From the colour-popping atolls in the Maldives to the luxury hillside hideaways of the Seychelles; the spectacular natural paradise of Mauritius to Sri Lanka’s cultural treasures and La Reunion’s exciting outdoor adventures, the Indian Ocean is home to some of the most beautiful and iconic islands in the world. Spanning countries and continents, this is where you’ll find an incredible mix of natural beauty, awash with powdery white sands, vibrant blue waters, Jurassic-like interiors and some of the most stunning coral reefs on the planet. There are thousands of islands in the Indian Ocean, each as distinct and unique as the next; we love combining a couple of days of adventure with an away-from-it-all beach break. We’ve chosen our favourite Indian Ocean islands to help you decide on the right one for you.
It may be Asia’s smallest country but this far-flung paradise of more than 1000 coral islands is the ultimate Indian Ocean escape. It’s luxurious and exotic, where hypnotic white sands disappear into aquamarine waters and each picture-perfect island is home to just one single resort. Deliciously warm weather combines with incredible coral reefs, and beautiful ocean sunsets compliment the stylish overwater villas, the glamorous icons of the Maldives islands. A made-for honeymoon destination, this dreamy archipelago is a romantic haven, home to some of the best diving, dining and spa experiences in the world. But it’s the resorts here that really make the islands stand out. From Robinson Crusoe-style retreats to the innovative and ultra-luxurious, this is where cutting-edge design really comes into play. You could have dinner on a deck isolated in the middle of a lagoon at Baros, or shake things up with a stay on quirky Finolhu, a retro fun and playful spin on the traditional Maldivian-luxe rules. Find rustic-chic luxury at Constance Moofushi, a high-end island with a castaway natural beauty, or head to Kuramathi, one of the Maldives’ most popular resorts thanks to its vast range of restaurants and incredible choice of facilities.
Mark Twain once called Mauritius ‘heaven’, and it’s not hard to work out why. A pint-sized Garden of Eden in the southern Indian Ocean, Mauritius is nature at its best. Surrounded by the third largest coral reef in the world, this exotic island comes alive with its beaches and waterfalls, national parks and centuries-old sugar-cane plantations. Where dreamy white sand coastlines combine with a dramatic mountain interior, it’s an Indian Ocean island paradise made for discovery and exploration. Wander around colonial old towns and hike to a sacred lake in the crater of an extinct volcano in the same day as enjoying a spot of world-class golfing and soaking up the sun on untouched white sands. A beach lover’s haven where flour-soft sands melt into sapphire waters, it’s home to some of the finest hotels and beachside spa retreats in the world. It’s also an island as popular with families as it is for honeymoons. On the tranquil west coast, the Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa is an indulgent all-pool villa escape, while on the south-west coast, the St Regis Resort sits in front of an incredible backdrop of La Morne Brabant mountain. For couples wanting a secluded hideaway exclusively for adults, Paradise Cove on the island’s north coast is complete honeymoon territory. And for family fun, the stylish Heritage Awali Golf & Spa Resort on the south coast has exceptional facilities and a fantastic all-inclusive package.
Few places on earth can rival the Seychelles for its rustic natural beauty. Northeast of Madagascar, this extraordinary archipelago is an unspoilt paradise where powdery white sands and spectacular coral reefs give way to verdant hillsides dotted with plantations and misty forests home to some of the rarest birdlife on the planet. Here, protected nature reserves and UNESCO World Heritage sites sit side by side with ultra-luxurious hotels and some of the most photographed beaches in the world. Made up of 115 granite and coral islands, each one impresses with its own natural charm. Mahé is the busiest and most developed of the islands, home to the Seychelles’ capital Victoria and the stunning Morne Seychellois National Park. Praslin is the second largest island, an exotic Eden paradise that delights with the World Heritage-listed Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve. La Digue is the Seychelles’ undeveloped treasure, where you can find slow-paced island living and back-to-nature vibes. Gorgeous white sand bays here are sheltered behind towering granite boulders, and cars are replaced with bicycles and traditional oxcarts. Find castaway beaches and dramatic landscapes on Silhouette Island, a wildlife-lover’s haven with an astounding biological diversity.
From island-hopping adventures to castaway desert island escapes, there’s no doubting the romance and levels of luxury on the Seychelles islands. And wherever you go in this honeymoon paradise, we guarantee that indulgence is never hard to find. Stay at an all-villa paradise in a national marine park on Silhouette or discover the secluded hillside villas and suites at the Four Seasons Resort in Mahé. You can also pamper yourself in one of the finest spa destinations in the Indian Ocean – the U Spa at Constance Ephélia is a super-luxe highlight where you can find a hydrotherapy pool, reflexology walkway and calming yoga pavilion.
Of all the Indian Ocean islands, Sri Lanka is our favourite all-rounder. Just south of India, this exotic emerald isle stimulates all the senses with its beautiful beaches, legendary temples, ancient cities and one of the top biodiversities in the world. It’s an island rich in history and nature, where national parks teem with life and an extraordinary cultural triangle lies at its heart. Discover the ancient capital city of Sigiriya and see one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world – the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. From the lowland jungle forests to the emerald interior of the Hill Country, Sri Lanka’s natural beauty is undeniably alluring. Escape the busy cities and take a train ride through the rolling tea country, travelling through mist-covered paddy fields and spotting wild elephants roaming free in the dense rainforests. The island’s coastlines are also pretty spectacular. Choose the caramel-coloured shores of the south west’s livelier resorts like Bentota or Negombo, or head to the quieter east coast towns of Trincomalee and Passikudah for a drier climate and palm-fringed shores that dazzle with untouched white sand.
A tiny French outpost found east of Madagascar, La Réunion is a little-known adventurer’s paradise in the Indian Ocean. Mountainous and dramatic, this is an island defined by its natural diversity and beauty. From the dense jungle forests and dramatic lunar landscapes to the gushing waterfalls, sugar-cane fields and one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the pre-historic beauty here is astounding. Known as ‘L’Ile Intense’, there’s so much potential for outdoor exploration. From the surfing, hiking and white-water rafting on the Marsouins River, to the mountain biking, climbing and canyoning in Trou Blanc, this Indian Ocean island is an adventure-enthusiast’s dream. But while it’s very much an activity-led destination, there’s still a refined luxury culture that’s ideal if you’re also after a relaxing break. While away hours on the golden sands of St-Gilles-les-Bains and spend time perusing the pretty Creole houses and markets in Cilaos. After a long day of sightseeing, Blue Margouillat is one of our favourite places to unwind. A gorgeous white-walled retreat overlooking the bay of Saint-Leu, the Creole-styled influence is chic and sophisticated, and the central pool has a stunning sea view. For indulgence and a little luxury, the most extravagant resort on the island is the LUX* Saint Gilles. A contemporary retreat set beside a coral-sheltered natural lagoon, it’s the only resort that allows guests direct access to the beautiful L’Hermitage Beach, and it’s also one of the best spots on the island for whale watching.