Réunion - At a glance

Réunion at a glance

Country An overseas department of France
Location Island in the western Indian Ocean, south of the Equator and north of the Tropic of Capricorn
Size 2,512km2
History Discovered by Arab and Malay sea traders around the 10th century, then by the Portuguese. In 1642, it was annexed for France but remained uninhabited. The first settlers were exiled from Madagascar in 1646. After Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered to Britain in 1810, Britain received Réunion but showed no interest in the island and never assigned a governor to it. The island was handed back to France after the Treaty of Paris in 1814. In 1848, the island’s name was changed from Ile Bonaparte to Réunion. On 19 March 1946, Réunion was declared a Département d’Outre-Mer (overseas department) and it remains one of France’s last colonies.
Climate The island features some 200 microclimates. Broadly speaking, the climate around the coast is tropical while in the mountainous uplands it is temperate. The hot and rainy summer lasts from November to April, while the remaining months are cooler and drier. Cyclones may occur from January to March.
Nature Réunion has the highest mountains in the Indian Ocean, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, more remaining natural forests than on the other Mascarenes, black volcanic beaches in the south and east, white sandy beaches on the west coast, coral reefs, rare birds and waterfalls in abundance.
Capital St-Denis
Government The island is administered by a préfet (prefect), who is delegated by the French Government
Population 843,617 (2015), mostly Creole (blend of Franco-Africans, but also groups with Indian and Chinese origins). Substantial community of metropolitan French.
Economy Since the mid 1990s tourism has taken over from traditional industries as the main currency earner. Most goods are imported from France, while local products are exported to France by agreement. Traditional exports are geranium and vetyver oils, sugar and vanilla. Infl ation and unemployment are high, with rates exceeding those of mainland France.
Language French is the official language. Creole spoken in daily life but French used in more formal situations. English barely spoken outside tourist industry.
Religion Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism. Some islanders adhere to tribal lore.
Currency The euro (€)
International telephone code +262
Time GMT+4
Electricity 220V AC
Weights and measures Metric system

Back to the top

Réunion articles

View all

The most impressive lakes in the world

From boiling lakes to vast alpine bodies of water, these are our favourite lakes from around the world. 


6 unmissable activities in Mauritius, Rodrigues and Réunion

There's plenty to keep the energetic amused in the Mascarene Islands.


The slave who unlocked the vanilla secret

Pollinating vanilla is a tricky business but slave Edmond Albius unlocked the secret.