Located on a plateau between the southern coast of Reunion and the pristine highlands of Piton des Neiges, Le Tampon is a rural community with palm plantations and pineapple farms. The local scenery is fairly mild, but Le Tampon is surrounded by huge landforms waiting to be explored on foot, by car and on horseback.
As one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise, rumbles away, things get dramatic to the east. The Route du Volcan winds its way through a bizarre landscape scarred by thousands of years of volcanic eruptions, most recently in January 2017.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Le Tampon:
1. Volcano City
Located in the Plaine des Cafres between the Piton de la Fournaise and Piton des Neiges mountains, the museum is an interesting and informative tour of the world of volcanoes.
Reunion Island’s own active shield volcano, Piton de la Fournaise, takes center stage in a modern, interactive attraction, which reopened in 2014 after an update.
There are now high-tech multimedia presentations that can transport you to the most dangerous places on earth.
4D cinema takes you further to explore the extraterrestrial volcanoes of the solar system.
Adults and teens interested in the ins and outs of volcanoes won’t be overlooked either, as there’s exhaustive scientific information on the geology and physics of these natural wonders.
2. Piton de la Fournaise
The location of Le Tampon couldn’t be more perfect to visit the active volcano of Reunion, an awe-inspiring scene you won’t soon forget.
The only way to see the monster’s crater is to get up before dawn, as clouds roll in after the morning, obscuring the magnificent view.
Follow the road east to Pas de Belecombe, where you will park and start your hike.
You’ll need a flashlight, waterproof equipment, and, of course, a camera to capture images you’ve probably only seen on the big screen before: there’s a giant crater, fresh lava fields with bizarre patterns, vents spewing steam mouths and barren lands, possibly from the desolate landscapes of another planet.
3. Volcano Route
Starting east of Le Tampon is one of the most memorable driving tours you will ever experience.
As you know, the terrain of Reunion is difficult to build the road, which took more than 30 years to build.
Route du Volcan was finally completed in the 90’s and was designed to present a series of volcanic wonders that will make you rub your eyes.
It begins in a highland meadow, but soon reaches an otherworldly plateau.
This is the Plaine des Sables, a flat lunar wasteland with few signs of plant or human life.
4. Parc des Palmiers
An ongoing botanical project, the Parc des Palmiers opened in 2010 but was first planted in 1998. It is a lush palm plantation covering 20 hectares and will eventually host 1,000 of the 2,800 palm tree species currently in the world.
The park is located on a plateau, so as you walk along these palm-fringed paths, you’ll be blown away by the beauty of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Louis in the distance.
The calls of indigenous birds are a constant soundtrack, and you can stop and watch the Reunion Harrier, a rare bird of prey, swooping overhead.
5. Belvédère de Bois Court
Just on the northwest outskirts of Tampon, overlooking the village of Grand Bassin.
At 1,400 meters above sea level, the platform juts out from the ledge and offers a sensational view of a huge bowl of sheer rock face that plunges hundreds of meters into the deep valley below.
At the bottom of the valley, you can make out the white specks of the village buildings, and as you glance up the slope above you see the Voile de la Mariée (Bridal Veil), the waterfall cascading into a vivid blue pool.
6. Walk to the Great Basin
The Belvédère de Bois Court is also the starting point of the path to the rocks and down to the Grand Bassin.
The loop is only 10 kilometers long, but on this road you will descend 700 kilometers to the bottom of the valley and then climb it, so you need half a day.
The descent is gentle at first, but quickly becomes dizzying, but those 1,000-meter-high walls of volcanic rock looming above the village will inspire you as you progress.
Once in the valley, you can spend time admiring the banana groves and see the waterfall and its pool up close.
7. Maison de l’Ananas
Pineapples have been flourishing in Reunion since 1668, with the Queen Victoria variety being the most common, with 16,000 tons grown annually.
If you love this healthy fruit, or are interested in its botany, Le Tampon has a plantation open to the public.
The Maison de l’Ananas covers an area of 4 hectares and started inviting visitors in 2013. You’ll visit the farm on a guided tour to learn when and how Victorian pineapples are ready to be harvested.
There is a film screening about the fruit and you end up with a cold pineapple juice in the shop.
8. Bellevue Pass
This is the name of a 1,606-meter-high mountain north of Le Tampon.
This landmark is suitable for those who are reluctant to go on a full day hike, as the winding N3 road is right next to it.
You can park on the hill where there is a seating area with picnic tables.
There are also pavilions hidden in vegetation, offering exhilarating panoramas.
You can also head to the mossy forest with ferns, arum and other species only found at the high altitudes of Reunion.
Eventually, you will come to a directional table where on a clear morning you can gaze across the Piton des Neiges.
9. Sentier Botanique Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix
On Le Tampon’s tour website, you can download material for this hour-long loop that will guide you past some stunning lookouts.
Trails pass through woodlands cleared of invasive species, giving you a glimpse of Reunion before settling in the west.
Every once in a while, you’ll be greeted with exhilarating views overlooking the Grand Sud coastal plain or the epic Rivière des Remparts gorge.
The trail is only two kilometers long, but the 300-meter difference in elevation requires you to set aside at least an hour.
10. Horseback riding
Another way to absorb the magnificent landscape of Reunion Island is to be quadruped.
Jogging along forest paths, you’ll have time to look up to admire the giant volcanic rock slabs, deep valleys, abundant endemic birds and colorful vegetation.
You’ll also learn how the first European settlers traversed this challenging landscape from the 16th century.
Horseback riding is such a large activity that there are a large number of stables around Le Tampon: there are eight in all, and most cater to young riders who can handle ponies.
Serious adventurers can prepare for a long day’s trek or even a touring vacation, setting up camp in a new location each night.
The pristine basalt landscape of Reunion is eroded by rivers, waterfalls and waterfalls, and deep canyons that drop hundreds of meters within a few kilometers.
Many of the most spectacular places are off-limits unless you actually jump in and see the river for yourself.
Saint-Pierre’s canyoning companies such as Alpanes, Aquavertige and Alazard Romain have qualified guides who will take you on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
You’ll don your neoprene, harness, and helmet, and get ready to slide down cliffs, plunge into clear blue pools, and slide down waterfalls.
12. Domaine du Café Grillé
On the way to Saint-Pierre, there is another rich botanical attraction a few minutes later.
Domaine du Café Grillé is an old plantation that will tell you the saga of coffee growing while also summing up the island’s botanical history perfectly.
You’ll see, smell and even taste many crops introduced since the 17th century, such as sugar cane, vanilla, vetiver, geranium and lemongrass.
The plants are intertwined with botanical treasures such as orchids, ornamental shrubs and a Zen-like bamboo plantation.
Finish off with a home-made coffee at the café, which has juices, jams, sorbets and a variety of sweets made on site.
13. Saint Pierre
The second city of Reunion, a short drive south, has the atmosphere, restaurants and leisure facilities (marina, casino, nightclubs) of a major tourist destination.
So you can come here to enjoy life, hang out in the busy markets and stroll along the waterfront.
There are lovely colonial buildings and as you pass a church, Buddhist temple, Hindu temple and mosque in the space of a few streets you realize how cosmopolitan the reunion is.
Saint-Pierre is also one of the few places in Reunion where you can swim in the ocean, as offshore coral reefs disrupt currents.
14. Saga Durum
At bars, restaurants, and market stalls in Reunion, you’ll know that Reunion loves rum.
There are 3 main wineries on the island, one of which you can visit at the Établissements Isautier estate in Saint-Pierre.
You can visit the facility under your own steam or on a guided tour to get clips of the story of Réunion rum making and interesting insights into the process.
Finally, grab a seat at the winery’s bar, where you can sample white rum, aged rum, or spiced rum for free.
15. Reunion Food
Reunion’s cuisine is full of surprises as it draws on so many different cultures.
In rural areas like Le Tampon, you can sample the exchange for yourself, visiting farms with Creole sauces made from curried pork, and cheeses from Plaine des Cafres infused with garlic and ginger.
At Creole restaurants, you’ll see how French, Indian, East African and Chinese traditions combine curries (Rougail and Civet) with a tomato base, ginger and various spices.
During your stay, you will indulge in juicy tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple and guava, which are used in cakes, desserts and sorbets.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Le Tampon, France
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