Seychelles itinerary – 2 weeks island-hopping

The Seychelles may be the ultimate do-nothing island paradise, but there is plenty to do! Of course, this destination is all about beaches (the Seychellois call them anses, or bays). Think powdery white sand punctuated by surreal granite boulders bordering clear turquoise waters… But the interior has plenty to offer, too, with lush jungle and special endemic flora and fauna. The Seychelles consist of four bigger, inhabited islands and scores of smaller islets (often deserted except for luxury resorts) in the Indian Ocean, some 1000km from the African mainland. Each island has a different feel… and why choose if you can see them all with this island-hopping itinerary!

Seychelles itinerary highlights:

  • Play Robinson Crusoe on Chauve Souris Island
  • Wander among giant coco de mer palms in Praslin’s Vallée de Mai
  • Cycle to the best beaches in the world on La Digue, and meet giant tortoises along the way
  • Find your favorite anse while beach-hopping in Mahé
  • Wind down at La Belle Tortue on Silhouette Island
  • Take a scenic plane or helicopter ride between islands

With a tiny population of not even 100.000, tourism is an important source of income. Being an island nation, where almost everything has to be imported, the Seychelles are an expensive travel destination. Food especially is costly everywhere, be it in restaurants or (super)markets. If you’re going to splash out on an ultra-luxury holiday here, go to one of the exclusive private island resorts. On the main islands, it’s best to opt for (upper) mid-range. Style and decoration might not always be to your taste, but they’re great on comfort, and the beaches are the same for everyone. Private villas and apartments can be great deals, but you need to book far in advance to get the best ones.

The weather is nice and balmy all year round, although there is slightly more rain from November to March. We were there in January and hardly got any rain at all though! Seaweed washing up on some beaches can be a problem depending on the season. If you plan on spending a lot of time in one place, check with your accommodation.

Rather than a day-by-day itinerary I’ve broken up the trip by island, with a suggested number of nights, so you can see what order is most convenient for you. The owners of your accommodation can usually help with car rental (on Praslin and Mahé). Most rental companies let you pick up and drop off your car anywhere you like, be it ferry, airport or hotel.

Praslin Island: 4 nights

Take a small Air Seychelles plane to Praslin from Mahé airport. The short 20-minute flight allows for some great views. There is also a ferry service between the two islands, but I recommend flying. The boat ride only takes about an hour but you need to transfer to the ferry terminal first, people often get seasick, and the price difference is usually minimal.

Praslin may be the Seychelles’ second biggest island, it is a very laid-back place. The best way to move around the island is by car, it’s easy to drive here and roads are very scenic. There are really only two roads, one looping almost around the island, and another that cuts inland past the nature reserve of Vallée de Mai. 2-3 days are enough to explore the island, the rest you’ll want to spend relaxing at your beachfront hotel so you don’t really need a car for the whole time of your stay.

We started off with a couple of nights at fantastic Chauve Souris Relais on tiny Chauve Souris Island, a private island in front of beautiful Anse Volbert. The mini-resort is owned by an Italian packaged-holiday tour operator, I Grandi Viaggi, but if you’re lucky one of the five rooms is free to book directly. We even had the whole island for ourselves!

Staying on Chauve Souris feels like playing Robinson Crusoe. More than an island it’s a big rock covered in jungle in the middle of a gorgeous bay, with great views in all directions. Besides the name-giving bats, the island is home to lots of cute fairy terns. They raise chicks on the island, strangely not in nests but just perched on branches. The restaurant area is right on top of the rock, with pleasant breezes, and all structures incorporate the typical Seychelles granite boulders. The only downside is that you can only access the water to swim from the dock. There is good snorkeling around the island, although visibility is not always great.

The food served at the restaurant is very tasty, although the fixed menu is a little too copious and it would be nice if a lighter, less expensive choice was an option. The hotel boat can also bring you across to Anse Volbert where there are several restaurants to choose from. Cafe des Arts (at Le Duc Resort) has nice tables right on the beach and decent food, but, as anywhere in the Seychelles, expensive. Another option is St Pierre Beach Restaurant. For dessert, stroll over to Da Luca for great ice cream. Volbert beach itself is pretty and good for swimming, especially at high tide, but as there are a lot of hotels and tourist apartments you’ll never find it empty… All the nicer to return to “your” island after!

Chauve Souris is a great base from which to explore the small islands of Curieuse and St. Pierre, a short boat ride away. You can take an organized tour which usually includes a barbecue, but Curieuse is easy to explore on your own. You can ask the hotel captain, or one of the fishermen on the beach, to bring you over and pick you up again for a fee. Bring water and snacks (also for the resident tortoises which you are allowed to feed!)

Curieuse used to be a leper colony and is now a protected nature reserve. Ask to be dropped off at the ranger post in Baie Laraire where you need to pay an entry fee of 200 rupee. Plenty of giant Aldebra tortoises roam around free, and there is also a small breeding center. From here a 1,5km boardwalk trail leads through mangroves and jungle to the colonial Doctor’s House (now a small museum) and Anse José, a beautiful swimming beach. Ask to be picked up here. St. Pierre, a speck of a rock not far away, is part of a marine national park and supposedly a great snorkeling spot where you can stop for a swim on the way back. It was unfortunately infested by jellyfish when we tried.

Another short trip from Anse Volbert, by car or eventually by boat, is Anse Lazio. The most famous beach on Praslin, it is beautiful but can get crowded. And as you’ll see plenty more incredible beaches during your trip to the Seychelles, it’s not an absolute must.

Next, it is time to explore more of Praslin. You can of course stay on Chauve Souris for your entire time here, but we decided to transfer to Anse la Blague for a change of scenery. Villa Anse la Blague has an end-of-the-road feel, with a pretty if narrow stretch of quiet beach right in front. Sea turtles are known to lay their eggs here between September and March, but as this mostly happens at night you have to be very lucky (or determined) to see them. It’s a simple but friendly place, reasonably priced for the Seychelles, although I only recommend it if you have a car: it’s very isolated. Also keep in mind that the rooms are up a steep flight of stairs.

The hotel restaurant however is not great and way overpriced, even for Seychellois standards, so better have dinner elsewhere. I highly recommend Chateau de Feuilles (which is also a fabulous hotel, if you are lucky enough to find a room available during your trip) and Les Rochers. Both offer fine dining experiences in beautiful locations, they are pricey but delicious. Come early for sunset and ask for an outside table. Advance reservation are recommended, and even in high season plenty of places are closed on Sunday or even the whole weekend, so always check.

The best way to enjoy the facilities of fancy hotels without staying there is by going for lunch. One you really cannot miss is the Constance Lemuria and its attractive restaurant Nest. Lemuria is one of Praslin’s fanciest resorts, isolated on the westernmost point of the island. The setting, right between two stunning beaches, couldn’t be prettier (I wasn’t blown away by the rooms though). Petite Anse Kerlan on the right is better for swimming, while Anse Kerlan on the left is good for snorkeling. Another beach that can only be accessed from inside the resort is lovely hidden Anse Georgette, although it has become just as busy as the others. A golf cart from the hotel takes guest at regular intervals, you can easily blend in if you wait for it at the special booth near reception. Otherwise it’s a pleasant 15-minute walk through the Lemuria’s hilly golf course.

Praslin’s main inland attraction is the Unesco World Heritage Site of Vallée de Mai, a palm forest whose main claim to fame are the coco de mer that only grow here (and on Curieuse). Photos don’t do justice to the sheer size of these wonderful palms, whose leaves can measure up to 10m and whose famous fruit, the coco fesses, weighs 15-30kg!  Entry is very expensive, but it’s a magical place. Go later in the afternoon when most people have already left and the midday heat is over (be aware that the park closes at 4.30pm though). There are trails of varying length and it’s wonderful to wander around.

La Digue Island: 2-3 nights

In the morning, take the ferry from Praslin’s Baie Ste Anne to the island of La Digue, Praslin’s smaller and even more easy-going sister island. It takes about 15 minutes to get to La Passe, La Digue’s main town. There are some taxis waiting near the pier that can bring you and your luggage to your accommodation upon arrival, but the best way to get around the island is by bicycle. You can rent them everywhere. There is no airport on La Digue so the only other way to get there is by helicopter.

We stayed at a nice beachfront apartment. We thought it was independent but it turned out to be (badly) managed by Paradise Flycatcher Lodge (which I in no way recommend). Communication was complicated and reception practically non-existent, but once we were there it was a lovely place in a great location. The house looks rather ugly on the outside, but it’s comfortably furnished, with AC, and has a spacious balcony with a view over the little garden and the sea.

Your only worry here is which beach to go to. The most famous is Anse Source d’Argent. Unsurprisingly, it gets very crowded, but you really can’t miss this stunning place with its strange rock formations and fantastic jungle backdrop. It’s best to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the people who come on a day-trip to La Digue from Praslin. There is plenty of shade, although you’ll probably have to share. It’s not a good beach for swimming however, as the water is very shallow and there are lots of rocks and corals.

Anse source d’Argent is accessed through the grounds of l’Union Estate Farm, a colonial coconut and vanilla plantation, and is (officially at least) the only beach in the Seychelles you have to pay to visit. The 115 rupee entry ticket gives access to the entire estate. Besides the old plantation house, there is a giant tortoise enclosure, an atmospheric old cemetery, and some other minor sights. You’ll see them almost automatically as you cycle or walk towards the beach. The Old Pier Cafe is a nice spot for a fresh coconut or cocktail. For lunch, try Lanbousier, a paillotte just at the entrance of Anse Source d’Argent. It’s very popular (meaning: busy) and not cheap, but the creole food is tasty.

Real beach lovers should head to Grande Anse, a much larger sweep of gorgeous white sand on the southeastern side of La Digue. There are not many boulders here so this beach looks more “normal”, but it is beautifully wild. It is possible to swim here, although there are often dangerous currents and big waves. The part I liked most was the bike ride through gorgeous lush jungle to get there. There is a steep part towards the end, but it’s not too hard.

From Grande Anse a trail leads through the trees and over the rocks to Petite Anse and then further north to Anse Cocos. It’s worth going if Grande Anse is busy but they look rather similar. Again, I recommend afternoons to avoid crowds and the worst sun (there is practically no shade on the beaches on this side of the island). Make sure to bring water.

Finally, there are some beaches on the southern side of the island that are only accessible on foot. The most beautiful of these is Anse Marron, but it is very difficult to find and it is preferable to go there with a guide.

To the north of La Passe is another series of beaches that are great to cycle to. The first you’ll pass is Anse Sévère. Not the most beautiful beach according to me, but it has a nice view over Praslin. At low tide the water is very shallow, but at high tide it’s possible to swim and snorkel. The only really upscale hotel on La Digue, Le Domaine de l’Orangeraie, is located here.

Next is Anse Patates, tiny but one of my favorites. It has picture-perfect boulders and palm trees, and a sandy sea floor that is great for playing around in the waves. From here, cycle on to Chez Jules for some delicious food overlooking one of the windswept beaches on the east side of the island. There are often dangerous currents here so these beaches (in order: Anse Gaulettes, Banane, and Fourmis at the end of the road) are not good for swimming, but it’s a scenic ride. You’ll probably see giant tortoises along the way!

If you want a break from beaches, pay a visit to La Veuve Nature Reserve to try and spot the black paradise flycatcher. These endemic birds are extremely rare, it is estimated there are only a few hundred left. The reserve is strangely closed on weekends however, and as we were there exactly those days we couldn’t go. It is always possible to see the elusive bird elsewhere on the island, so keep your eyes peeled.

There are plenty of options for dinner on La Digue, but none really stand out. There are several takeaways on the island, which are definitely the only cheaper options, but they’re not that cheap so I don’t think they’re worth it. Better to opt for a fancier dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, like Le Repaire which serves decent Italian food in a romantic setting. It’s very popular so reservations are a must, ask for a nice table outside.

Mahé Island: 3 nights

Mahé is the Seychelles’ biggest island and the only one with a sizable population, mostly concentrated in the capital, Victoria. It does have plenty of stunning and nearly deserted beaches too, a lush interior, and its fair share of high-end resorts. But here, you don’t want to be stuck in one place, so rent a car and get ready for some beach-hopping!

I recommend going more low-key and independent on Mahé, staying in a self-catering villa or apartment, even if you’re not going to cook. There is a big choice on Airbnb. We stayed with a lovely local family, in their guest house at the back of their garden. It’s a steep drive, followed by a steep walk up, but you’re rewarded with sweeping views from the balcony. The apartment has kitsch decorations but is pleasant and comfortable (except for the very hard bed). It’s very good value, but you need to have a car and some willingness to move around.

Time to explore the island! Make a quick stop in Victoria to see some of the (minor) sights, including a Hindu temple and some colonial buildings, like the National Museum of History. The market is the best place to get fresh fruit and veg (you might want to get some for breakfast, as this is not an easy meal to find outside hotels). You can stop for lunch at Marie Antoinette, a casual restaurant in an old colonial house. They serve a set menu of simple creole food, it’s good quality (and quantity) for the price.

Inland and uphill from Victoria is Morne Seychellois National Park. There are several hiking trails to viewpoints, but they are all rather long and it is recommended to go with a guide. If you’re interested in hiking, check out this blog post for more info. In any case, it’s nice to drive through the park on the Sans Soucis Road. This is also a good alternative road to get to the western side of the island.

The beaches on the eastern side of Mahé are mostly by the road, they make for pretty views but they’re not great for swimming as they are generally too shallow. One stop you do have to make on this side is La Grande Maison, a gastronomic restaurant in a beautiful traditional Gran Kaz next to the Takamaka rum distillery. The setting is very atmospheric and the food absolutely delicious, probably the best restaurant in the Seychelles!

Not far from here, just off Les Canelles Road, is the Jardin du Roi spice garden. You can have a nice enough walk in this garden with botanical airs, but it is definitely overpriced. There is a pleasant café with a beautiful view.

Continuing the Coast Road to the western side of the island you’ll get to the stylish Banyan Tree Hotel on gorgeously wild Anse Intendance. Crashing waves and strong currents make it often impossible to swim, but you can play in the waves and it’s a stunning beach for a walk. Sea turtles come to lay their eggs here, although the powerful waves really make you wonder how they do it. Combined with lunch or the fabulous breakfast buffet at Banyan Tree’s lovely Jardin des Epices restaurant it’s easy to hang around for half a day.

Driving further north on the West Coast Road you’ll come across a series of pretty beaches, notably attractive Anse Takamaka, followed by beautiful Baie Lazare. If you want a more secluded spot, turn left just after the petrol station and head to one of three beaches. Anse Gouvernment is not easy to get to but there’s a good chance you’ll have this picturesque, if shallow, little lagoon all to yourself. Petite Anse is property of the Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, but is accessible to visitors. You do have to register at the hotel entrance, and they were rather unpleasant to us. Anse Soleil nearby is another lovely hidden beach, you won’t find it empty but it’s a great place to swim. Parking is very limited and you need to pass through Anse Soleil Restaurant to get there, but it is a public beach.

Drive further up the scenic Coast Road and you’ll get to Anse l’Islette and Port Launay, on both sides of the sprawling Constance Ephelia Resort. Anse l’Islette is shallow but very picturesque. Here, Bel Place Restaurant has a fantastic setting right on the beach, service is not very friendly however. Although Port Launay beach is right within the Constance Ephelia resort it is still a public beach and easily accessible from the main road. Its waters are a marine park and snorkeling here is some of the best in Mahé, but it can get busy on weekends.

The beach at the end of the road, Baie Ternay, has been closed to the public for some time. Baie Ternay Marine National Park and the islands of Conception and Therese can be visited by boat and are supposed to offer some of the best diving and snorkeling on Mahé. Excursions leave from Beau Vallon Beach, however, the tourist hotspot on Mahé which we tried to avoid. We’ll have to go back some time to test this out!

Silhouette Island: 3 nights

Transfer to Silhouette Island. You can get there either by ferry, from Bel Ombre on Mahé, or by helicopter. Considering even the ferry costs 125 euro per person for a round trip, the spectacular 20-minute helicopter ride from Mahé airport, at 640 euros per flight for up to four people, is not such an extreme luxury. You can also take a helicopter directly from Praslin or La Digue. This would cost double again, but save you a lot of time and might be worth it if you are more than two people.

Silhouette is the third-biggest island of the Seychelles, although it now has a population of only 200. Most of the island is a national park and it’s a great place for nature lovers. There are only two hotels on Silhouette: a sprawling, impersonal Hilton and the lovely La Belle Tortue… no prize for guessing where we stayed! La Belle Tortue is an understated luxury hotel with just seven rooms, simple but elegant. It sits on a beautiful little stretch of beach, usually deserted, which is great for swimming and snorkeling. Baby whitetip sharks and rays can often be seen here.

There is a 3-night minimum stay, but I couldn’t think of a better place to unwind. Delicious breakfasts and dinners are included, prepared by a talented French chef who plays with local spices and ingredients to create interesting dishes. You’ll probably end up having every meal here (the only other option being one of the Hilton restaurants), but that’s not a bad thing.

This really is an island to do absolutely nothing but laze in one of the hammocks and read a book, but Silhouette does have some great hiking trails through its jungly interior, from 30-minute strolls to full day hikes. Another good activity here is diving, you can book dives through the excellent Hilton dive shop.

 

Want to combine your beach holiday in the Seychelles with something more adventurous? How about this off-the-beaten-track safari in Northern Kenya?!

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