Mauritius - the paradise Island situated right beside Madagascar has become a popular destination among those looking for some sun in the middle of the winter, especially from colder northern countries. Most tourist head straight to the resorts to spend time lying on the tropical beaches under coconut trees and swimming in the turquoise waters. However, it is worth to go out of the separated tourist zones and get away to visit the capital - port Louis - bustling city which can be described as the whole world concentrated into one little spot in the Indian Ocean.
How to get to Port Louis
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is located in the south of the Island, Port Louis is on the opposite side. However, Mauritius is so small that traveling anywhere on the island is not a problem at all. The distance from the airport to the capital is around 40 kilometers (25 miles). A taxi ride will take around 45 minutes - 1 hour and costs about 700 MUR (17 EUR/23 USD). The public bus is much cheaper, although slower, it runs every 30 minutes and the fare is only around 70 MUR (1.70 EUR/2.30 USD).
Brief history of Port Louis and Mauritius
When the first settlers reached Mauritius in the sixteenth century, the island was uninhabited by people. The famous Dodo birds had lived there, and without any natural enemies the species had thrived... until the Europeans came. In short time after, all the birds became extinct.
Many ships with hundreds of passengers were sailing to Mauritius over the last few centuries in order to settle down, not only from Europe but also from Asia and Africa.
This is the reason this paradise island is one of the most mixed countries on Earth. And, the most important thing is that followers of different religions live in peace with one another. It's not difficult to spot Christian cathedrals, Hindu Temples and statues as well as mosques all over the island.
In the seventeenth century, the port on the northern part of Mauritius was built. A century later, it became the center of the Island and got its name, Port Louis, after the King Louis XV.
What to see in and around Port Louis
In Port Louis, in the very center, you will come across many bazaars, markets and fairs. All of them sell different things, some of them unique, like hand-made craft items. You can buy amazing local fruit and vegetables, food, drinks, and also clothing and souvenirs. The markets might resemble of India a bit but in general they are not as chaotic and crazy as the Indian ones. Also, the traffic in Mauritius is nowhere near as congested as that of India, although most of the drivers will drive as fast as they can.
I loved some freshly squeezed juices and lemonades I bought at one of the stalls. If you buy souvenirs, remember to check the prices in a few places, sometimes you may overpay, as I did, I paid almost a double price for a wood-carved Dodo bird in a shopping mall while outside at one of the stands in the bazaar it was twice as cheap.
Le Caudan Waterfront
Le Caudan Waterfront area is beautiful, full of good restaurants, shopping malls, cinemas etc. In the sea, you can spot many colorful and exotic species of fish. I was there during Christmas time and all palm trees where wonderfully decorated with lights, also some Christmas trees were set around, it all looked a bit weird but cool for me as I am of European background and I'm used to cold, gloomy, dark winters.
When you are in Mauritius between November - January you will be able to admire Flame Trees, also known as Flamboyant trees. Their flowers have intense, red color and when in full blossom, there's no leaves, only the fierce redness. They, together with other tropical species create an unforgettable scenery reserved only for tropical regions. I am interested in botany and strolling down the streets of Port Louis was a really nice experience for me.
Triolet is a village 11 kilometers away from Port Louis, it's the longest village on the island. It's easy to get here by taxi or public bus which will cost not more than 1 USD. I spent my time there with a local family in a Mauritian home. It was one of the best of my stays ever. People in Mauritius are extremely hospitable and nice, I was really lucky to have had a chance to try so many local dishes which I really fell in love with. I have no idea what spices or preparation techniques were used as they were very intense in flavor, and a bit spicy. Simply delicious. Sea food was off course first class and also preparing the meals in the garden for the whole family on open fire was a great thing. Also, banana chips were a surprise for me, I excepted something sweet and they tasted just like ready salted potato chips.
People in their gardens grow many exotic plants like mangoes, bananas, coconuts, peanuts, jackfruits and lychee. It's really nice to be able to see all of them growing in their natural environment.
In the vicinity of Triolet you might encounter some beautiful, lavishly decorated Hindu Temples. Also, the houses are very colorful. If you are looking to visit for something more local, then definitely visit Triolet. I didn't spot any sign of tourist there which was really great!
Pamplemousses Botanic Gardens
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolan Botanic Gardens (another name of the gardens) in Mauritius are located in Pamplemousses District, 11 kilometers (7 miles) from Port Louis. The gardens were one of the first park of that type in the tropics. There was no need for any glasshouses of course, as all the species can grow their in the natural environment.
It's easy to get there using public transport, buses depart from Immigration Square and stop at the gardens. The ticket fare, again, is only around 1 USD.
One of the highlights is the long pond made in the eighteenth century with giant water lilies floating on top of water. There are over 80 varieties of palm trees here from all over the tropics: Asia, Indian, Africa and Central America. Some of the palms are really unique, like one enormous species of palm, when I was standing next to the baby tree, one leaf was the as big as two adults.
The size of the garden is 38 hectares. Apart from beautiful plants and ponds with fish, within the walls of the garden, there are turtles, deer, birds and I even spot a few lizards. Everybody who loves tropical flora should definitely visit this place.
Opening hours: 8:30 am - 5.30 pm
Entry fee: 100 MUR (2.40 EUR/3.30 USD)
L'aventure du Sucre - Sugar Factory Museum
Sugar Factory Museum is located around 20 kilometers from Port Louis. In the past, it was fully functioning and now it was turned into a museum to show the whole process of sugar production. It's equipped with the original machinery and many multimedia presentations will guide you step by step to show how sugar was made out of sugar cane.
When you finish visiting, go to the Le Village - Boutik: you can enjoy different varieties of sugar and taste some original Mauritian rum for free.
Opening hours: 9 am - 5 pm 7 days a week
Entry fee: 350 MUR (8.50 EUR/11.70 USD) - adult
175 MUR (4.20 EUR/5.80 USD) - students (13-26 years old) and children (6-13 years old)
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