Compared to many of the other small island nations scattered around the Indian Ocean, Mauritius offers so much more than your typical sunbathing and beaches. Within its 2,040 square kilometers; you’ll find plenty of mountain peaks, jungles and awesome natural land formations to keep you busy for days. This is on top of the cultural and historic sights that dot its small towns and cities. Most people make the mistake of coming to Mauritius for a short trip – like during a weekend – only to realize that they’ve barely scratched the surface of the country by the time they leave. This itinerary covers Mauritius within 5 days which I think is the minimum number of days needed in order to really see what the island has to offer.
Getting Around Mauritius
For a relatively small island, it is surprisingly difficult to get around by public transport in Mauritius. Most of the developed areas are in the northwest around Port Louis and its suburbs where a metro system is in the works. Elsewhere, you really need a private car to get around the mountains, extinct volcanoes, plantations and other natural attractions. You can rent a private car with driver here to take you anywhere around the island for 4 or 8 hours.
Day 1 – Black River Gorges & Chamarel
Rent a car and drive towards the southern part of Mauritius along Bois Cheri Road and Grand Bassin Road heading to the direction of Black River Gorges. Along the way, you will pass by some stunning tea plantations. Stop by the Bois Cheri Tea Factory and Museum (admission: MUR 400 / MUR 700 with food) to sip on some fine teas before you continue on your journey. You will also pass by the Grand Bassin, one of the most sacred sites in the island. A background on how the lake turned sacred – in 1972 a Hindu priest brought water from the Ganges River and poured it into the lake. Come at any time in the day and you will see plenty of devotees praying in the lakeside temple. There is a hill with the Hanuman Temple on top that you can climb for some fine views of the lake.
Continue westward and you’ll reach the Black Rives Gorges National Park. Temperatures are slightly lower here which makes for a nice contrast to the sweltering heat in the lowlands. Those who love the outdoors can easily spend an entire day (or two) hiking around the several peaks in the area. Casual visitors tend to frequent the Alexandra Falls as well as the majestic viewpoint of the Black River Gorges.
It will be noon by the time you finish and you’ll find plenty of restaurants further west promising views of the sea. One that I would recommend is the Restaurant Le Chamarel. Food is fresh and they even have a set menu of Mauritian dishes but the main reason for coming here is for the unmatched views. The restaurant itself sits on a cliff and you will even see the Le Morne Brabant (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the distance.
In the afternoon, continue your sightseeing by visiting the Seven-Colored Earths (admission: MUR 200 adult/ MUR 100 child, credit cards accepted). The quirky land formation sits within a private property so you will need to pay admission to enter. The entrance fee also includes access to a view point of Chamarel Waterfall as well as some tortoise pens. The area is best visited during the dry season when the various shades of red, purple and brown and more prominent. If you come just after the rain, the Seven-Colored Earths will look more muddy than anything else. Nearby, the Rhumerie de Chamarel (admission: MUR 350 including tasting) shows how rum is made while making use of recyclable products.
If time permits, spend a few hours at the La Vallee des Couleurs before heading back to your resort/hotel. This is a fun stop especially if you are visiting with family. Recreational activities such as quad-biking, fishing, ziplines and more await.
Visiting Seychelles as well? Check out this comparison between Mauritius and Seychelles
Day 2 – Ile aux Cerfs or Ile aux Aigrettes
Spend at least a day checking one of the outlying islands of Mauritius. The most popular for excursions are Ile aux Cerfs with its amazing beaches and turquoise lagoons or Ile aux Aigrettes for those wishing to glimpse some rare wildlife such as the Pink Pigeon and the Mauritius Fody. The latter is the last place in Mauritius where you can see wildlife just as the first explorers did centuries ago. Visits are possible through tours pre-booked with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. Alternatively, you can also book a catamaran tour to the island inclusive of lunch here.
Do note that Ile aux Aigrettes is a nature reserve so you won’t find restaurants or beach huts here. If some rest and relaxation is what you are after, Ile aux Cerfs is more suitable. You can even find a couple of restaurants and bars here. It is also possible to play golf if you wish.
Day 3 – Port Louis & The North
This day is devoted to discovering Mauritius’ cultural side. Drive up north on the main highway towards the direction of Port Louis. Make a stop at Trou aux Cerfs in Curepipe to check out the extint volcanic crater. Afterwards, head out to Maison Eureka (admission: MUR 300) to soak in the genteel life and creole culture in the old plantation mansion. The museum also has an inhouse restaurant which serves up some interesting creole dishes and do make the short hike down the hill to see the nearby waterfall.
From here, it’s a short drive to Port Louis, the capital. The town is compact but relatively busy. There are enough sights to keep you occupied for a couple of hours including the Aapravasi Ghat (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) – a transit point for slaves back in the day before they were transported to various points of the British Empire, Jummah Mosque with its striking blend of Indian, Creole and Islamic architecture, the bustling Central Market, Blue Penny Museum with its display of one of the world’s rarest stamps and the Chinatown which has a host of shophouses built in the French style. For a bird’s eye view of the city, head up to Fort Adelaide to admire the skyline of Port Louis.
Head further north to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden in Pamplemousses to check out some exotic plant species, a colonial-era maison and the famous giant water lillies which ironically, were brought to Mauritius from overseas.
Day 4 – Mountain Climbing
Despite being a relatively small island, Mauritius is a popular spot for mountain climbing due to the ease of climbing several of its peaks and the relatively unusual mountain formations. Popular peaks to climb include Le Morne Brabant (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) where you can see the underwater waterfall from the peak or Le Pouce where you can see the jagged multi-peaks of the Moka Range from above. Dedicate at least a day for this endeavor in order to rest and recover after your climb.
Day 5 – Relaxing
A trip to Mauritius won’t be complete without spending a day just chilling in one of the seaside resorts. You will find plenty of the familiar brands such as Banyan Tree, St. Regis, Shangri-la and InterContinental but you don’t need to spend a huge sum to find the perfect beach spot here. Blue Bay which is located near the airport has some of the clearest waters in Mauritius. Staying in the relatively inexpensive Holiday Inn Mauritius Mon Tresor near the airport will give you free shuttle service and access to the hotel’s beach house which directly faces Blue Bay.
Where to change money in Mauritius: The airport offers competitive rates. Do note that the money changer that allows for USD to MUR conversion is located within the restricted arrivals area so do change some money before heading out to meet your driver at the airport. The money changer in the departures section can only change back to EUR or USD and not the other way around. Alternatively, you can also change money in the local banks though the branches are usually located in the cities and towns – tough if you are staying in a resort.
That being said, you can generally use credit cards in most establishments in Mauritius. The only exception is when paying for ground transport, admission to certain attractions or food from cheaper eateries which usually only take cash.