Winter sun is calling and if you're in search of paradise beaches, wild adventures and friendly locals, you'll want to head for the Indian Ocean to experience an exotic escape like no other in Mauritius and Reunion Island.
Luxury long-haul specialist Hayes & Jarvis has introduced twin-centre holidays to the islands and while no-one needs convincing to visit the picture-postcard isles, we've picked 17 reasons why you'll want to explore Mauritius and Reunion Island right now...
1. The romance. A classic honeymoon and romantic holiday destination, Mauritius offers a wealth of beaches, spas and gourmet restaurants to enjoy with your loved one. As more and more couples seek adventure on holiday, Reunion is ideal for combining the best of hiking, exciting activities and dramatic landcsapes with your dream beach holiday.
2. Mauritius is the most peaceful country in Africa. It has not had a standing army since 1968 and the island is not involved in any domestic or international conflicts, making it a top location to escape for a stress-free holiday.
3. The humpback whales. From Reunion Island, you can spot some of the mightiest of marine mammals including sperm, fin and humpback whales. The impressive humpbacks arrive during the Southern Hemisphere winter, which takes place from June to October. At this time, they come to bask in the heat of the Indian Ocean after a long journey from Antarctica.
4. The sunsets. Nothing beats watching the sunset on holiday and at LUX* Saint Gilles in Reunion, this beautiful time of day attracts guests to the beach where you can soak up the romance and witness the sky changing colour in a heavenly setting.
5. There is no shortage of thrills. When it comes to adventure, these islands have it all. Reunion might be famous for its incredible scenery adored by active travellers, but even Mauritius will surprise you with its extraordinary adventures. Head for sprawling nature reserve Domaine de l'Etoile where you can witness wild flora as you whizz through the forests 3,500 metres high on a breathtaking zip line. There are seven wires, with the longest being 800 metres long and offering an exhilarating day out for nature lovers.
6. The friendly locals. You'll fall in love with the genuine smiles and hospitality of Mauritians who love making visitors feel welcome on their island. From the markets to the public beaches and even the nightclubs, there are many places where you can meet the wonderful locals.
7. You don't need a visa. Whether you're travelling straight into Mauritius or starting your trip in Reunion, you don't have to worry about visas. Visiting Reunion is the same as landing in France, while on arrival in Mauritius your passport will be stamped, giving you 60 days in the country.
8. The volcanoes. One of the world's most active volcanoes is found in Reunion and the site of Piton de la Fournaise offers incredible hikes, horse riding and cycling. You can visit its fascinating lava tunnels on the coast and be blown away by the magnificent beauty of its otherworldly landscape. Don't miss the lunar-like lava flows of Grand Brulé - they're a must-see.
9. The luxury hotels. The hotels and resorts in Mauritius are second to none for service, spa heaven and glorious settings. Check into the five-star LUX* Belle Mare on the east coast to experiences sink-your-toes-straight-in white, powdery sand, top-notch restaurants and a wealth of unique activities. In Reunion, look no further than LUX* Saint Gilles, home to the largest swimming pool on the island, Creole-style villas and the finest beach around.
10. The views. There's no better way to witness the dramatic scenery of Reunion than with a helicopter ride. Corail Helicopteres offers breathtaking tours from Saint Gilles, taking in Reunion's three cirques, the waterfalls and volcanoes. You'll get up close to peaks, tumbling waterfalls and have an amazing view over the stunning coastline.
11. Sega dancing is a must-see. The colourful and energetic music of Mauritius was introduced by African slaves during the French colonial period and uses the instruments of the ravane, maravane and triangle in a continuous rhythm, while the dancers use their arms and hips in racy moves. At LUX* Belle Mare, you can watch a weekly sega performance outside the Mari Kontan bar.
12. The religious diversity. Both Mauritius and Reunion have people of several religions coexisting peacefully. Hinduism is the largest religion of Mauritius, followed by Catholicism, Islam and Buddhism. In Reunion, the main religions are Catholicism, Hinduism and Islam. You'll find temples, churches and mosques in most towns across both islands.
13. They're perfect for a twin-centre holiday. It takes just 40 minutes to fly between Mauritius and Reunion.
14. The beaches. Mauritius is world-renowned for its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Head to the north for one of the most picturesque stretches, Trou aux Biches, while gorgeous Blue Bay in the south is another marvellous spot for swimming and snorkelling.
15. The food. With their cultural diversity, Mauritius and Reunion offer terrific treats for gourmands to explore. In Mauritius, you must take a tour of the delicious street food in the capital Port Louis, where you can taste the influences of Indian, Chinese and African cuisine. Pickled tropical fruits (confit), dhal puri and ghajak are some of the specialities you must try.
16. The markets. Reunion has some wonderful markets that give visitors a real taste of the flavours, fragrances and colours of the island. Pick up Madagascan baskets or Bourbon vanilla in the markets of Saint Denis or Saint-Pierre, while browsing the many exotic fruits and vegetables on offer.
17. The weirdly wonderful. The natural attractions on Reunion are as dramatic as you'd expect from this wild isle and one of the quirkiest places to visit is Le Souffleur, a blowhole in Saint-Leu where the swell of the Indian Ocean and the rocky coast produce a massive jet spray in a breathtaking natural phenomenon. Get there early in the morning to beat the crowds.
Book it:Hayes & Jarvis (01293 762 456) offers a ten-night twin-centre holiday to Reunion Island and Mauritius from £1,749 per person - a saving of up to £279 per person. The offer includes five nights at LUX* Saint Gilles, followed by five nights at LUX* Belle Mare, both on a B&B basis, along with return international flights from London Heathrow (based on 3 June 2018 departures).
Best beach holiday destinations for 2018
Best beach holiday destinations for 2018
If you're planning to head to the beach for your 2018 holiday, you'll want to know the best places to go for sun, sea and sand. We've picked the top beach destinations to visit in 2018, from the ones with the hottest new flight routes to the locations with the most exciting hotel openings.
Whether you're looking to stay in the UK, fly to the Med or travel to somewhere more exotic, you'll want to browse our 2018 beach holiday hit list...
One of the world's most desirable holiday destinations will be more accessible to British travellers when British Airways launches the only direct flights from the UK to the Seychelles in March 2018. Popular among honeymooners and luxury sun-seekers, the Seychelles offer some of the best beaches on the planet, lush mountain peaks and colourful coral reefs to explore. Book it: British Airways' twice-weekly flights from Heathrow to Mahé start from £699 return.
Aqaba, Jordan's resort city by the Red Sea, is undergoing a major tourism development, which will be completed in early 2018. Visitors will be able to experience a number of beach clubs, a new-look marina and dive a Hercules bomber sunk in late 2017, plus visit a new shopping mall and many restaurants. Five-star hotel Al Manara Saraya Aqaba – part of Starwood's Luxury Collection – and four-star Marina Plaza Hotel by Swiss-Belhotel are set to open before the end of 2018 and Hyatt is planning to open a hotel too. Book it: BA Holidays offers four-night holidays at five-star hotels from £681 per person, including flights and transfers.
A slightly poorer cousin of the glitzy Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini, Corfu is set to receive a luxurious makeover in 2018 when two new glamorous hotels open. The first, Ikos Dassia, will open in May and offer dazzling views across the turquoise sea, sophisticated dining and elegant suites. New adults-only hotel MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas opens its doors in May, bringing upscale romance, private villas and exceptional dining to the south-east corner of Corfu. Comedy series The Durrells will also return to screens for a third series, making the Mediterranean isle one of the hottest TV locations for a holiday in 2018. Book it: Sovereign offers seven-night all-inclusive holidays to Corfu, staying at the five-star Ikos Dassia, from £1,070 per person, including flights, transfers and airport lounge access.
The wind of change blows on the so-called 'Nature Island' of the Caribbean and visiting 'alternative' Dominica sooner rather than later will offer a more authentic beach experience. The first large-scale chain hotels, Cabrits Resort Kempinski and Tranquility Beach Resort Dominica (part of the Curio Collection by Hilton), are scheduled to debut in 2018, with construction starting on a third luxury development, the Silver Beach Resort & Spa. 2018 will also see the arrival of the first phase of the 'new' Jungle Bay Resort, destroyed by tropical storm Erika. It will relocate to a new site that will allow it to more than quadruple in size and go more upmarket. Book it: World Expeditions offers a 12-day Trek the Waitukubuli National Trail holiday from £2,490 per person.
Summer 2018 will see holidaymakers lust over Vis, when the remote and sleepy Croatian island takes a starring role as Greece in new Mamma Mia sequel, Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again. The original cast, which includes Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Colin Firth, will reunite to continue their story. Vis is reached by catamaran from Split in under 90 minutes and offers a small island community feel, pretty fishing villages, coastal caves and smooth pebble beaches. Book it: Prestige Holidays offers seven-night escapes to the island, staying at the ten-room Hotel San Giorgio, with flights, ferry and transfers included, from £769 per person.
The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018, when the LifeCycles and Landscapes project will place large-scale outdoor artistic and heritage works on sites along the ancient 400-mile Icknield Way from Dorset to the Norfolk Coast AONB, culminating with events at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival (11 to 27 May). 2018 will also see the third tranche of coastal access in Norfolk being opened within the Norfolk Coast AONB, from Weybourne to Hunstanton, making most of Norfolk’s coast accessible on foot. Book it: The Globe Inn at Wells-Next-the-Sea is a seven-room boutique hotel with rooms starting from £120 per night.
Known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, Barbados promises authentic flavour and spice. 2018 will celebrate the culinary finesse of the island, with a great focus on quirky and wonderful food experiences like no other as new direct flight routes from Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook, plus new hotels, launch. Socialise with the locals on a Friday night or fish your own lobster and cook it up on a BBQ on the beach that evening. Visitors to Barbados can enjoy the best of Caribbean cuisine and rum, Bajan culture and festivals, along with dramatic stretches of crystal clear waters that frame coastlines of pristine sand. Book it: Virgin Atlantic's new service from London to Barbados launches in December 2017 and operates until April 2018, with fares from £1,213 per return.
The largest of the Canary Islands and a classic winter sun destination for UK travellers, Tenerife will become even more accessible in 2018 when British Airways launches its first direct route from Heathrow for winter 2017/18. The island will also host the launch of the respected Michelin Guide to Spain and Portugal in November and for families visiting Tenerife, animal paradise Loro Parque was recently awarded the best zoological park in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2017 Travellers’ Choice Awards. Book it: British Airways' new flights from Heathrow to Tenerife start at £98 return.
Australia’s playground for entertainment and adventure steps into the international spotlight for 2018 as teh Gold Coast hosts the Commonwealth Games. One of the host city's most exciting projects for the occasion is the Gold Coast Cultural precinct, catering for festivals, cinemas, concerts and events. Providing revellers a backdrop of surf, sand and sun, the Gold Coast is an up-and-coming hotspot for travellers with quirky bars and stylish restaurants popping up along the coastline. Book it: Austravel offers ten-night holidays to Queensland from £1,589 per person, including four-star accommodation, car hire and flights.
2018 marks 50 years since Mauritius proclaimed independence from the UK. The island's celebrations are set to include ceremonies, live music and performances on the national day, 12th March. As part of wider celebrations throughout the year, you can explore all four corners of the island - from the bustling and vibrant city of Port Louis in the north to the Chamarel Seven Coloured Earths and beautiful site of Le Morne Brabant in the south. The cultural and historical sites will really come to life during these celebrations and visitors will be able to see what a melting pot of cultures Mauritius really is. Book it: Hayes & Jarvis offers seven-night holidays to Mauritius from £1,318 per person, staying at the LUX* Belle Mare with airport transfers and return flights.