A thrilling driving trip to the Cirque de Cilaos

Take Off
Jörgen Wennberg
Thu 2 Nov 2017 12:20
As we said there are so much to see and do in Réunion. Jörgen chose today to go mountain biking ..


.. where as we 3, Louise, Alex and Inez wanted to see more of the mountains. We chose to go and see the Cirque de Cilaos, being one of the 3 circuses together with Mafate and Salazie. The Circus of Cilaos is the one at the bottom. Le Port where we are berthed is at the North West of the island, so we drove down the West coast approx 30 min and the road up to Cilaos took us 1h30 min! it was not a straight road...

Once we left the motorway nearby the coast we climbed up in the mountain and were taken away by the breathtaking view everywhere we turned our heads. Yes it was a challenge to drive and take photos (I know totally darangerous on these roads). So we did make many stops on the way into the circus.


Every turn was magic and we did not know what scenery waited us. We were more and more amazed by the landscape showing in front of our eyes as we continued further in into the circus.


This signs explains how they built this road to the Cirque de Cilaos. This particular part of the road became a critical challenge that they solved by building a loop over the road. The road turns to the right and then over itself.



Public transportation passes through this road and every here and there they had managed to built a bus stop nearby the road.


We drove through a tunnel and at the end of the tunnel …. the Cirque de Cilaos opened up itself! It was a magical moment coming out of the tunnel and discovering this beautiful valley of Cilaos. It was magic because one could just imagine how it must have been in the older days before the road was built. This part of the country is closed in itself with no access to the rest of the island, nor the other circuses than by climbing over the mountains. It felt like entering a secret world. 


Cilaos is a very colourful town decorated with flowers everywhere. 



History of Cilaos

The name Cilaos comes from the Malagasy word, Tsilaosa, which means the place one never leaves.
According to some historians, the word Cilaos finds its origins in the name of a Malagasian slave named Tsilaos who took refuge in this cirque. At the time, slaves were called "brown", whereas runaway slaves were called "black-brown".
The first inhabitants of the cirque of Cilaos were thus "black-browns" who believed themselves to be at the top of the world and completely safe. However, these first runaways were recaptured very quickly, tracked and hunted by well-organized and well-armed slaveholders. In these runaways' attempts to escape recapture, several were killed. It seems likely that these first runaways created the goat paths that climb most of the mountains on Réunion.
After the death or recapture of these runaway slaves, the cirque of Cilaos likely became uninhabited once again for a while, since the first official record of its settlement occur only around 1850. In this year, a spa station was set up, and by 1866, there were 960 inhabitants. By 1900, the population had risen to 2500, and the 1982 census recorded 5629 inhabitants in the whole cirque.



A town right in the middle of the circus surrounded by the mountains. Many people come here to go trekking. We saw many with trekking gear, we could have been in Chamonix haha.


The main road through the town


Lunch together.



We were thrilled of driving back home although it would take more than 2 hours, however knowing that we would once again experience the same scenery 


A stop on the way


The road was partly a “one way” road with small pockets here and there where the cars could meet. Small cars could drive 2 ways but if a bus or a lorry happened to be on the other side you had to kindly wait in this pocket for the big vehicle to pass. 


In the evening we had invited the Norwegian friends Susanne, Fredrik and Erling for dinner. 



The best part is that we also did a “swap sleepover”. The girls stayed on Take Off for the night ...


.. and the boys went off to Explorer. 

The next night we swapped!