafate ranges from around 25€ per person for a 6-bed dormitory to 40€ for a double room. Our dorm had an en-suite bathroom and shower with a cute patio outside. Dinner is served family-style and costs 25€ per person, with breakfast at 7€. Meals are served family-style and dinner usually consists of baguettes, choux-choux gratin (a local vegetable bake that tastes a bit like baby marrow), stew, beans, and rice. Breakfast is good coffee, baguettes, and apple pureé or jam.

Grab a sandwich from the local bakery before you set off on your hike back to your car and make sure you take enough water – there are loads of beautiful picnic spots to stop along the way. If you’re hungry after lunch, don’t worry, because there’s a sandwich spot at the parking lot.

How to book your hiking trip on Reunion Island

best hiking trail reunion island

In my opinion, this is one of the best hiking trails on Reunion Island

la nouvelle mafate hiking guide reunion island

Once you reach this little hut, it’s all downhill until you reach La Nouvelle

reunion island hiking guide

The views at the end of a hike always erase the tiring parts within seconds

The easiest way to book is through the Reunion Island Tourism board via You can email them directly with your dates and the size of your group, as well as your accommodation preferences. They’ll get back to you with available options and you can book and pay directly over the phone using your credit card. You’ll need to take cash for your drinks and meals in Mafate. This route is one of the most popular on the island, so you are likely to come across a few other hikers on the way.

What to pack for a 2-day hike on Reunion Island

  • Hiking boots or cross-over sneakers with good grip
  • Comfortable pants, like leggings or yoga pants (just wear the same pair both days to save space in your backpack)
  • T-shirts (one for each day)
  • Longer sleeved shirts to protect you from the sun and the cold (one for each day)
  • A warm jacket for the evening
  • Warm pajamas (it gets pretty cold up in the mountains at night)
  • A knit hat/beanie
  • A hat for the sun
  • Hiking socks
  • A backpack with comfortable straps
  • Sunscreen (obvi)
  • Water (I took a 1 liter bottle)
  • A snack for the hike (sweet cookies and a sandwich from the nearest petrol station will do the trick)
  • Bug spray

I hope my Reunion Island Hiking Guide has been helpful, and that it’s inspired you to book that trip you’ve been dreaming of! You won’t regret it.

*This post was sponsored by Hi-Tec, who helped make this dream trip a reality. I love that their high quality gear is affordable for the occasional hiker like me. So you don’t have to break your budget on hiking gear if you need to start from scratch. Check out their online store here

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reunion island hiking guide


  • Reply

    Yukthi Manjunath / 20 Aug

    is it possible to reach this point in car? I cannot go hiking. my feet has a problem.

    • Reply

      natalie / 20 Aug

      Hi, there is no way to reach Mafate by car.

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