Dazzling sun, sandy beaches almost unbearably white, rustling palms, soft pink granite cliffs and absinthe-coloured lagoons in turquoise blue seas: the island group of the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s top holiday destinations. But very few travellers are aware of just how much the Seychelles have to offer as well as those luxury beach holidays. So welcome to Paradise on Earth – welcome to the Seychelles!
The Seychelles is made up of 115 islands in total, and has a population of around 90,000. The largest islands in the tiny archipelago are Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. Mahé is the largest and most densely-populated of all the islands in the Seychelles, and home to the country’s international airport. You’ll enjoy the main island for its dreamily beautiful bays, Creole villages, densely overgrown granite cliffs and lively capital Victoria.
The town – the smallest national capital on Earth – can be found hidden away on the northern coast of the island, close to the international airport. Victoria was founded when the islands were formally occupied by the French in 1778, before being taken over by the British after the Napoleonic Wars. With its twisting, turning alleys, charming little shops and historic wooden houses around the Clock Tower – the town’s most famous landmark – Victoria remains startlingly reminiscent of colonial towns to this day. Also well worth a look is the colourful Sir Selwyn Clarke market, where locals stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, fish, clothes and everyday bits and pieces. Tourists can also get hold of souvenirs here, as well as getting an impression of how life is for the Creole inhabitants of the islands, the Seychellois. For luxury shopping, meanwhile, check out Eden Island, created artificially just off the coast a few years ago and a minute or two’s walk away over a bridge.
The best way to explore Mahé, which is 27 kilometres in length and 8 kilometres across at its widest point, is by renting a car and setting out on a road trip. Most of the roads are narrow, winding and can often be pretty steep, so you’re best off renting a small car. The most beautiful view is on the Sans Soucis Road, which meanders from east to west across the island, through the jungle (don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe!) and up the highest mountain in the Seychelles, Morne Seychellois. Be sure to take a break here and enjoy the breathtaking view out across the Indian Ocean. The journey then continues, with more tourist attractions, such as the Tea Factory and Morne Seychellois National Park, to check out along the way.
You should also follow up your trip along the Sans Soucis Road by travelling around the south of the island, where you’ll be seduced by the charms of famous dream beaches such as Anse Royal, Petite Anse and Baie Lazare.
If luxury hotels aren’t really your thing, it’s not a problem at all; you can also find very good, and much more affordable, accommodation on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. On Mahé, for example, check out Chateau Martha, a revitalised colonial era house in the famous Beau Vallon Bay, for pure relaxation.
Nowhere else on Earth is the concept of island hopping more seductive than in the Seychelles. The three largest islands are close together, connected by ferry and quick and easy to reach – the trip across to the island of Praslin, 40 kilometres north-east of Mahé, will cost you about 50 euros, with the journey taking about three-quarters of an hour.
A great – and cheap – way to explore the beautiful island of Praslin is by jumping on the bus which travels around the entire island (a ticket will cost you the equivalent of 30 cents or so). Praslin is also home to Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette, two beaches regularly voted the most beautiful anywhere on Earth.
Vallee de Mai, a palm grove full of the legendary Coco de Mer palm, was a place French seafarers used to compare to Paradise for centuries. Nowadays, appropriately enough, it is a protected UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The crystal-clear waters surrounding the island are also a great place to go snorkelling. Definitely the best spot for snorkelling is Saint-Pierre Island, a small, uninhabited island just off the coast of Praslin with submarine life that has to be seen to be believed. You can book excursions to Saint-Pierre at outlets right across Praslin. A few kilometres further on, Curieuse Island, also known as ‘Turtle Island’, is home to the world’s largest turtles, which you can marvel at up close. An absolute must for nature lovers!
You should also try the delicious and varied creole cuisine while you’re in the Seychelles, of course, which is made up of curries, fish, vegetables, fruit – and coconut, coconut and more coconut. Just check out the takeaway streetfood stalls (they’re everywhere you turn on the island), where you can get a delicious meal for no more than the equivalent of five euros. In the small, family-run Beach Villas hotel, in Grande Anse on Praslin, the owner cooks dinner for her guests herself. Her husband Martin – an Austrian who emigrated here – organises tours to go deep-sea fishing and snorkelling excursions to neighbouring islands.
If you’re seeking the all-round Seychelles experience, though, you need to be absolutely sure you make it to La Digue, the smallest of the three main islands. The best way to do this is to take the very first ferry over in the morning – that’s when the light’s particularly lovely and the beaches are still empty. On La Digue, absolutely everyone – holidaymakers and Seychellois alike – travels by bike, and you can rent wheels on the corner of pretty well every street on the island. Once you’ve rented a bike for the day, head for L’Union Estate Park. For something like 10 euros entrance fee, you can enjoy a vast, rambling park with a copra mill, a vanilla plantation, a historic Seychellois house, literally millions of coconut palms, giant turtles and access to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Anse Source d’Argent beach. After all that, you’ll definitely need a bite to eat to keep you going, and the Restaurant Lanbousier nearby offers a menu of delicious Creole dishes served with an amazing view of the sea and Anse Source Árgent thrown in.
Afterwards, you can explore La Digue’s three wild beaches, Grande Anse and Petite Anse, and Anse Coco, down on the south coast. It takes about half-an-hour to reach the first bay, Grande Anse, by bike; once you’re here, you can get to Petite Anse and Anse Coco on foot. There’s also a natural pool here, protected by granite cliffs, which makes a great place to go swimming year-round.
If you want to do the Seychelles in exclusively luxurious fashion, however, then there’s certainly no shortage of ways to do so, as you can imagine. To get a delicious taste of the finer things in life, try one of the numerous luxury resorts, including the Four Seasons Resort or MAIA Luxury Resort&Spa on Mahé, or the Raffles Praslin Seychelles.
These offer an amazing experience, of course, but it almost seems a shame to miss out on those natural adventures the Seychelles have to offer!
Fancy visiting this Paradise on Earth?! If so, you can book your flight right now by clicking here: