Once thought of as primarily a honeymoon destination, visitors have discovered the stunning nature and activities of Mauritius. The landscape of this island in the Indian Ocean is incredibly diverse. From the sugar-sand beaches, tropical reefs and impossibly blue lagoons ringing the island, to the majesty of the towering mountain ranges and basalt cliffs, Mauritius packages will not cease to enchant and impress.
Located about 1,200 off the southeast coast of the African continent, Mauritius has a rich and diverse culture and is ranked as one of the most developed economies in the African region. The people of Mauritius are multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual. Blends of Creole, French, Hindi, and Bhojpuri all coexist harmoniously together. You’ll see a variety of religious establishments such as churches, temples, pagodas, and mosques.
The island was the only known home of the dodo bird which became extinct at the hands of humans shortly after the island was settled.
Mauritius can be an expensive destination, especially for tourists from the United States. But if you’re looking for cheap Mauritius holidays, consider the Costa Victoria Indian Ocean Cruise. The well-priced two-week cruise begins and ends in Mauritius, as well as visits several other gorgeous islands – the Seychelles, Reunion, and Madagascar (particularly Nosy Iranja – the prettiest beach you’ve never heard of).
Whether you choose to take a shore excursion, book a tour through an independent agency, rent a car, or just set out on your own to explore, here are some highlights of Mauritius sightseeing to consider.
1. Ile Aux Cerfs
Just off the east coast, this tiny private island is arguably the prettiest beach and most Instagrammable paradise in Mauritius. Shimmering aqua and turquoise water striations, palm trees and the offshore coral reef attract snorkelers and swimmers to its white sandy beaches. On Ile Aux Cerfs you’ll find water sports activities, restaurants, and a golf course. Costa has a full-day excursion that includes a delicious lunch at a luxury resort.
The kaleidoscope of colors lends an enigmatic geological vibe to this must-see site. The dunes, waterfalls, and gorges are located in the Chamarel plans of the Rivière Noire District in south-western Mauritius, near the village of Chamarel, one of the oldest villages on the island.
Seven Coloured Earth Geopark became a major tourist attraction in the 1960s. The dunes display seven distinct colors including yellow, orange, red, purple, blue and brown. This phenomenon is due to the cooling of volcanic rock at different temperatures. The dunes can reach up to 50 feet thick and contain traces of ancient geo-climate activity. It’s a unique peek into millions of years of natural geological evolution.
3. Black River Gorges
In the hilly section in southwest Mauritius, Black River Gorges National Park is the island’s biggest national park covering 16,680 acres, and home to most of the island’s rainforests. The ecosystem became a protected reserve in 1994 after scientists identified over 300 species of flowering plants and many endemic species of bats, and birds including the rare pink pigeon. Several points of entry into the park make it one of the best hiking locations for nature-lovers.
4. Botanical Garden
Located near the Pamplemousses Village on the North-eastern side of Port Louis, the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Garden is more commonly known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden. Laying claim as the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere, it was built in memory of the freedom fighters of Mauritius. The highlight of the 60-acre, beautifully manicured gardens is the long pond with giant Victoria Amazonica water lilies as well as the variety of species of palm trees.
5. Grand Baie or Trou-aux Biches
These two beaches are close to each other on the northwest coast. Grand Baie (Bay) is lively and crowded, with lots of boats just offshore, and restaurants and beach bars lining the coast. There are facilities for sailing, windsurfing, parasailing.
Smaller and less crowded, the World Travel group named this Trou-aux Biches beach one of the most beautiful on the island, awarding it the World’s Leading Beach Destination at the World Travel Award for 2011. (Like my hat? It’s totally packable and yet cute, right? You can get one here.)
Iridescent turquoise water beckons visitors from the narrow strip of public beach or from the lovely upscale boutique hotels on the knoll above.
Click here to compare prices of hotels in Trou Aux Biches.
6. Cap Malheureux Church
Located on the beach of a small fishing village, the Cap Malheureux Church is often seen on postcards. The utterly charming red-roofed structure was dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives at sea in the nearby rocks.
7. Caudan Waterfront
Just a short walk from the cruise port is the Caudan Waterfront. The attractive center can be seen from the ship and is a magnetic draw, especially to those who want to explore the port area and do not want to take an excursion.
French colonial-inspired architecture, a ubiquitous “umbrella ceiling,” museum, upscale shopping, and harbor-side dining are all here. Just a few blocks away is Chinatown, a frenzied but fun experience.
In the center of the capital city is the Port Louis Market. Known to locals as “Bazaar Port Louis,” on the first floor you’ll find a colorful array of fresh local produce and herbs. Head up to the second floor to browse eye-catching, vibrant textiles, jewelry, local handicrafts, paintings, and sculptures. There’s also a food court where you can flit from stall to stall and sample authentic Mauritian street food.
In a fishing village on the southeast coast, the Mahebourg Bazaar epitomizes the ethnic diversity of the island. Open from Monday to Saturday, the Mahebourg Bazaar is a great place to purchase spices, clothing, and irresistible tchotchkes. There are no fixed prices, so sharpen your bargaining skills before visiting and you’ll be delightfully rewarded.
9. Rum Distillery
Mauritius hosts one of only three distilleries in the world that produces triple distilled rum, so if you like rum, you should visit the Rhumerie de Chamarel. There are tours that show how the liquor is made as well as tastings.
10. Grand Bassin Sacred Lake
Grand Bassin is an extinct volcano that is now a lake high up in the mountains. Resting around 1,800 feet above sea level, the lake, also called Ganga Talao, is considered the most sacred place of Hindu worship with a temple and a 108-foot statue dedicated to Lord Shiva. During Shivaratri – a Hindu festival celebrated to honor the marriage of Lord Shiva – many Mauritius make a pilgrimage where they walk in their bare feet from their homes to the lake.
If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Mauritius, take a look at the Salt of Palmar. Sitting on the white sandy beach of Palmar on the east coast of the island, the hotel features an on-site restaurant and 3 bars.
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About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning blog Luggage and Lipstick. 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. Patti has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.