Climb one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise (see main story).
Hike the cirques with or without a guide. Guides’ daily rates vary, but expect to pay between €45 and €60 per person (in a group of three to four). Alexis Vincent can be contacted via ayapanareunion.com.
Spend five days walking Mafate, the most remote cirque. The tourist board (see Essentials panel) will help book guides and gîtes accommodation.
Take a helicopter ride through Réunion’s vast calderas or cirques. Trips cost €260 (£239) for 45 minutes with Corail (00 262 262 222 266; corailhelicopteres.com).
Visit the hi-tech volcanology museum, Cité du Volcan, in Bourg Murat (museesreunion. re; entry €9/€6 concessions).
Drive the N2 or “Route du Volcan”, through enormous fields of recent lava. The coulée (or flow) from the 2007 eruption is almost a mile wide.
Go canyoning, mountain biking, paraplaning or riding. Again, you can book through the tourist board.
Head to L’Ermitage-LesBains for white sandy beaches and some excellent snorkelling in the lagoon.
Take a whalewatching cruise from Saint-Gilles (00 262 262 332 832; grandbleu.re; €30 per person).
In Saint-Denis, eat at trendy Vapiano, housed in some stylishly converted Victorian barracks. he’s still the master of curses and cures, and sorcery steps in where modern life falters.
If anything, the walking was even better in the next cirque, Salazie. With its gigantic epiphytes and tree ferns, it all felt pleasingly extraterrestrial. Way above, I could always see long spindles of water tumbling down from the rim. The French had always loved it here, and in the 1860s they perched themselves among the pinnacles and built a little town of pastel-coloured mansions. Happily, Hell-Bourg is still as fretted and frilly as ever.
Of the three old calderas, the last – Mafate – is probably the wildest. Alexis told me the only way in was by helicopter or on foot, and that’s how we found ourselves climbing the ravine. Even the cows had to be carried out by chopper, he said, and the rubbish. Once inside, there are no services or roads, and yet it’s still home to some 900 scattered souls. We met a few that day; a lentil farmer; the postmistress (with her lava-red hair), and Jeff, who kept eight cats and a tiny tin bar. There was also an old woman who watched us from the shadows. “Until the Eighties,” explained Alexis, “the Mafatais seldom met outsiders. And many had never even seen a car…”
My reward for all this walking was a few days on the coast. It felt odd having a horizon again, and not to be climbing. I stayed at The Lux near L’Ermitage-Les-Bains. Built in the style of a planter’s mansion, it had vast, chirpy gardens that led down through the pines to the sea. Although the lagoon seemed mirror-calm, beneath the surface there was a carnival of fish. It was like swimming around in a shoal of Picassos.
I spent my last week on the other volcanic massif, the active one. Piton de la Fournaise (or “Le Volcan”) has erupted 250 times in the past 350 years, most recently in 2016. It’s one of the most active outlets in the world – and accessible on foot or by road. It’s a disconcerting drive that begins with hayfields and woods, and ends on a desert of bright red ash.
The road ends on the edge of a vast firepit, almost the size of Guernsey. I parked, and peered down through the clouds. Some 98 per cent of the island’s eruptions occur here, in the Enclos Fouqué, and way out in the middle is the main cone, Dolomieu, looking beguilingly pink and symmetrical. It’s a six-hour walk to the