How to visit the Cirque de Mafate

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Known as the wildest of Réunion's 3 cirques, accessible only on foot or by helicopter, the Cirque de Mafate can nevertheless be visited in a variety of ways if you want to take in its breathtaking scenery!

With no roads due to its very rugged environment and only 9 islets with less than 900 inhabitants, the Cirque de Mafate is only accessible on foot or by helicopter. As a result, it attracts large numbers of visitors looking to unwind in the heart of nature. This exceptional site, surrounded by impressive ramparts, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a must-see on Réunion Island, even if you don't plan to hike there: there are plenty of viewpoints from which you can visit the Cirque de Mafate without having to trek for one or more days!

Visit the Cirque de Mafate from the inside

hiking in the Cirque de Mafate
Bureau Montagne Réunion

As with other sites on Réunion Island, hiking remains one of the most affordable ways to visit the Cirque de Mafate. And while it's advisable to trek for 2 or more days in order to get the most out of the Cirque, it's also perfectly possible to spend just one day walking around the Cirque, or simply on its ramparts! There are many trails that you can follow on your own, from the Cirque de Salazie to the east, the Cirque de Cilaos to the south, the Piton Maïdo to the west and the Rivière des Galets to the north. But the best way is to take a guided hike in the Cirque de Mafate, where the company of a local will give you the chance to learn more about the important history of this unique cirque, as well as its geology, fauna and flora.

Taking part in a panoramic flight is also a breathtaking experience, so you won't miss a thing of the Cirque de Mafate's inner landscapes. From the air, you can effortlessly admire the cirque's various islets (La Nouvelle, Roche Plate, Les Orangers, etc.), as well as its ramparts and numerous peaks (Grand Bénare, Gros Morne, Morne de Fourche, etc.), not forgetting the imposing Piton des Neiges. A helicopter flight over the Cirque de Mafate will give you around 15 minutes over the cirque and its surroundings. But if you fancy a slightly longer experience, at an affordable price, don't hesitate to opt for a complete overflight of all Réunion's cirques by microlight!

Admire the Cirque de Mafate from the Piton Maïdo

horse riding at Piton Maïdo
The Maïdo Horses

The Piton Maïdo, rising to an altitude of around 2,200 metres at Saint-Paul, is one of the most popular viewpoints over the Cirque de Mafate. As well as being a great place to hike, it's also a great place to do other activities that will let you enjoy the scenery and have fun at the same time! The most accessible experience, whether for young children or older, less athletic people, a guided van tour between Piton Maïdo and Saint-Paul will allow the whole family to discover the Cirque de Mafate in complete safety, without having to tire themselves out. Featuring a local lunch break, as well as stops dedicated to discovering Reunion's culture and heritage, this outing will delight young and old alike!

But if you're looking for adventure on the Piton Maïdo to reach exceptional viewpoints over the Cirque de Mafate, there are other activities to tempt you. Nature and animal lovers will be delighted to be able to go for a horse ride at Piton Maïdo, whether they are already experienced riders or have never been on a horse before, as the instructors adapt the level of the outing to that of the participants. And for the more sporty, an electric mountain bike excursion on the Piton Maïdo will be the best way to admire the Cirque de Mafate while exercising yourself on tracks with different gradients! Finally, for the more adventurous in search of thrills, you can also go down the Piton Maïdo on a mountain bike! You'll discover the Cirque de Mafate from the starting point of the descent, at the top of the piton.

helicopter flight over the Cirque de Mafate
Corail Hélicoptères

Even if you're not a keen hiker, you can still visit the Cirque de Mafate in a variety of ways that are accessible to as many people as possible. Of course, there are many more activities to discover in the Cirque de Cilaos, but the Cirque de Mafate will charm you just as much with its wild and authentic side, as well as its exceptional landscapes.

And if you're looking for more outdoor experiences, check out the top things to do on Réunion Island for an adventurous holiday!