a hot rock mantis production
your guide to Réunion Island
Ile de la Réunion
The original and most informative
English language guide to the island
Visiting one of the world's most active volcanoes...
a rather jolly experience.
The area of Piton de la Fournaise is a paradise for hikers. Indeed twenty circuits have been perfectly prepared by the ONF. But beware, some basic items are needed: a good pair of walking boots, a sweater, food and water and, especially, a hat, the sun is very strong even if the weather is a bit overcast. It can rain and rain a lot so be prepared for wet weather as well.
Having said all that to put you off the walk is magnificent. Take your car, for there are no buses, to the Pas de Bellecombe. There is a gîte near here should one wish to stay the night and ample parking space. The route to the volcano is an adventure in itself and leave plenty of time to explore on the way. A stop at the Plain des Sables is a must.
Talking of time - leave early. You can save all that slobbing around in bed when you are not on holiday. Generally the weather is better in the morning and if one starts the walk at an early hour one can be back on the beach with a punch should you feel you deserve it, by the afternoon.
Before you leave check that the "enclos" is open to the public. This depends on the state of the volcano and the crater area has been off limits for over a year. Latest information can be found here or demand at the nearest tourist office.
If the crater is open the walk will take about five hours. Longer if you talk a lot. You won't need a map but if you have one it is interesting to note the landmarks along the way and the French IGN maps are excellent. All the footpaths are well marked with white paint.
On leaving the car park you walk to the entrance to some few hundred steps that lead down to the 18th century crater "Formica Leo" which is entirely composed of slag. All around it are huge lava plateau that surround the central crater which looms up in front of you.
Keep walking pass the Formica Leo until you get to the Chapel Rosemont, not a church but a huge mound of lava. Here there are two possible routes. To the right is the shortest (45 minutes) and steepest which takes you direct to the Crater Bory which rises to 2 631 meters.
To the left, a more easy but also longer route (1h30). Almost spiralling the flanks of the crater Bory there is some stunning scenery as you continue to work around the volcano until you arrive at the crater Dolomieu.
Since the huge eruption in 2007 the crater Dolomieu has "dropped" some 330 metres and one can still see the height of the previous floor.
An excellent link to many walks on Réunion can be found here, in French.