Coming off a wild adventure traipsing around mainland Africa, exploring seven countries, including a roadtrip across six countries, a tour to Lesotho, a week spent in a hostel in Johannesburg and three weeks spent in the incredible Cape Town, and with the Christmas holidays imminent, I was ready for a break. Traveling, while rewarding and exciting, is also exhausting and challenging, and with the sheer volume of it I've undertaken this year (26 countries in 2022!?), the end of the year was the ideal time to find a small island in the Southern Indian Ocean and unwind for a while.
And so, for the final week of 2022, I'll be decompressing and relaxing on two small African islands - the first of which is the French overseas department of Réunion, tucked between Madagascar and Mauritius, the latter of which is my final destination for this year.
I spent Christmas in the Villa Marie Lucie in the heart of Saint-Dennis, the biggest city on the island and where the international airport is located. Beautifully and tastefully decorated in Creole style, the large, cool space was welcoming and peaceful and, with having the run of the villa all to myself, my stay here was relaxing, safe and the perfect place to rest my head for three nights over the Christmas holidays.
Christmas truly is my favourite time of year, and I've grown up with a northern hemisphere winter Christmas with all the traditions that come along with it, perhaps nowhere so more idyllic than my current home of Salzburg in Austria.
However, it was 30° for Christmas in Réunion and so, instead of stomping around in snow, I headed up into the mountains over Saint-Dennis for a long hot Christmas Day hike. If I had to be solo for the holidays, I wanted to spend it in the mountains, my favourite place of all. I had really wanted to hike to the summit of the famous volcano Piton de la Fournaise, but the only tour running during my time here wanted to charge well over €500 and I absolutely couldn't bring myself to pay that much for a hike.
So I settled on a self-guided hike up to the Belvédère du Cap Bernard, a lovely little viewpoint overlooking the city of Saint-Dennis on the northern coast of Réunion. Sure, it wasn't a volcano, but it was a delight, as always, to be outside and sweating my way up a mountain. Wherever you spent Christmas and with whomever, or alone like me, I hope your holidays were a delight.
Belvédère du Cap Bernard HIKE DETAILS
Where: Saint-Dennis, Réunion
Length: 11.84km one way, with a 538m elevation gain, which took 3 hours (Strava recording here)
Directions: I started from my accommodations in Saint-Dennis and walked across the bridge to where the hike officially begins here. Follow the switchbacks along the road up to the Point de vue de la Montagne, then continue along the road until the trail to Belvédère du Cap Bernard on the righthand side.
Public Transit: no, not needed as you can walk from Saint-Dennis