Mauritius holidays

Experience Mauritius

Best Places to Visit

For such a small place, Mauritius packs it all in. Port Louis in the north-west of the island is a must-visit spot. With mountains on one side and a stunning bay on the other, it's a truly beautiful city. Built in 1835, it's one of only two colonial cities on the island. Fort Adelaide, for example, has notably great views across the city and out across the bay.

Port Louis is also a fantastic place to shop and pick up souvenirs, with the Central Market being one of the best places for this. Here, tourists can pick up local crafts and clothes alongside fresh fruit and vegetables. Central Market is also a great place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a few drinks, such as the locally distilled rum. The best way to see all of the historic buildings in Port Louis, including its cathedral and mosques, is to simply go for a wander and get lost.

Champs de Mars Racecourse, just outside the capital, is a Mecca for horse racing enthusiasts. The racecourse was built in 1812 and the racing season is from May to December, with races held every weekend. The whole community gets involved, producing a real party atmosphere.

For a holiday by the seaside, it has to be Grand Bay. Grand by name and grand by nature, this small fishing village on the north coast is now the most famous seaside resort on the island. This is most likely thanks to the emerald green lagoon here, near to which many luxurious hotels sit. There is no end of restaurants, bars and shops for tourists, along with practical things like doctors and pharmacies. There are water sports including scuba diving available, with plenty of coral reefs to explore.

Souillac is located on the northernmost tip of the island and, as the result of having a lack of coral reefs, has borne the brunt of rough seas, giving it a ruggedly beautiful quality. Once a fishing village, it is now more famous for its natural wonders, which include the Crying Rock, the magnificent Rochester Falls and the ever-popular Telfair Garden.

To the south-west, visitors can find Mauritius' old colonial capital, Mah'bourg. Located on the shore of the island's biggest lagoon, it is also the town closest to Mauritius' only airport. With a unique mix of Creole and colonial architecture, Mah'bourg is a quiet town, which seems to suddenly come to life on Monday market days and festivals.

Top Landmarks

With its diverse culture and stunning geographical sites, there's plenty to see in Mauritius. Le Chateau de Labourdonnais is a tourism hybrid; it's a museum, a garden and a restaurant, and even has its own distillery. Built in 1956 for the Wiehe family, the building is weathered but has been expertly restored over the last few years.

For those wanting to get some exercise, Le Morne Brabant peninsula is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Along with many hiking trails and clear lagoons, this site is also home to some of the rarest plant species in the world. Here, hikers and tourists alike can get an amazing view right across the crystal clear seas.

Another stunning site is Black River Gorges National Park. Opened in 1998, this park is a great place to see some wildlife. Although the dodo, originally found in Mauritius, is long gone, there are kestrel and parakeets, along with rusa deer and the Mauritian flying fox.

For those more interested in hunting the wildlife as appose to spotting it, Domaine des Grand Bois in the Anse Jonchee Hills has a hunting ground of around 900 hectares. Hunting parties can track down stags and boar here. There are bungalows available to hire, and most have stunning sea views.

Mauritius has a stunning coastline, but there are also two natural lakes. Ganga Taloe is a pilgrimage site for Hindu Mauritians during certain festivals. There are giant eels in the lake, which rests in the crater of a now extinct volcano.

Entertainment

There's plenty of nightlife in Mauritius, and the best place to head for it is Grand Bay. Here, there is no end of nightclubs and bars, and most are open until the early hours.

There are cinemas in the major towns; however, the majority of the films screened are dubbed in French. English films are occasionally shown, but it is best to check locally before heading to the cinema.

Casinos and gambling are popular on the island and there are several casinos in the big cities, such as Port Louis, with many hotels having their own gaming rooms. City Casino in Port Lois is the liveliest place to head after midnight in the town. Its ship-shaped design makes it stand out, and there's all the games expected of a high-end casino, such as slot machines and roulette.

Horse racing is also popular, and Champ de Mars Racecourse just outside Port Louis is the place to experience it. The weekend thoroughbred races held here from May to December are a thrilling experience for first-timers and old hands alike.

Thanks to the diverse cultures on the island, there's a huge amount of festivals and celebrations to enjoy. Along with Chinese New Year and the Diwali Festival, there's the Holi Festival. Held in March, this Indian festival is a riot of colours and fire shows, as the Hindu population splash festival-goers with coloured powders and waters. No one can dodge either the flying water or the infectious party atmosphere across the island at this time.

Dining Out

Thanks to the wide variety of cultures, the cuisine in Mauritius is a real mix, with influences from Chinese and Creole to Indian and British cooking. There are also strong French influences, so traditional French meals such as coq au vin (chicken cooked with wine) and bouillon (meat and vegetable broth) can be found throughout the island.

A staple of the cuisine is spice, so for those visitors who aren't keen on spicy foods, it's best to state this at every restaurant. The main tourist spots offer Italian food such as pizza and pasta, and thanks to the British influence, British afternoon tea is very common.

A traditional dish of the island is Creole curry. It can be made with fish, chicken or beef, but is always served with white rice and is always extremely spicy!

Many Chinese cuisines are available, such as beef and black beans or fried rice, but obviously with Mauritius being an island, the seafood is amazing and has to be sampled.

If visitors are just after a quick bite, the street stalls are fast and cheap. An everyday meal is dholl pouri with roti, which is a pancake served with a hot bean curry, along with tomato chutney and plenty of chillies.

Beach

The whole island boasts amazing beaches, all with crystal clear waters. Many beaches, such as Grand Bay, have become developed with hotels and bars. But the likes of Mont Choisy, a stunning stretch of white sand in the north, and Péreybére, a small cove slightly further north of Mont Choisy, are where visitors can find seclusion to watch the sun set.

Romance

Ile aux Cerfs is the final word in paradise. This tiny island is truly stunning and little developed, with only one bar and restaurant. It's a great place to get away from the crowds and be alone. Boats go from the village of Trou d'Eau Douce in the east of the island daily and tourists can take their own supplies, so why not pack up a picnic and spend time on the beach watching the sun go down? Boat tours are available from the island too, with onboard seafood barbeques a nice touch.

Family

Take the kids on a dolphin-watching trip on one of the many speedboat trips available on the west coast of the island. There are many species of dolphins here throughout the year, and the beaches along this coast offer many other family centered water activities such as fishing and glass-bottom boat trips, so the family can enjoy the sights of the deep blue sea without even getting wet.

Adventure

For adventure, it has to be Yemen Nature Reserve Park. Quad biking through the park is a real experience, and along the way visitors can spot zebra, deer and antelope. Mauritius is also an amazing place to scuba dive. There is coral and wildlife along every coast but the most popular dive sites are around Flic enFlac on the west coast.

Need to know

Language

There is quite a mix of languages spoken on the island officially known as the Republic of Mauritius, including Indian, Chinese and some African languages. However, the main languages spoken are Mauritian Creole, English and French. Due to the island's history as part of the British Empire, English is the official language of the government and most of the population speaks fluent English. French is also widely spoken and tends to be used widely in business and publications; around 80% of newspapers are printed in French, although Mauritian TV channels tend to broadcast in both English and Hindi. While it's not necessary to buy a phrasebook, a basic knowledge of French can surprise and delight the locals.

Currency

The official currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee (Rp). The rupee is divided into 100 cents and cash is the most widely accepted form of payment. If tourists find themselves out of cash, there are ATMs across the island which accept major credit cards. They can be found in banks and some supermarkets and shopping centres. Services in the main tourist towns accept credit cards, although most charge a small fee for this service. Outside of the main tourist locations, cash is king. US dollars, pounds sterling and Euro can easily be exchanged at exchange bureaux and banks while travellers' cheques are easy to cash at any bank. Trying to pay with any other currency than the rupee is not accepted and, if an attempt to exchange is made, can result in extremely unfavourable rates. As a rule of thumb, Mauritius' exchange rates are alarmingly low and money-minded visitors might be best advised to change up their currency at home, before travelling.

Visas

Citizens of the UK, along with citizens of most other Western countries, do not require a visa to enter Mauritius. Visitors are granted a one-month stay on arrival and there are hefty charges for overstay. Tourists from nations that are not part of the visa waiver list must apply for a visa in advance of travel via a British embassy.

Climate

Mauritius enjoys a mild, tropical climate throughout the year, but the weather here can also be split into two distinctive halves: summers are gloriously warm and humid, while winters are cool and dry. Travellers will be pleased to know that the average summer temperature comes in at around 24.7°C, leaving plenty of opportunity for sunbathing, sightseeing and basking in the ocean’s beauty.

Main Airports

The major international airport in Mauritius is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport. The airport is the main base for Air Mauritius, the country's national airline. There's also Sir Gaetan Duval Airport on the offshore island of Rodrigues, some 400 miles from Port Louis.

Flight Options

Air Mauritius, Jet Airways and Emirates all fly direct to Mauritius from London. Flights are also available from Manchester and Newcastle. Paris has the most flights, so it can actually be cheaper to fly to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and then take a connecting flight to Mauritius than to fly directly from London. The average direct flight time from London is around 11 hours, 45 minutes.

Travel Advice

Flying to Paris and then on to Mauritius can save you on the airfare and there are many flights throughout the week. However, stopping off anywhere in Europe can bring the price down, as well as break up the long journey. Prices for both flights and hotels sky rocket in high season, around December especially. Booking early or visit in May when many tourist places are still open but the crowds thin as the weather is hot and humid.

Other Transport Options

It is possible to enter Mauritius via sea. Although it is mostly cargo ships that dock at Port Louis, a number of cruise ships have started including Mauritius in their Indian Ocean cruises. It is also possible to travel from Tamatave in Madagascar to Mauritius by boats, which takes around four days, although there are only two scheduled services a month.

Getting Around

There is only one domestic air route in Mauritius, between Rodrigues and SSR Airport. Rodrigues is a 400-mile flight from the country's main airport. It is, however, possible to arrange transfers by helicopter via Air Mauritius Helicopter.

Bus

For those wanting to save money, the bus is a great option. Express buses are by far the quickest and are more likely to have air conditioning. All services are operated by the National Transport Authority so are of a similar standard.

Air

With only one airport on the main island, domestic air travel is not available here. Yet domestic flights connect the offshore island of Rodrigues with SSR Airport. There's no end to taxis, both in and out of the capital city, but meters are uncommon so tourists should agree a price before the journey. Car hire is also extremely popular as local buses are often not air conditioned.

Car

Travelling by car is without a doubt the quickest way to get around. Hire prices are reasonable and for those visitors wanting to hire for longer than a week, there are discounts available. The roads are varied; the main motorway is well maintained but some of the minor roads are in poor condition. Roads crisscross the island and it's easy to get to even the most obscure locations by car. It's advisable to drive with caution as Mauritian drivers tend to have a relaxed attitude to the rules of the road.

MAURITIUS`S WEATHER TODAY

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MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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MONTHS

MAP

FACTS

  1. Sugar cane occupies almost 80% of the island and is the main source of industry for Mauritius
  2. Mauritius has no poisonous snakes
  3. Mauritius is the most densely populated country in Africa
  4. 'You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then Heaven, and that Heaven was copied after Mauritius' ' Mark Twain<p>The Dodo, although long-extinct, is Mauritius' national animal
  5. The coral reefs that surround Mauritius serve to keep the water temperature lower than at sea and act as a barrier to jellyfish and sharks
  6. More than 40% of the island's population lives in the capital city, Port Louis

FACTS

  1. Sugar cane occupies almost 80% of the island and is the main source of industry for Mauritius
  2. Mauritius has no poisonous snakes
  3. Mauritius is the most densely populated country in Africa
  4. 'You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then Heaven, and that Heaven was copied after Mauritius' ' Mark Twain<p>The Dodo, although long-extinct, is Mauritius' national animal
  5. The coral reefs that surround Mauritius serve to keep the water temperature lower than at sea and act as a barrier to jellyfish and sharks
  6. More than 40% of the island's population lives in the capital city, Port Louis

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