When compiling your bucket list of top travel destinations to visit next year, make sure that the paradise island of Mauritius is right up there.
If you are wondering why, it’s because this Indian Ocean tropical island has been named among the Top 10 countries to visit in Lonely Planet’s just-published Best in Travel 2018.
Being listed alongside such destinations as Chile, Portugal and New Zealand, among others, puts Mauritius in illustrious company as one of the world’s top destinations.
And, it’s not hard to see why.
With its stunning white beaches, dazzling sapphire seas, diverse culture, delicious cuisine, and array of exciting sporting and adventure activities, as well as offering the most romantic wedding and honeymoon settings, Mauritius offers an abundance of reasons to place it at the top of one’s dream travel destination list.
It is also just a short, four-hour trip from South Africa, with flights departing from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) points out.
No visas are required, which takes another travel hassle out of deciding where to book your next holiday.
The wide variety of accommodation on offer, from five-star luxury hotels to self-catering apartments, makes this destination even more appealing for travellers.
The destinations selected for Best in Travel must offer travellers an outstanding experience in the year ahead: it could also be that something special is going on in these countries in the year ahead.
That is certainly the case with Mauritius, as the island will be celebrating a momentous milestone in its history – the 50th anniversary of independence.
Gearing up for this special celebration, a series of national events and activities are currently being organised to culminate in March next year.
Writer Mark Twain said, “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven was copied after Mauritius.” With that recommendation it’s no wonder visitors from around the globe come flocking.
The island, once a haunt for pirates, is now best known as a safe haven with luxury hotels on white sand beaches with volcanic mountain backdrops. It is an island for exploring, with Indian temples, French colonial houses, botanical gardens and opportunities to spot rare birds among soaring ebony trees, walk with lions or swim with dolphins.
Mauritians, a fusion of French, Indian, Creole and Chinese peoples, are renowned for their hospitality and visitors to the islands generally rave about the service.
Luxury here is surprisingly affordable – Mauritius has some of the best value deals in the region.
Some remnants of the British colonial era remain in the Gymkhana Club, tea plantations and driving on the left, but gateaux piments and dhal puri stalls at markets, hip-wiggling sega performances and the ubiquitous dodo icon add a touch of the exotic.
The tourism hub is in the north around Grand Baie, which has the greatest concentration of hotels, beaches and entertainment.
The east coast is most renowned, with some of the most celebrated hotels and stretches of the most beautiful white sand beaches, while the flat, calm beaches of the west coast are favoured by families.
The beautiful south is the island’s wilder, but perhaps more interesting, side.
There are clutches of hotels in the south-east and more squeezed onto calm stretches near pounding surf and clifftop walks in the “green” south-west.
Just 20° south of the equator, Mauritius promotes itself as a year-round destination.
The peak season extends from October to April, which is hot, humid and rainy, with a slight risk of cyclones from January to March.
Winter, from May to September, is warm and dry, with fewer mosquitoes and accommodation rates that drop by 30 to 50%.
The north and west are more sheltered in winter and the east coast in summer.
The north coast can be stiflingly hot in the Mauritian summer.
The island has a microclimate so it can be raining where you are, with the sun shining five minutes away – worth bearing in mind when planning activities.
Mauritius’s pristine offshore islands can be reached by catamaran.
History has given rise to French colonial mansions, producing fresh game and artisanal rum, the exotic plants found in one of the world’s oldest botanic gardens, and colourful Indian temples and markets.
In the rustic south visit Le Morne Mountain, now a Unesco World Heritage Site, which was used as a refuge for runaway slaves in the 19th century.
Ranking the must-see places
An annual bestseller, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel, ranks the hottest, must-visit countries, regions and cities for the year ahead.
Its inclusion in the 2018 edition is likely to ensure wide-scale international visibility for Mauritius among local and global travellers alike, in addition to followers of various social media platforms and the 1.6 million subscribers of the famous UK travel guide publisher.
Drawing on the knowledge and passion of Lonely Planet’s staff, authors and online community, it presents a year’s worth of inspiration to take travellers out of the ordinary and into the unforgettable – firmly setting the travel agenda for 2018.
As self-confessed travel geeks, its staff collectively rack up hundreds of thousands of kilometres each year, exploring almost every destination on the planet.
Every year they ask: where are the best places in the world to visit right now? These places are then short-listed by a panel of in-house travel experts who consider criteria such as topicality, excitement and wow-factor to decide what to include in the best-selling, travel yearbook.