Mauritius may be an idyllic speck in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but it is nevertheless a cultured and cosmopolitan place.
From the 16th century, the island served as a vital landfall for international traders, a halfway house between East and West. Its roster of influences include Europe, Africa, China and India. Which means a patchwork cultural landscape, plus a smorgasbord of cuisines to enjoy.
Then there’s the setting: rainforest and soft white beaches protected by virtually unbroken coral reef. So when you’ve had your fill of temples and mosques and markets, you can move on to trekking, fishing, swimming and diving. Or settle back into the comfort zone of some of the world’s finest resort hotels.
Places To Visit
Get a feel for everyday life in Mauritius at the Port Louis market, where traders stand shoulder-to-shoulder each day to peddle everything from fruit and fish, to T-shirts and aphrodisiacs. Port Louis, the capital, is a handsome city sheltered in a semi-circle of mountains, its palm-lined streets dotted with French colonial architecture. The most popular attraction is the Domaines Les Pailles, a nature park nestled in the foothills, complete with replica sugar mill, rum distillery and a natural spring.
For spectacular views over the city and its sweeping harbour, climb La Pouce (‘the Thumb’), an easy ascent from the village of La Laura near the capital. For proper mountains and stunning native forests, visit the Black River Gorges National Park, which offers some serious hiking options along with gentler alternatives such as a scenic drive through the hills. This is the place to spot the island’s endemic wildlife, such as the Mauritius kestrel and the pink pigeon.
Further south the Domaine des Grands Bois offers more lush parkland and exotic fauna. Don’t miss the Rochester Falls, a spectacular cascade accessible via a sugar plantation. Another highlight is the Grand Bassin, a natural lake in the crater of an extinct volcano – now a pilgrimage site for Hindu Mauritians.
A necklace of idyllic beaches encircle the island. Some of the best of them include Tamarin, a fine lagoon, and the Grand Baie on the northern coastline – a series of popular beaches lined with palms and casuarinas, and offering the full range of watersports. For calm, clear bathing water in a delightful cove, Péreybère is hard to beat, while Blue Bay in the southeast is a fine stretch of white sand lapped by crystal clear waters. Meanwhile the islands of Ile aux Aigrettes, Ile aux Cerfs and Ile Rodrigues provide the ultimate refuge for peace-seeking travellers.
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English, French, Bhojpuri, Morisyen
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