Another of my favourite beaches on the Danish West coast, Slettestrand is a white, sandy beach that´s also great to surf at, if you´re not headed as far up as Cold Hawaii (read my post about Cold Hawaii here)
Believe the hype. The Northwestern stretch of the Danish west coast, commonly referred to as Cold Hawaii, is home to some of the greatest swells in the world. Unlike its American namesake, however, this is not a place of palm-fringed beaches, hula shirts and unending sunsets – it is, as the name suggests, predominantly cold.
Not that this should deter the ardent surfer, however – if you don’t have one already, you can easily purchase a wetsuit in one of the many surf shops in the area. Choose between wetsuits that will keep you warm enough during the cold winter months or thinner suits that’ll have you covered for the months of the year where It’s cold but not blisteringly so.
My favourite spot, when it comes to riding these north shore waves, is around the small town of Vorupør – The waves here break close to the shoreline and will roll you gently in – so a longboard is my personal preference.
Do I prefer Cold Hawaii to the real (American) Hawaii? Well, if I could surf in the latter every day of the year, I would. However, being that I live in Denmark currently, I´ll gladly take Cold Hawaii and its generous offerings, cold or otherwise.
Read my guide to the American Hawaii here.
There is not shortage of leafy woods in Jutland. One of my personal favourites is Oksholm Skov, located not too far off from my base in Northern Jutland
You´ll find all manner of wildlife here, from deers to foxes, badgers and otters – though you´ll probably have to venture deeper into the woods than we did on our foray there.
Every spring, one of my favourite things to do is to head out into the warm Danish countryside, where the rapeseed blossom is in full bloom (usually in the months of May and June.)
Rapeseed oil is one of the oldest forms of vegetable oils and can actually also be used in the production of biofuels (biodiesel.)
My advice when it comes to finding a scenic field? There are plenty of fields – get out there and enjoy em!
There is no shortage of rapeseed fields in Denmark – some of my favourite are around the small Danish town of Aabybro, near Aalborg.
Witty, bizarre and obfuscating at the best of times, Cuba is quite possibly the most unique country I have visited. Here is a showcase of some of my photos from Cuba, along with a short video reel.
Original article written for momondo, available here
From Bucharest’s epic Palace of Parliament to Barcelona’s Hospital de Sant Pau and Stockholm’s Vaxholm Fortress, here are 14 overlooked European attractions
Molecule Man, Berlin, Germany
This aluminium trio has been delighting Berliners since 1997, following several brotherly sculptures in the US. Designed by American artist Jonathan Borofsky, the three holy men symbolise the molecular structure of humankind; made up mostly of water and air, coming together to create our unified existence.Find a flight to Berlin
Rocamadour, Lot, France
A veritable European treasure, Rocamadour is every bit as enchanting as it sounds. Built into a limestone cliff face, this small village in the south of France is revered for its many religious sites, trademark goat cheese and impeccable medieval architecture. Access it through the sole gateway into the village, the Figuier gate.Find a flight to nearby Brive La Gaillard
Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, Rubjerg, Denmark
Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse stands 60 metres above sea level on Denmark’s western shoreline, overlooking the North Sea. A relic from 1899, the lighthouse is engaged in an eternal battle with coastal erosion, which eats away at up to 1,5 metres of shoreline annually. In fact, it is widely believed that the entire structure will have sunk into the sea within the next 10 – 15 years. For now, though, take advantage of the recently re-opened tower and ascend it for a riveting view. Find a flight to nearby Aalborg
The Jacobite Steam Train, Fort William, Scotland
Harry Potter fans may recognise this steam stalwart from its many appearances as The Hogwarts Express in the various films. Traversing some of Scotland’s most alluring scenery, you will travel along the shores of Loch Eli and further on to Mallaig on your journey. Keep your eyes open for the passage over the Glenfinnan viaduct — an unforgettable moment of magic.
The Buzludzha Monument, Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria
This derelict European landmark has to be seen to be believed. Erected at the peak of the Balkan Mountains in 1981, it stands at the final battleground between Bulgarian rebels and the Ottoman Empire in 1868, which became the location for the birth of the first social democratic party in the Balkans some 23 years later.
Ever since the Communist reign came to a close in 1989, the once thriving former headquarters has turned into an important, but shabbily kept monument of times past. Officially, the front doors are bolted shut, but if you follow the ‘FORGET YOUR PAST’ graffiti emblazoned on the dome’s side, you may just be able to find a small, unofficial portal into this crumbling gem.
The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium
Brussels is often associated with its Manneken Pis statue, but this shimmering treasure also warrants a visit ,if you find yourself in the EU capital. Originally devised for the Expo 58 by engineer André Waterkeyn, this intricate, shiny structure closely resembles a unit cell of an iron crystal, blown up into nine, apartment-sized spheres connected by tubes.
After the spheres were restored in 2004, they were opened up for public eyes. 8 of the spheres are used for study trips and private events, while the top orb hosts Brussels’ most exclusive restaurant. You will find The Atomium in the north of Brussels, overlooking the miniature park, Mini Europe.Find a flight to Brussels
Villa D’Este, Tivoli, Italy
When in the hilltop town of Tivoli, near Lazio, be sure to visit the Renaissance Villa d’Este — an imposing 16th-century villa and its surrounding parks. The landscaping here is a perennial ballad between the elements of stone and water, relics of the Roman world and all its ingenuity.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal’s heyday as a 14th- century superpower is celebrated by this mighty concrete structure that rises 52 metres above the shoreline of the River Tagus. The detailed figures on each side of it depict the sojourns of bygone explorers who ventured out in the world from what used to be the old harbour of Belem.
The Palace of Parliament, Bucharest, Romania
The world’s second largest administrative building (after The Pentagon) was once the jewel in the crown in Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship. Despite its completion being thwarted by the revolution of 1989, the complex still stands tall today – all twelve floors of it (as well as the eight below the surface).
Delphi Ruins, Delphi, Greece
Delphi — the ancient sanctuary on the south side of Mount Parnassus that was once the navel of Greece’s political decision-making. The revered Oracle of Delphi, once reigned supreme here. It is said that this oracle, (the Pythia) was a link between mankind and the spiritual world, the former of whom she spoke to in riddles, while belching hallucinogenic fumes that entranced and enlightened.
Today’s ruins reverberate with powerful echoes of Delphi at its pinnacle, standing robust against a backdrop of green. It is little wonder that the area is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Franz Kafka’s Head, Prague, Czech Republic
Franz Kafka was one of Prague’s literary greats. A troubled soul who was tormented by depression and self-doubt for most of his adult life, Kafka was known as being a particularly mercurial character.
These traits are reflected in a multi-layered mirror structure in the form of a head, designed by the artist David Černý. Each of the 42 layers rotates individually, with the help of a gear system inspired by Prague’s famous astronomical clock, adding further dynamism to this shimmering gem
Popeye Village, Mellieħa, Malta
After being used in Robert Altman’s film Popeye from 1980 (starring Robin Williams) this elaborately built set, whose constructions include a 76-metre breakwater that was built around Anchor’s Bay, was scheduled to be demolished.
But with some clever negotiation by the local authorities the village was saved and transformed into a theme park ‘for the young and young at heart.’ Take advantage of Mellieħa’s sandy beaches and striking nature while you’re in the north of the island.
Bled Island and Castle, Bled, Slovenia
The entire region of Bled, at the northern tip of Slovenia, is, in itself, bewilderingly enchanting.
At the heart of it, you’ll find Lake Bled — a shimmering body of water nestled between mountains and thick woodland. Be sure to drop by Bled Castle — a towering construction built on a precipice on the lake shore and, if you can, row out to Bled Island in the middle of the lake. A stunning Gothic church awaits you here – ring its bells for good luck.
Original article written for momondo, available here.
From volcano views on a rugged landscape in Iceland to igloos in Finland and cosy lodges in Canada, here are some of the best hotels from which to see the Northern Lights
To stand under the star-studded sky of the Arctic and watch the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights is to witness nature’s most spectacular light show, the kind of phenomenon that seems out of this world…
Also known as Aurora Borealis (Dawn of the North), these shifting celestial lights are the result of electrically charged particles emanating from the sun reaching the earth’s magnetic field. The poles are where the field is weakest, which is why the further north you go, the better a chance you have of seeing them.
We’ve come up with a list of several of the best hotels from which to see the spectacle of the Northern Lights.
ION Hotel – Selfoss, Iceland
Less than an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the modern minimalist structure of the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel stands tall amidst the craggy terrain of lava fields.
Close to the Thingvellir National Park and the famous Geysir hot springs, the hotel organises everything from rafting to glacier trekking to diving in the Silfra Fissure, the rift between the American and Eurasian continents! When it comes to watching the night sky shine bright, ION has its very own panoramic Northern Lights bar, where you can even sit down with an in-house astronomer and have all your aurora queries answered.
Hotel Rangá – Hella, Iceland
In the quiet countryside in which Hotel Rangá is located, you can gawk at the glowing sky whilst soaking in a bubbling outdoor hot tub with a view of the Mount Hekla volcano. A special ‘Aurora alarm’ wake-up service guarantees you won’t sleep through the action and – because there’s more to the infinite night sky than those luminous waves of colour – the hotel has even built its own highly-equipped astronomical observatory for expert stargazing. You will find Hotel Rangá a mere two hours away from Reykjavik’s airport.
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel – Alta, Norway
Staying at a hotel made entirely of ice, sculpted anew each winter, is a fantastic frosty experience in its own right. And if that’s not eccentric enough for you, at the Sorrisniva you can also camp out in a typical lavvo tent with a toasty fire to keep you warm. On the banks of the Alta River, you’re in prime aurora-spotting territory – team up with some huskies to sled you towards the lights!
Hotel Kakslauttanen – Saariselkä, Finland
Imagine if you could lie under the incandescent sky without leaving the comfort of your warm snug bed … well, in the Hotel Kakslauttanen in Finnish Lapland, this dream-like scenario is a very real possibility. The family-run establishment has built a village of igloos where you can sleep in small domes made of glass that doesn’t steam up or frost over. Other activities include reindeer safaris, horse-riding in the snow and an icebreaker cruise with an optional dip in the glacial Baltic Sea – in a dry suit, of course.
Santa Claus Holiday Village – Rovaniemi, Finland
In the Rovaniemi region (land of the Sami, the indigenous people of Lapland), another out-of-the-box choice of accommodation – particularly for those travelling with little ones – is the Santa Claus Holiday Village. Besides being ideally situated to start your search for the Northern Lights, there’s plenty to keep the kids distracted during daylight hours. The hotel’s Gingerbread Club hosts everything from sledding to arts & crafts, baking and even elf school!
Abisko Mountain Lodge – Abisko, Sweden
Nestled in the northernmost valley of Swedish Lapland, the rustic cabins of the Abisko Mountain Lodge are a cosy choice for an Arctic stay.
The hotel offers a wide range of activities – from ice-fishing to heli-skiing – to keep you busy when you’re not out scouting the main event, but its biggest selling point is its location.
From your window you can spot the icy Torneträsk Lake of the Abisko National Park, where scientists have identified a ‘blue hole’, a patch of sky that generally stays clear even when the surrounding area is overcast. Head over to the Aurora Sky Station for a privileged viewpoint!
Treehotel – Harads, Sweden
Sweden’s Treehotel is just what the name implies, — a hotel with an incredibly inspired design where you sleep, quite literally, up in the trees! Here you can soak in a wood-fired bathtub in the heart of the forest, sign up for a photography course to capture the perfect image of the auroras or join the nighttime snowmobile safaris to chase after those radiant cosmic swirls.
Hotel Alyeska – Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Sample the very best of the Alaskan wilderness at Hotel Alyseka — a chateau-style motel that merges modern comfort with the great outdoors. The remote location of this gem of a hotel makes it an ideal vantage point from which to view the Northern Lights, which are seen best during the wee hours of the morning. The hotel staff will happily wake you from your slumber so you can catch the coruscating spectacle.Find a room at Hotel Alyeska
Blachford Lake Lodge – Yellowknife, Canada
Blachford Lake Lodge is an ideal spot to see the dance of the Northern Lights across the dark night sky. Its remote location offers pristine views of the phenomenon from its hilltop perch. While you’re here, explore the Canadian wilderness on skis, kick sleds or fat tire bikes and take part in igloo building workshops, snowmobile forays and other activities. If the views from under the covers in your room don’t quite cut it, try the Blachford Lake Lodge hot tub, where you can enjoy the spectacle while the warm water soothes your senses.
Original article written for momondo, available here.
Sedate beaches and vivid countryside towns where the horse-drawn carriage reigns supreme … here are some of Mexico’s most underrated destinations for you to explore
From postcard-worthy beaches to pulsating cities that reverberate from dusk till dawn, Mexico is as intense a country as they come. An extraordinarily diverse population and buzzing food scene are but two of the draws of this vast nation. For Mexico has something up its sleeve for every type of tourist and boasts an extensive, comfortable domestic bus and flight network that facilitates easy travel around the country.
And while resort towns and popular destinations such as Cancún, San Cristóbal and Isla Mujeres tend to steal the showreels, far from the madding crowd, an entirely different country awaits the curious traveller. Scratch beneath the surface and explore some of Mexico’s most underrated destinations.
Highlights of the north
Loreto, Baja California Sur
The quaint town of Loreto is one of Baja California’s understated pearls. Water sports and fishing are popular pastimes in these parts, whose marine areas are protected from excessive fishing and pollution through strict legislation, thus preserving them at their pristine best. Venture out to The Coronado Islands by boat, where unrivalled snorkelling opportunities in the company of the local wildlife of the Loreto Bay National Park await. While you won’t be able to set foot on the protected islands, you will still be able to enjoy its natural riches from the water.
Highlights of the west coast
A mere 30 minutes by car from the larger, more-boisterous town of Puerto Vallarta, the fishing village of Sayulita is a great surfing spot and an ideal base from which to explore the rest of the state of Nayarit. Treat yourself to savoury tequila, fish tacos and paletas (Mexican popsicles) – three of some of the many culinary spoils here.
When you’ve had your fill, head out to the Marietas islands where the unique Playa del Amor awaits. This hidden beach is only accessible via a long tunnel of water that links it to the ocean. There is a vacuum of roughly six feet above the water level in the tunnel, allowing for beach access by swimming or kayaking through it.Find a flight to Puerto Vallarta
Around Mexico City
The sparsely populated town of Palizada resembles an elaborate fresco with its kaleidoscopic colour scheme and warm feel. Somewhat overlooked in the shadow of the more popular town of Merida, just over two hours by bus from here, Palizada is one of those places that feels like you have to it yourself.
Mount one of the numerous triciclos (tricycles) and head to the promenade, El Malecon, at sunset, where an amber backdrop shades flocks of herons en-route to their roosts in the foothills around the town.
Aculco, Mexico City
The small town of Aculco, a couple of hours north-west of Mexico City by car is revered for its two basalt waterfalls – Cascada de La Concepcion and Tixhiñu, both of which offer great rock climbing and abseiling opportunities.
But there is more to Aculco than these alluring cascades: this magical town is also an understated star on the culinary scene, offering a wealth of dairy and meat products which are high even by Mexican culinary standards. Scoops of homemade ice cream, savoury cheeses and tantalising pastries await in its narrow, bucolic streets.
Tepotzotlán, Mexico City
A quieter, more affable town, Tepotzotlán is an easily accessible alternative to the vast, gargantuan feel of Mexico City, 40km north. As you stroll its cobbled streets, you will still hear the Aztec language of Náhuatl echoing off the age-old walls – a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the area.
Highlights of the south-east
The centrepiece in the shimmering gem of Izamal is the enormous yellow Franciscan monastery. Built by the Spanish colonialists, this vivid shrine may hog the spotlight but Izamal was once the centre of worship for the Mayans that roamed these lands. Thankfully, their heritage lives on, in the form of several Mayan pyramids dotted around the area, which make for excellent spots to brush up on your history.
Reserve your Sundays in Ciudad Amarilla (the yellow city) for relaxing in Parque Zamna, where live music pulls in a partisan local crowd.
Isla Holbox, Yucatán
A heavenly alternative to the hustle and bustle of Cancun, Isla Holbox (Holbox Island) is separated from the mainland by a shallow, flamingo-laden lagoon. This slice of paradise is a mere 42km in size and contains very few cars as most of its roads and streets are paved with white sand.
Sample tasty fried tortillas with salsa for breakfast at Cantina La Isla del Colibri, hitch a taxi (a golf cart in these parts) and head for the shoreline, which you will, in all likelihood, enjoy for yourself.
Bacalar, Quintana Roo
Bacalar was once a haven for many a buccaneer (Caribbean Pirate), who hid here in between their Caribbean marauding in the 17th and 18th centuries. This quiet outpost of a town is home to Lake Bacalar, affably named the Lake of the Seven Colours on account of its striking blue colour, which changes tone depending on the time of day. Fed by a vast network of underground rivers and cenotes (sinkholes), Lake Bacalar’s pearly white limestone floor makes for an otherworldly swimming experience. Exfoliate your skin in the lakeside mud and plunge into the pristine waters.Find a flight to Cancun
Highlights of the south
You will find the hushed village of Mazunte on the shoreline of Mexico’s Oaxaca state, perched smugly by a spectacular natural bay. Today, the village is an ecotourism emblem, three decades on from bans on turtle meat and eggs, which used to be its main source of revenue.
Look elsewhere if you would like a location with mod-cons – Mazunte’s charm lies in its stripped-down appeal. Things here are as they have been for many years – quiet, unannounced and pristine. Drop by The National Turtle Centre of Mexico for a glimpse into the area’s history.
Playa Zipolite, Oaxaca
Not too far off from Mazunte (a mere 15-minute drive), you will find Playa Ziploite, where the pace of life along this 1.5km stretch of sand is just as sedate, so bring a good book or enjoy many hours in the company of the waves. Once a beach-bum allurement, Zipolite is one of Mexico’s few nude beaches and the surrounding area is home to a smattering of rustic cabins, camping spots and elementary accommodation. Enjoy the water here but do take care when venturing further offshore, as there are strong underwater currents to contend with.
Original article written for momondo, available here.
From dreamy, pink-coloured lakes to kaleidoscopic geysers, it may well seem as if some of these most astonishing places in the world are on a different planet altogether
Rumbling volcanoes that spew rivers of red-hot lava into the ocean, giant glaciers at the end of the world and gaping holes in the sea floor — the list of nature’s wonders could go on. Here are some of the most astonishing places in the world that continue to astound and mystify explorers and scientists alike to this day.
Coyote Buttes (“The Wave”) – Arizona, USA
If Catalan surrealist Salvador Dalí did nature, then this would be one of his seminal works. Ochre and amber shades, layered on top of one another from the Jurassic age form an undulating backdrop that has become something of a dream for photographers and hikers alike.
You will, however, require a permit to visit this protected monument and this is not the easiest thing to get a hold of, due to the lottery system employed by the Bureau of Land Management, so start your application early. If your permit application fails, fear not. Arizona is a land endowed with many other astonishing wonders such as Antelope Canyon and The Upper Grand Canyon.
Derweze ‒ Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan
The small village of Derweze, Turkmenistan, was put on the map 40 odd years ago by the work of Soviet geologists who burrowed into a cavern filled with natural gas. To stop the discharge of poisonous gas, a fire was lit to empty the cavern of its content which the geologists thought would burn for a few days.
Fast forward 40 years and the inferno rages on — a 70-metre wide spectacle in the middle of the desert that has been dubbed the ‘Door to Hell’ by locals.
Mendenhall Glacier – Tongass National Forest, Alaska, USA
Glaciers have been likened to human beings for their ever-changing qualities. As the Mendenhall glacier’s ice composition changes due to global warming, so too do its ice caves, formed as a result of meltwater flowing beneath the ice layers and eroding them. The thinner the ice of the roof cave gets, the lighter its blue colour — the sole source of illumination in these cavernous parts.
These chambers do require an effort to see them though —you’ll have to hike or kayak to the glacier first, then scramble over it wearing crampons, before tiptoeing your way into its subterranean depths.
Salar de Uyuni ‒ The Andes, Bolivia
It doesn’t rain here often, but when it does this giant salt flat turns into an ethereal mirror that seems to run on into oblivion, stretching over an area that is slightly smaller than Jamaica. Salar de Uyuni is also one of the flattest places on the planet, a trait that has often been exploited in optical illusion (forced perspective) photography. You will find the salt flat near the crest of The Andes mountains, 3,656 meters above sea level (which means that it can get cold and the air here is thin, so come prepared.)
Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA
The vibrant colours of this geothermic hot spring are the same as the mini rainbow you see when light passes through an optical prism; hence the name. The red, orange, yellow, green, and blue colours are caused by different types of bacteria living in the mineral-rich hot water, whose peak temperature reaches 85C. Spanning a diameter of 370 feet, the hot spring is the third largest of its kind in the world.
Deadvlei – Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia
Deadvlei is a portmanteau of the English word dead and the Afrikaans word, vlei, which translates as ‘a marsh or a valley in between dunes.’ The acacia trees that are strewn across the decadent landscape here have stood lifeless for over 600 years, torched skeletons who mother nature has not granted the luxury of decomposition in one of the driest spots on earth. This parched corner of the globe is also close to some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, which tower up to 383 metres above the desert floor.
Perito Moreno Glacier – Los Glaciares National Park, Santa Cruz, Argentina
At 28 km long and 4.8 km wide, Perito Moreno is one of very few glaciers in the world that are growing. During the summer, it is not uncommon to see massive chunks of ice fall into the waters of Lake Argentino, while in the winter, its imposing, behemoth-like structure casts a haughty shadow over the chilled landscape. An eerily-quiet, mystifying place of wonder in the sparsely populated region of Patagonia, Perito Moreno is a towering example of nature’s sacred awe.
Kilauea – Big Island, Hawaii
The indomitable Kilauea volcano has been erupting intermittently since 1983, pouring rivers of molten lava into the Pacific, which meet the water in one of nature’s most dramatic marriages. This vehement clash is visible from afar, compliments of several tours that provide expert guides to chaperone you across the charred pastures and as close as possible to it. It is not advisable to wander into the area on your own, due to the ever-changing nature of the volcanic eruption.
The Great Blue Hole – Belize
Belize’s giant submarine sinkhole was formed during the ice age – carved to near-circular perfection by the force of nature. In addition to being a treat for the eyes when viewed from above, The Great Blue Hole is also a great diving spot, drawing scuba divers from far and wide with its rich concentrations of marine life.
You’ll have to have logged more than 24 dives to attempt it though, due to the dexterity needed to navigate the dark, stalactite-strewn cave of water. Alternatively, grow gills and draw inspiration from freediving guru, Guillaume Néry, who has descended and re-surfaced from these depths on numerous occasions.
Pamukkale – Denizli, Turkey
Pamukkale, which poetically translates to ‘Cotton Castle’ is one of Turkey’s great natural spectacles. Hot springs and gargantuan white calcium terraces that etch themselves into the hillside make for a sight that looks like a page out of a great dream. Tread warily though (barefoot) — the calcium terraces here are easily eroded by footwear and bring your swimsuit along for a dip in the limpid waters of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. While you’re in Pamukkale, you may also want to pay a visit to the nearby well-preserved Roman ruins and museum in Hierapolis, a site that was once an ancient holy city in close proximity to the natural baths.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park – Hunan, China
You would be forgiven for thinking that the tall stone pillar formations in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park are in a galaxy far away from our own. The 2009 box office sci-fi, Avatar, featured scenes that were inspired by rock pillars such as those in the Hunan province, a depiction that resulted in the renaming of the 1,080-metre Southern Sky Column.
Now known as “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain,” this towering beauty is one of many formations that hug the skyline here. Stand in awe of it all atop the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge — the longest and highest pedestrian glass bridge in the world, which as you may expect, will put your fear of heights to the ultimate test.Find a flight to Changsha
Reynisfjara – Vik, Iceland
In addition to making for a beautiful natural spectacle, the black sand beach by the village of Vik, Iceland is also home to rich birdlife in the form of puffins, fulmars and guillemots, all of whom have made it their humble abode. And with good reason — the beach radiates an otherworldly quality with its unique black colour, flanked columns of pale-toned basalt that cling to the cliff face.
The southern Indian Ocean island nation has a mixed heritage, offering a unique blend of two continents’ cultures
Just 14 hours away: The magical sunsets we long for in the winter time are not always as far off as one might think (all photos: Allan Kortbæk)
While destinations such as Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia continue to top the charts when it comes to popularity, so too do some of the impacts of excess tourism in these countries, whose visitor numbers put immense pressure on local resources.
Luckily, the world still remains vast, with a plethora of destinations to explore. Mauritius may not be the first country on your mind, when one conjures up dreamy visions of your next trip, but perhaps it should and could be a great alternative to some of the overly-visited and documented chart-topping destinations du jour.
Mauritius is a mere 14-hour or so plane ride away from Denmark (including a brief stopover in Dubai, for instance) and offers all the comforts, sun, sea, sand and amusement that the likes of Thailand and Vietnam do, albeit with far fewer crowds and a lot more charm and uniqueness.
After visiting the Seychelles earlier this year, I had high hopes for my recent trip to Mauritius and thought much of it would be a comparable experience.
In truth, the two island paradises are very different to one another. While it is true that the Seychelles is the more raw, unspoiled and quiet of the two, Mauritius brings a rich Indian heritage and well-developed infrastructure to the table, giving it the unique feel of a veritable African nation with a strong multicultural foundation.
Here is my quick guide to what to see and do in Mauritius.
Mauritius: need to know
Mauritius is a safe and stable African country in the Indian Ocean, located close to the smaller Reunion Island (which is actually one of France´s départements.)
Over 50 percent of the population are of Indian descent and you will find a compelling mix of cultures and religions here. Mauritian Creole, French and English are widely spoken by almost everyone, everywhere.
Living standards, by comparison to most other African countries, are generally high, and inequality is not as widespread as it is elsewhere on the continent.
You´ll probably fly to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in the former capital of Mahébourg.
While the main island of Mauritius is small enough for you to live anywhere on it and be able to comfortably drive from one place to another, I recommend staggering your trip into phases, allowing you to experience different areas in depth.
Renting a car and hitting the road is probably easiest, though you can also travel by taxi and, if you’re feeling adventurous, by bus.
The east of Mauritius is a great place to start your trip after you land. The area around Grand River South East is one you’ll want to visit a fair bit if you find yourself in this quadrant. Rent a boat tour via Kersley & Azur (firstname.lastname@example.org; +230 5756 1954) just outside Mahébourg and you´ll get to see some of the small, uninhabited coral islands of the east and ‘The Dalblair’, a 1902 shipwreck.
You’ll also have the option of sailing up the Grand River delta to the small but sweet Grand River South East waterfall. Your boat ride will also probably take you to Isle Aux Cerfs, a small island off the east coast, which is unremarkably touristy on its main beach, but much quieter further down (past the golf course).
Contrary to popular belief, it is practically impossible to walk from one end of the island to another, so check out the south side by boat if this option is available to you.
While you’re around Mahébourg, don your snorkel mask and flippers and swim in the pristine waters of Blue Bay Marine Park – one of the best snorkeling spots I have ever come across.
Laguna Beach Hotel & Spa – a decent hotel that’s not too big and whose staff are extremely helpful and professional. Their buffet is scrumptious and rich in Creole delights – where possible, select the half-board option, as this gives you the benefit of breakfast and dinner included in your stay.
The North of Mauritius is more populated than the quiet east and home to some of the island’s revered beaches.
A good base would be the area around the beaches of Trou Aux Biches and Mont Choisy: two long, expansive stretches of sand on the northwest shoreline. The former has a great mix of locals and a few tourists on it and is a great sundowner spot, while the latter is also a public beach but is located at the foot of the Trou Aux Biches Beachcomber Resort and Spa, which takes some shine off it, despite the beautiful palm-fringed edge.
Further north check out the town of Grand Baie (the bazaar is a nifty spot to buy artefacts) and Perybere Beach – a favourite among the locals.
While in the north, one bucket list activity you definitely want to try is the Blue Safari sub scooter, which you will find at the northern fringe of the Trou Aux Biches beach. This three-metre dive to the ocean floor in an electric-powered underwater scooter is definitely one of the most amazing things you´ll do in your lifetime.
Blue Safari also offers a submarine service that takes you down to a depth of 35 metres in a larger craft, and this too is a memorable experience.
Mystik Lifestyle Hotel – a boutique hotel with immaculately designed rooms and the famous #33 restaurant, which serves up some of the best seafood in these parts.
The West and the South
The vast majority of activities on your trip, depending on what you go for, will probably be in the west of Mauritius – for instance in or near the town of Flic En Flac, a great base from which to cruise the shoreline and wander south and inland.
Flic En Flac is home to numerous restaurants and a comfortable stretch of beach. From here, explore the rugged interior of Mauritius with a day trip to the Black River Gorges National Park, where sights such as the iconic ‘7 Coloured Earths’, Alexandra Falls and the Chamarel Waterfall await.
Hire a taxi or up your hill-driving game as the roads here are sinuous, narrow and not for the fainthearted.
Varangue Sur Morne is a fantastic restaurant to have lunch at on your way back down from the national park. Here, you´ll find a scrumptious selection of local treats and some of the best service on the island.
For something slightly less flashy, head to Restaurant Chamarel, which is further down the slopes and offers a stunning panoramic view of the west coast from above.
If you’re into your watersports, you’ll find no shortage of them in the west and down south.
For stand-up paddle and kitesurfing, head to Yoaneye Kite Centre by Le Morne. The swell on the northerly section of Le Morne is regular and easy to paddle-surf on, but be careful not to drift too far downstream with the current, as getting back takes a while.
Kitesurfing takes place further south of Le Morne, where consistent wind makes it one of the most popular spots to fly at.
As you wander further south, the coastline becomes rugged and more poignant.
Surfers looking for a good break will want to stick to the area around Le Morne, but as an alternative consider driving down the scenic beach road to the small settlement of Bel Ombre, where KiteGlobing is located – it is worth it! This is both a surf and kitesurfing hotspot.
For thrill-seekers looking for a taste of adventure on the waves, Sea Kart Mauritius offers an epic opportunity for you to pilot your own 110 bhp speedboat (no boat licence required). This powerful craft skims the surface at speeds of up to 80 km/h and is the closest thing you will find to a jet ski (since these are banned in Mauritius).
Last, but not least in the west, get yourself out of bed early and head out to spot dolphins as they surface in the morning.
Whilst among these great creatures of the deep, try not to disturb them with loud noises and splashes as they are actually sleeping (using half their brain to stay awake and the other to snooze).
You’ll find numerous boat operators to cruise out to see the dolphins with, but for the sake of these creatures and their well-being, I recommend going out to see them on a stand-up paddle board, surf board or the like.
The 4.5-star Villasun is located some distance away from the beach in Flic en Flac, but a free shuttle service ad libitum is available to ferry you back and forth. Some meals are available on the premises, although shopping and cooking for yourself in the state-of-the-art ensuite kitchen is the way to go.