With over 1000km of hiking and running trails criss-crossing the island, Reunion Island is a trail runner’s paradise! Whether running for pleasure or competition, the fresh air, natural beauty and challenging trails combine to create the perfect conditions for runners who love the great out doors.
You have the option to head out for a day trip, pack a tent for a multi-day exploration or book a few nights at one of mountain gîtes along the way. For the competitive runner, the Grand Raid is one of the most challenging and rewarding races in the world! Here’s our guide to trail running on Reunion Island.
Trail Running on Reunion Island
The weather on Reunion Island is mild year-round, perfect for outdoor activities. However, there are over 200 micro-climates spread across the mountains, valleys and plains, so it’s important to always be prepared. It’s entirely possible to sun tanning on the coast in the morning and then covered in layers of warm items in the mountains by the evening. Remember to carry a warm and waterproof jacket, warm socks and long pants to change into should the climate suddenly change.
Grand Hiking Routes
This route circles the Piton de Neiges, which is the island’s highest summit. Crossing all three of the island’s cirques, the 60km, six-stage route will take you trough Salazie, Mafate and Cilaos in a grand tour.
Starts in the North, taking you straight across to the island’s South. The 130km route leads you through some of the island’s most beautiful landscapes; summiting mountains, crossing natural reserves, through the island’s cirques, to the Piton des Neiges and the Piton de la Fournaise. Ticking these incredible wonders off one-by-one, this hugely satisfying route is really tour of the island’s highlights.
This 5-day offers you the opportunity to explore Mafate, the island’s most remote cirque, in all its glory. The villages of Mafate are only accessible by foot, ensuring an entirely unique way of life and beautifully preserved natural environment. Stay in quaint Gîtes, enjoy local dishes and relax after a long day of running in the middle of the breathtaking island surrounds.
These routes are well maintained and easy to navigate thanks to regular signage throughout the trails. With no dangerous land animals or poisonous snakes or insects in the island, you are free to roam in safety.
The Grand Raid de la Réunion is the biggest sporting event of the year. It attracts enthusiastic runners from around the world, eager to tackle the 164 kilometres of extreme terrain, with close to 10 000 metres of vertical elevation. The starting point is in Saint-Pierre in the south-west at 10pm. Over the next couple of days, runners will contend with hairpin bends and switchbacks, steep elevation and the kind of mental challenges that separate the finishers from the those who will have to try again next year. For more about this special race, read Dave Buchanan's story in Runner’s World.
With no visa requirements for South African citizens, and a short 4 hour flight from Johannesburg, there’s no reason why South African running enthusiasts shouldn’t start planning their visit.