We’ll meet in the heart of the greenest cirque on the island. Together we’ll delve into the history of the town of Hell-Bourg, the former thermal spa frequented by the upper classes and now classed as the “most beautiful village in France”.
As with the other two cirques on the island, the history of the colonisation of the Cirque of Salazie begins with the Noir-Marrons fleeing properties where they were enslaved. One name shall remain forever engraved in the history of Salazie, the name of Anchaing, who braved rivers and mountains to take refuge at the foot of a peak in the middle of the cirque that today bears that person’s name, the Piton d’Anchaing. Later, the French Creoles from the East coast, pushed inland by the hurricane of 1829, came to cultivate the highlands of Salazie.
Three of these discovered the thermal springs in the area.
While returning from a goat hunt, three of the cirque planters came across the famous hot springs near Bémahot in 1831. It was at this time that the village of Hell-Bourg began to be visited as a vacation destination. The name of Salazie was subsequently recognised officially in 1835 by Annette de la Serve, daughter of Robinet de la Serve, one of the cirque planters. The first spa and hotel establishment were subsequently built on the banks of the Bras Sec by a company established in 1852. Social life sprang up in the village and vacation homes were being built and rented as a casino opened its doors. Naturally, people came to the crater region to be treated for various illnesses, but they also came to meet others and to refresh themselves in the “change of air” cabins. It was also during this period that the luxurious villas like the Villa des Charmettes and the Villa Lucilly reached their apogee.
In 1856, a military hospital with spa was constructed to treat patients in Reunion and military personnel from Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Indochina and elsewhere. The hospital was poorly managed by the company that ran it at the time and closed in 1908. It was converted into the Hotel des Salazes in 1920.
The thermal springs achieved the heights of success up until the beginning of the 20th century. The cyclone of 1948, which swept away everything in its path, put an end to the thermal springs operation in Hell-Bourg.
This historic place and its vestiges have become a must-see destination for visitors to Hell-Bourg. The entire story is related by the Tourist Office guide.
Bring sportswear, rainwear, water, sunscreen, cap, change of clothing and shoes.
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