Salazie, compared to the other two cirques of Mafate and Cilaos, is the most easily accessible and also the lushest in terms of greenery. The nature there is impressive, with numerous waterfalls bursting from the omnipresent water. Moreover, Salazie includes some of the most beautiful Creole villages and houses on the island.
Discover the Salazie Cirque in Reunion Island
An Enchanting Journey
Located on the East coast of Reunion Island, the Salazie Cirque offers a lush nature that mesmerizes visitors from the very start. Along the D48 road that follows the Mât River, you will discover incredibly dense greenery and breathtaking waterfalls, such as the White Cascade and the Veil of the Bride. The journey to Salazie is already an unforgettable experience in itself.
A Natural Treasure
The Salazie Cirque houses several treasures of Reunion Island’s natural heritage, such as the primary forests of Bélouve and Bébour, as well as the famous Trou de Fer, one of the most majestic and spectacular sites on the island. A large part of Salazie is located in the heart of the Reunion National Park, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A Rich Cultural History
The Salazie Cirque has a rich cultural history. The origin of the name “Salazie” is controversial, but it is certain that the Maroon slaves found refuge there first.
Today, Salazie is a place where Creole tradition is still very present, with magnificent Creole houses and gardens. The Chouchou, an emblematic vegetable of Salazie, is also produced there and contributes to the region’s reputation. In short, the Salazie Cirque is a must-visit destination for nature, culture, and history lovers in Reunion Island.
The culture of Chouchou, emblem of Salazie
Chouchou is undoubtedly the symbol of Salazie for the Réunionnais. This vegetable, also called Christophine, chayote, mirliton, or calabash, and scientifically known as Sechium edule, has been cultivated in the Salazie cirque since around 1850. Although initially grown on trellises, it is now present throughout the region, even in the wild, forming a characteristic green carpet.
The Réunionnais greatly appreciate Chouchou and use all parts of this vegetable, preparing it in various ways, whether salty or sweet. Every year in June, the commune organizes the Chouchou Festival to celebrate this culture that is so emblematic of Salazie.
Must-See Villages and Hamlets in Salazie
The Salazie Cirque is home to many villages and hamlets, each with its own unique charm. Here is a list of the main ones to discover:
- Hell-Bourg: classified as one of the “most beautiful villages in France,” Hell-Bourg is the most touristy hamlet in the cirque with its authentic town center, beautiful Creole houses and gardens, picturesque cemetery, ancient baths, and numerous hiking and walking opportunities.
- Salazie: located on the D48, Salazie is a quaint little village with many old Creole houses, a beautiful church, and a lively town center.
- Mare à Vieille Place: the main hamlet on the road to Grand-Ilet, Mare à Vieille Place offers magnificent views of the Bélouve Plateau and the cirque ramparts.
- Grand-Ilet: located on a plateau at 1100 meters above sea level, Grand Ilet is a well-known destination for hikers due to the many trails it offers. It is home to the remarkable Saint-Martin church, which is listed as a historic monument.
- Le Bélier: at the end of the D52, the village of Le Bélier is primarily devoted to agriculture and provides access to the Mafate Cirque via the Haut Mafate forest road.
There are also many other villages and hamlets to discover, such as Îlet à Vidot, Mare à Citron, Îlet Payet, Îlet Morin, Plateau Wickers, Îlet Bananier, Petit Sable, Bois de Pomme, Mare à Goyaves, Fleurs Jaunes, Fond de Rond Point, Terre Plate, Mathurin, and Camp Pierrot, each offering its own charm and small treasures to discover.
Must-Do Outdoor Activities in Salazie
Salazie is an ideal destination for mountain sports enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities in the cirque, including hiking, trekking, mountain running, and canyoning. Recently, Salazie has also welcomed La Station de Trail de l’île de La Réunion, which offers many courses adapted to this discipline. The Trou Blanc canyon is a perfect place to go canyoning, with courses suitable for all levels. The famous Trou de Fer is considered the Everest of the discipline.
Hiking in Salazie is also very popular. Here are some must-see trails not to be missed:
- Bélouve Forest and Trou de Fer: a hike through a primary forest leading to a majestic waterfall
- Cap Anglais and Piton des Neiges: a long ascent to reach the roof of the Indian Ocean
- La Fenêtre: located at the foot of Cimendef and Roche Ecrite
- Roche Ecrite: a challenging climb for a breathtaking view of the cirque
- Mafate: after the Bélier, several access points to the Mafate cirque, such as via the Col des Boeufs
- Piton d’Anchaing: a hike to admire Salazie 360 degrees.
The Salazie cirque also offers superb spots for canyoning.
Discover the Must-See Sites in Salazie
If you’re planning a visit to Salazie, here are some must-see sites you shouldn’t miss:
- Mare à Poule d’Eau : This is the largest residual pond in Salazie, accessible in a few minutes by foot. This site is truly enchanting with its kiosks and the opportunity to observe birds, including water hens, while walking around the pond.
- Bélouve : The primary original forests of Bélouve and Bébour are the best preserved on the island of La Réunion. By walking its trails, you can discover a wide variety of tropical and endemic flora of the island. Bélouve also has a lodge. The trail is accessible from the Hell-Bourg Town Hall, and you can access the recently renovated viewpoint on the Trou de Fer from Hell-Bourg.
- Piton d’Anchaing : This cone-shaped mountain offers visitors a 360° panorama of the Salazie cirque. The trail is accessible after Ilet à Vidot at the Mât river bridge.
- The Waterfalls : Salazie is full of waterfalls, but don’t miss the grandiose Blanche waterfall and the majestic Veil of the Bride. Depending on the recent rainfall and weather, they offer impressive views accessible by trails. The famous Pisse en l’air is also a must-see site you can’t miss during your visit to Salazie.
In short, everything is worth seeing in Salazie, and these must-see sites are unforgettable for an fabulous trip.