The Cirques,

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Salazie Cirque, Reunion
Salazie Cirque, Reunion © Thomas McGowan

The Cirques

Reunion is blessed with spectacular natural beauty and one of the island's most remarkable features are the three main cirques, Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie. A cirque (or caldera) is a natural amphitheatre, created by the movement of ancient glaciers or, as is the case for Reunion, volcanoes collapsing in on themselves. Salazie is perhaps the most striking, home to roughly 100 waterfalls, most notably The Bride's Veil (Le Voile de la Mariée) near Hell-Bourg, as well as lush vegetation. Cilaos has long been the site of a spa resort, providing thermal baths for the wealthy inhabitants of the area since the 1800s. It was also once a refuge for runaway slaves. Today it is still known for the Irene Accot Thermal Centre; a must for weary hikers. Mafate is the most remote of the cirques and its name is derived from the Malagasy for 'lethal,' illustrating the difficulty of accessing the area. Mafate is dotted with tiny hamlets (the largest is La Nouvelle) and there are no proper roads, so the only access is on foot. The cirques provide unparalleled hiking opportunities and unspoilt wilderness, and are within a few hours of Saint-Denis.