The Portuguese discovered the south-western Indian Ocean uninhabited island nation of Mauritius in 1505. Once the home of the now extinct dodo bird, it was first settled by the Dutch in 1638, changed hands several times and gained independence in 1968. As part of the Mascarene archipelago, the island's tropical natural beauty must have overwhelmed early explorers, much as it does its modern day discoverers.

A visit to the capital city of Port Louis offers the opportunity to barter in the colourful marketplace, explore museums and historical sites and rub elbows with welcoming locals. Fort Adelaide provides amazing views of the city and harbour, and Domaines Les Pailles, a 17th-century estate, features a working sugar mill replica, traditional copper rum distillery and fragrant spice garden. Hire a 4x4 to transport you to the pineapple and banana plantations of Domaine du Chasseur nature preserve. Deer, wild boar and monkeys populate the preserve's tropical forests.

View from Lion Mountain
Lion Mountain, Mauritius

This enchanting island is the perfect place for sightseeing water excursions. Cruise the coastline on a catamaran, sail aboard the historic Isla Mauritia, take an incredible undersea walk and hand feed vibrant island fish, or stay dry for a submarine safari.

The multicultural citizenry lends itself to remarkable restaurants and fabulous opportunities to shop for memoirs of your visit to this island Rudyard Kipling proclaimed "the model for heaven."

Mauritian flag Capital: Port Louis
Language: Creole, Bhojpuri, French (official)
Time: GMT +4 hrs
Currency: Mauritian rupee (MUR)