Awarded Top 10 country to travel to in 2022About Best In Travel 2022
Mark Twain once wrote that ‘Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius’. For the most part, it’s true: Mauritius is rightly famed for its sapphire waters, powder-white beaches and luxury resorts. But there’s so much more attraction to Mauritius than the beach, and it's the kind of place that rewards even the smallest attempts at exploration. There’s hiking in the forested and mountainous interior and world-class diving and snorkelling offshore. There are boat trips to near-perfect islets and excursions to botanical gardens and colonial plantation houses. Mauritius is a fabulous culinary destination with great wildlife watching thrown in. And the real Mauritius away from the beach resorts – a hot curry of different cultures and quiet fishing villages – is never far away.
Mauritius: Voted Top 10 Country as Best in Travel 2022
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Mauritius.
This popular ecotourism destination is a 26-hectare nature reserve on an island roughly 800m off the coast. It preserves very rare remnants of the coastal forests of Mauritius and provides a sanctuary for a range of endemic and endangered wildlife species. Visits are only possible as part of a guided tour, and these leave from Pointe Jérome, close to Le Preskîl. Highlights include Aldabra giant tortoises, ebony trees, wild orchids, and the endangered pink pigeon and other rare bird species.
After London's Kew Gardens, the SSR Gardens is one of the world's best botanical gardens. It's among the most popular tourist attractions in Mauritius and easily reached from almost anywhere on the island. Labelling of the plants is a work in progress, and you can hire one of the knowledgeable guides who wait just inside or use the maps for a self-guided tour. Golf-buggy tours (adult Rs 250, child Rs 100) are available on request for those with limited mobility.
Protecting a 400-year-old forest, this reserve is an important habitat for the Mauritius kestrel, one of the world's most endangered raptors, and a visit here is far and away your best chance of seeing one. Guides take you along a 3km trail, pointing out fascinating flora and fauna. At noon (arrive no later than 11.30am, or 10am if you're also doing the hike), staff feed otherwise wild kestrels at the trailhead. Bookings for the tour are essential.
Although dedicated to the world-famous Mauritian one-penny and two-pence stamps of 1847, the Blue Penny Museum is far more wide-ranging than its name suggests, taking in the history of the island's exploration, settlement and colonial period, and even detouring into the Paul and Virginie story. It's Port Louis' best museum, one that give visitors a then-and-now look at the city, although travellers with mobility issues should know that the stamps are on the 1st floor and there’s no lift.
If you're only going to visit one attraction related to Mauritius' rich colonial history, choose Eureka. This perfectly preserved Creole mansion was built in the 1830s and today it's a museum and veritable time machine providing incredible insight into the island's vibrant plantation past. The main manor house is a masterpiece of tropical construction, which apparently kept the interior deliciously cool during the unbearably hot summers, and boasts 109 doors and more rooms than a Cluedo board.
The shrine of French Catholic priest and missionary Père Jacques-Désiré Laval is something of a Lourdes of the Indian Ocean, with many miracles attributed to pilgrimages here. The padre died in 1864 and was beatified in 1979 during a visit by Pope John Paul II. Père Laval is credited with converting 67,000 people to Christianity during his 23 years in Mauritius. To get here, take a bus signed 'Cité La Cure' or 'Père Laval' from the Immigration Square bus station.
Locals like to wax nostalgic about Tamarin Beach and its surfing heyday, and in many ways this sandy cove still feels like a throwback to earlier times, although things are changing. Tamarin remains a popular place and its beach has one of the most spectacular backdrops (looking north) in the country.
Don't miss the central foire de Mahébourg, near the waterfront. The initial focus was silks and other textiles, but these days you'll find a busy produce section, tacky bric-a-brac and steaming food stalls. It's the perfect place to try some local snacks – gâteaux piments (chilli cakes), dhal puri (lentil pancakes) and samousas (samosas) – usually dispensed from boxes on the backs of motorcycles. The market is open every day but doubles in size on Monday.
This terrific museum is one of Mauritius' best. It contains fascinating early maps of the island and Indian Ocean region, paintings from colonial times, model ships from important episodes in Mauritian history, archive photographs, and a rare, intact skeleton of the dodo and another disappeared species, the Rodrigues solitaire. One real curio is an engraving of Dutch gentlemen riding in pairs on the back of a giant tortoise, a species that also went the way of the dodo.