Tired and dejected after a delayed flight that caused us to miss our Costa Cruise Indian Ocean embark with a forced detour to Mahé, we arrived at our last-minute boutique hotel around midnight. The night air was black as ink and thick with dew. Dragging our luggage up the stairs, we plopped onto the comfy, king-sized bed, and drifted off to sleep. Mahe tourist places were the last thing on our minds.
Bright morning sunlight seeped into the room, craftily slipping between the ends of the heavy drapes. Realizing the futility of further slumber, I yanked back the fabric revealing, much to my surprise, French doors leading on to a sunny terrace.
Crystal aquamarine surf gently lapped the shore just a few feet below. To the left, a tall coconut palm stretched out precipitously over the water; to the right, craggy limestone boulders jutted out from just beyond the shore. Aside from those, the beach was deserted.
“It appears that we’re stuck in paradise!” I said to Kary as he swiftly rose to see what had me so transfixed. At that moment, we experienced a simultaneous thought: I’m glad we missed the boat.
Mahé at a Glance
The Seychelles are often called “the Garden of Eden” for good reason. The longest island in the Seychelles archipelago, Mahe tourist places are the most varied and oft-visited. From the white-sand and boulder-strewn tropical beaches, to rainforests, mangroves, mountain vistas, and Creole dining, Mahé is one of the reasons why the Seychelles is one of the most dreamed-about destinations.
- Area: 60.73 mi²
- Location: Indian Ocean off East Africa
- Elevation: 2,969′
- Total islands: 1
- Length: 16.2 mi
- Width: 10.6 mi
- Currency: Seychelles Rupee (Rs). One Rupee = 100 cents (2020)
Mahé was first visited by the British in 1609 and not visited by Europeans again until Lazare Picault’s expedition of 1742. The French took control in 1756 at a time when piracy was very common. Mahé remained a French possession until 1812 when it became a British colony, and French influence is still felt throughout.
The 1814 Treaty of Paris saw the ceding of the Seychelles to Britain; the Seychelles was granted independence from Britain in 1976; it became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903, and remains a free country.
Known as Seychellois, local inhabitants of Mahé originate from a combination of West Indian, French, and British settlers. Creole is the official language. Over time, they’ve developed their own form of drum music, dance, and dress.
Where to Stay
It’s optional as to whether you want to stay in one place, or in a variety of different accommodations on the island as both are easy to do.
For us, fortune smiled upon us as we more-or-less accidentally landed at Villa Dorado, our small boutique hotel at Point au Sel, on the east coast of Mahé, south of the airport.
We loved our breezy terrace overlooking the ocean and the expansive cooked-to-order breakfasts, and fresh-caught seafood dinners from their sister resort next door.
The best way to see the small island is by renting a car, driving around the island and stopping along the way to visit attractions and beaches. Be prepared for a different way of driving than in the United States. The cars are manufactured for a right driving system, i.e. the driver sits on the right side of the car and the car is on the right side of the road. Manual shifting can be confusing because you have to do it with your left hand, so I’d recommend getting an automatic transmission.
This road trip can start anywhere on the circular route, and how long you visit and/or stay at any one spot is up to you, how much time you have, and how busy you like to be on vacation.
Mahe Tourist Places
Mahé is home to the colorful capital and main economic hub of the Seychelles – Victoria, which also accommodates a third of the total population of the Seychelles. Exhibiting numerous colonial influences, the city was first established as a British colony and is named after Queen Victoria.
Victoria is a city of contrasts – it’s the capital of the largest island in the Seychelles, but at the same time, it’s the smallest capital in Africa. Victoria has only one traffic light and can easily be explored on foot. It’s also the Costa Cruise port for the Seychelles, so on days when the ship is in port – which is not that frequent – Victoria can get a bit crowded.
Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market
The Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market is symbolic of the Seychelles. Built in 1840 in early-Victorian Style architecture, the marketplace was renovated in early 1999. First thing in the morning, the colorful market is bustling with fishermen selling their catch as well as fruit and vegetable stalls, aromatic spices, crafts and souvenirs. The market is usually opened from Monday to Friday early morning until around 5:00 pm and is also a fun gathering place on Saturday.
Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple
Named after the Hindu God of safety and prosperity, Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple is the first and only Hindu temple in the Seychelles, since the country is more than 90% Roman Catholic. The colorfully-hued building is a working temple, though it is also open to the public.
Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden
The Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden has a wide variety of endemic trees and tropical plants, some of which produce cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and allspice (which you can purchase). There are also breadfruit, avocado, and starfruit trees.
Nicknamed Little Ben because it is a replica of the Elizabeth Tower on Vauxhall Bridge that houses Big Ben in London, Victoria’s Clock Tower was built in 1903 to commemorate the Seychelles becoming a British colony.
Other attractions in Victoria include the National Library and Art Gallery, Bel Air Cemetery, and the Seychelles National Museum. There are also a good number of restaurants and cafes in the tiny town where tourists and locals alike can indulge in savory Creole cuisine.
2 Takamaka Rum Distillery
Part of a 200-year-old estate which originally made coconut oil and distilled cinnamon and patchouli, the Takamaka plantation house was restored to its former glory by brothers Richard and Bernard d’Offay in 2002 and is now a restaurant and base for the distillery, based on their grandfather’s original recipe with island-grown sugarcane. Tours and tastings are offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., but if that’s not convenient, you can still take a walk around the gardens and stock up on rum at the shop.
3 Anse Royale
Anse Royale is located on the southeast coast of Mahé and is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Truth be told, it was our favorite beach. It’s a great beach for windsurfing and swimming, but we loved the postcard-perfect aesthetic of the granite boulders protruding up from the water, at the less-visited far end of the bay, that the Seychelles are known for. So pretty!
Next to the beach is a small town sharing the same name “Anse Royale.” In the town, you’ll find a convenience store, gas station, hospital, banks, and the Seychelles University. The village has numerous places to eat and shop and can easily be explored on foot.
We visited Anse Royale on our first morning in Mahé, before we picked up our rental car, as it was relatively close to our hotel. As we climbed onto the public local bus, we weren’t sure we’d made the right decision. Two or three locals were jammed into every seat, and there were no empty seats, so we stood in the aisle, hanging on to the overhead straps for dear life. And I do mean hang on. That bus proceeded to careen amazingly fast around the narrow, curvy road! It was difficult to keep my balance with my biceps screaming in pain, but even harder for Kary who had one hand holding the overhead strap and the other arm around me to keep me from falling.
I’m certain I saw several of the locals smirking, wondering what these tourists were thinking. It was one of those funny-to-look-back-at experiences, for sure! #noregrets
4 Anse Takamaka
Anse Takamaka is a lovely picturesque bay in the southwest of Mahé. Here, stunning turquoise water brushes up to a beach scattered with the Takamaka trees that give the beach its name. Takamaka Beach is also a great snorkeling spot. Visitors can enjoy refreshments at the Chez Batista bar and restaurant.
5 Port Glaud Lagoon
A mix of granite rocks, white sand, turquoise ocean, and palm trees, Port Glaud is a pretty place to spend a beach day on Mahé. If you don’t have enough time to stroll on the beach, try to get an aerial view from the Tea Factory (see #7).
6 Sans Souci Road
After a stop in Port Glaud, turn inland onto Sans Souci Road and begin your ascent up the mountains. For me, the zigzag road was a white knuckle experience, as we drove up the “wrong” (to us) side of the road, overlooking sheer cliff drops with no guard rails at all, with seemingly nothing but narrow hairpin bends and cars coming straight at you from the other direction. It’s not for the faint of heart, but as I mentioned above, having an automatic transmission would have technically made the trek more difficult, although less adrenaline-rising.
You can stop along the way at the Mission Lodge Lookout, the most famous vantage point and site of the ruins of the missionary school which formed in 1876 to teach children of the liberated slaves.
7 Tea Factory
Also along the Sans Souci Road is a working tea plantation and factory. It’s a nice place to stop. Even if you choose not to take the 20-minute tour of the factory which shows how the tea is dried and blended, you can buy some of their locally-grown teas to take home for souvenirs, or just take in the spectacular views of Port Glaud.
8 Morne Seychellois National Park
Morne Seychellois National Park covers a fifth of Mahé, with a mix of landscapes from coastal mangroves to thick jungle peaks. The vast landscape offers visitors the opportunity to hike in the untouched beauty filled with flora, mangroves, jungle, and waterfalls. The park is home to Mahé’s tallest mountain, Morne Seychellois (2,969 ft) with panoramic vistas of Port Victoria to those who make it to the top.
9 North Coast Road
After exiting the Sans Souci Road, head to the North Coast Road which winds around the northern tip of the island. It’s a scenic route (are there any that aren’t?), hugging shimmering turquoise beaches along your right side, some with the ubiquitous boulders, some hidden coves at the base of small cliffs, and some that are just long stretches of white sand.
10 Beau Vallon
Beau Vallon, on the northwest coast, is one of the most famous Mahe tourist places which on weekends makes it the most crowded with both locals and tourists. It has a laid-back beach vibe though, with no high-rise hotels. The wide, long bay is lined with palm and takamaka trees for shade and a coral reef for diving or snorkeling just offshore. There’s a corridor at one end that is lined with vendors selling fruit and souvenirs.
We slipped into La Fontaine, a small, rustic beach bistro for lunch and were pleasantly surprised at both the quantity and quality of our mussels au gratin which were absolutely delicious and so overflowed the plate that the two of us could not finish them (though we gave it a good try).
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.