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Piton de la Fournaise: Visit one of the most active volcanoes in the world for a live experience

Ever wondered what it is like to visit a volcanic destination? We tell you what to expect on a trip to Piton de la Fournaise en route to Réunion Island.

travel Updated: Aug 22, 2017 15:10 IST
Reunion Island,Piton de la Fournaise,Hawaii
Piton de la Fournaise, which rises to 2,631 meters above sea level, is the most famous tourist attraction at the island.(AFP)

From the peaks of Hawaii to the uplands of Iceland, whether they be active or dormant, volcanoes inspire the imaginations of numerous travellers. Here’s all you need to choose a volcanic destination for every kind of vacation.

The island of Réunion is a top destination for volcano enthusiasts and the Piton de la Fournaise, which rises to 2,631 meters above sea level, is its most famous tourist attraction. Covering approximately a third of the island, the colossal volcano, which erupted from the depths of the Indian Ocean some three million years ago, is one of the most active in the world. For proof, look no further than its most recent eruption, which was the third since the beginning of 2017.

Piton de la Fournaise’s recent eruption was the third this year. ( Shutterstock )

Who should visit

When the Piton de la Fournaise is not boiling over, travellers eager to appreciate this unique destination can explore some of the many hiking trails in the surrounding area. But be warned: the highlands of Réunion are not for the fainthearted, and hiking on the island is not recommended for travellers who do not have a good level of physical fitness.

For those who are either unable or unwilling to climb the Piton de la Fournaise but do not suffer from claustrophobia, a trip inside some of its lava tubes offers a less taxing alternative. Visitors to the tunnels should nonetheless be prepared for some physical exertion. Wear helmets, long trousers and hiking boots, and be sure to bring adequate drinking water.

In the company of adults, children as young as seven can take part in the adventure, depending on the difficulty of the itinerary. To enter the lava tubes, travellers have to slip through narrow openings, which are about one metre in diameter.

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What to see and do

The lava tubes were created during eruptions in the 2000s. The system left by the 2004 eruption, which has 6.3 kilometers of galleries, is one of the most fascinating. Some 13 years later, the exploration of this site serves as a reminder of how quickly the island’s vegetation reasserts itself in the aftermath of an eruption. The descent into the veins of the earth is also a thrilling experience, particularly the visit to the remarkable “salon rouge”. As a rule, the experience of the lava tubes teaches travellers about the formation of the island of Réunion.

How to get there

It is recommended that visitors to the lava tunnels engage the services of an experienced guide who will choose an itinerary that is suitable for their level of fitness. Count on a minimum of three hours underground in the company of a speleologist. The island’s tourist service maintains a list of professionals who are familiar with the terrain.

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First Published: Aug 22, 2017 15:09 IST