Indian Ocean: How to find the right island for your next trip is written by Jacob Gowland Jørgensen.
Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius - and many more
There are so many amazing islands in it Indian Ocean, that it can be difficult to choose.
Here are the editors' bids on the best islands to visit in the Indian Ocean, no matter how you travel.
Islands with a beautiful sea in common
You will easily be able to find beautiful pictures of perfect beaches from all the beautiful islands of the Indian Ocean. You know the kind of pictures where you get an urge to rush in and find the swimming trunks or bikini because it simply looks so gorgeous. And so it is in some cases.
Here at the editorial office, we have now visited all the most important archipelagos in the Indian Ocean, and it has struck us how different these places are. With almost everything.
cultures, the beaches, the food, service, sustainability and not least infrastructure, security, tourist volumes and price levels. It may be that they are similar to each other on the postcards, but they do so far from in reality.
Therefore, here you get a guide to the islands of the Indian Ocean, from Seychelles to Sri Lankaand Madagascar to Maldives. Then you know what to look for and go for when everyday needs travel dreams of sun, beach and unique cultures.
We also show the way to a few archipelagos that you probably do not know, and finally there is an overall assessment of which islands the editors recommend overall.
The best cultural islands
Some of the biggest differences between the island nations lie in culture. That's why we start here.
If you are also interested in the culture, is Sri Lanka an obvious choice. The beautiful island flows with UNESCO sites, which goes back several thousand years and is easily accessible. Most speak good English and are very friendly, so it is also easy to experience everyday culture up close - including the clear colonial history from the British.
You can visit temples, you can watch cricket, and you can see school children in one’s school uniforms with ties for everyone. You can also meet the fishermen and the tea pickers.
Seychelles also delivers on the culture. Not so much on the classic culture, but in a wonderful island culture where it is easy to feel at home. There is a fascinating mix of Catholic rituals mixed with voodoo from Africa and also here you can easily become a part of it if you know English or French.
The third obvious choice is Zanzibar right on the coast. Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania not an island state, but has some independence, and it is included here because the island contains a large part of the history of the Indian Ocean.
The capital Stone Town tells about the Arab slave trade, about the spice adventure, about the meeting between cultures and religions. There is something magical about getting lost in the narrow alleys of the old town and looking at beautiful wooden doors and sniffing the spices that hang in the air. It is also a place where one has to be a little more careful than otherwise.
On the other hand, one should think carefully before choosing Maldives, if one is interested in culture, because there is not much that is available to one as a traveler.
The best beaches in the Indian Ocean
All the islands in the Indian Ocean have places with absolutely amazing beaches and therefore it also requires a great deal to get on this list.
Maldives are famous for their beaches. All the islands are atolls - that is, annular coral islands - which by their nature have the finest sand around them. You can also find sand reefs in the middle of the shallow sea that surrounds the islands. In many places it is child-friendly.
There are both eminent opportunities for snorkeling and diving - often directly from the beach. However, you can not always be sure that you can swim on the beach.
On all inhabited islands there are restrictions on where you can swim - there must be a so-called 'bikini beach', and close to the capital you bathe with clothes on. However, this does not apply to the resort islands where there are no locals. There may also be plastic on the beaches.
Seychelles always has 2-3 beaches in the top 10 lists of the world's most beautiful beaches. Anse Source d'Argent and Anse Lazio are perfect beach gems where velvety sand meets palm trees and the iconic cliffs.
There are at least 20 of these amazing beaches all around on the three main islands, all of which are rocky islands. In addition, there are a few resort islands in the surrounding coral sea.
Perhaps the most beautiful of them all is the beach Anse St. Jose on the Curieuse in the Curieuse Marine National Park near Praslin. In addition to nature's party fireworks on the beach, giant turtles wander around in the middle of it all. Praslin is probably the most beautiful of the three large islands, partly because it has a national park in the middle of it all.
In the Seychelles, there are sensible opportunities for snorkeling and diving on the rocky islands and really good opportunities on the few coral islands.
On the other hand, there are also beaches where you can not swim due to rocks, waves and so on. At cozy La Digue, for example, there are a number of beaches that can not be bathed from because there is a strong undercurrent part of the year.
The Andamans and the Nicobars is closer Thailand end India , to which they belong. If one is looking for beautiful beaches without too many people, there are a streak of beaches in the Andamans that can make any beach enthusiast soft on the heart. Elephant Beach on Havelock Island, for example, is famous for its beauty.
On the other hand, you can only visit some of the islands in the Andamans - and none in the Nicobar Islands - and it takes some will to get all the way out there.
Reunion on the other hand is not the most obvious choice for a beach holiday, as there are only a few good beaches and there are shark problems…
The best nature islands in the Indian Ocean
One thing is beaches, something else is the whole nature experience. Here we do not get around one of the most amazing natural lands in the world, namely Madagascar.
Madagascar has everything the heart can desire from nature experiences - and then a little on top. If you are just the slightest bit curious about rare animals and wild landscapes, Madagascar is an obvious choice. You just have to spend some time on it, because it's a big island.
Reunion has the wildest landscapes you can find in the entire region, including one of the world's most active volcanoes called La Fournaise, 'The Furnace'. The small island is therefore paradise for anyone who loves to trek or just enjoys getting out and feeling nature.
On Sri Lanka nature is always close, even though there are many people living on the island, which is only half the size of Denmark. There is a strip of beautiful national parks where you can experience a wealth of animals from elephants to leopards. There are the most beautiful mountain formations and beautiful beaches everywhere. Sri Lanka is an obvious choice for the nature lover.
If you're into giant crabs, it is Australian ø Christmas Island in return a sure hit.
The best food and drink
Reunion is part of France, and it tends to guarantee good food, and it does here too. The combination of the French food traditions with everything a tropical island can deliver like full-fat vanilla sticks, fresh swordfish and pineapple is really delicious.
Try Arranged rum, which is the local form of spice schnapps, just with rum and various spices and plants. It is not uncommon for 15-20 different people to be put on the table when it comes to tasting, so keep a hat and glasses on, because there are percentages in it.
When traveling around the mainland in Tanzania, it's like a dream come true Zanzibar. Already when you get off the ferry or plane, you can sense it: There are spices in the air. Carnations, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, curry leaves and everything else fragrant.
The spices go again in the food on the spice island, so grilled fish with rice pilaf a la Zanzibar is heavenly, and then you can go for a walk in the spice plantations afterwards.
The food on Sri Lanka may not be as varied as one might otherwise find in the region, but in return it is fresh and delicious. There are curries, noodles, tuna and lots of coconut and fresh fruit on the menu, and there is a fine level of hygiene that allows you to eat from foodtrucks and cafes.
The best infrastructure and security on the islands
In general, the islands are more than usual safe, and in a world where it is not standard, it is always nice. The level of security is closely linked to developments in the country and therefore also to infrastructure.
Reunion have a road system that is better than most in Europe, and is quite obvious for one road trip. There is also a reasonably sensible bus system if you do not want to rent a car. Reunion is experienced as a very safe island.
Mauritius is a fairly developed society with sensible roads and a simple bus system. The capital is a bit chaotic, but otherwise Mauritius is experienced as a very safe place.
Seychelles has good roads and also modern ferry connections between the three major islands. The locals love rum punch, but even in places where the street is busy, the Seychelles is experienced as a safe place where everyone knows everyone.
Maldives, Zanzibar og Comoros have all unstable governments and social institutions that make it easy to visit them, but you just have to check the situation before departure. Madagascar has a somewhat challenging infrastructure that makes it take time and effort to get around.
The islands of the Indian Ocean with the friendliest people
There are many friendly, generous and interesting people living on our planet, and fortunately there are also many of them on the islands of the Indian Ocean. Here are a few of the favorites among many obvious places.
On Mauritius we have met some of the friendliest people imaginable, in hotels and in restaurants. A professional kindness that can almost be called a perfect host. It's harder to get in touch with the locals, but if you try, you'll get a smile back.
Sri Lanka is primarily a Buddhist island, and the helpfulness and earthiness that lies in the traditions here is nothing short of amazing. Most people know English, so it is super easy to communicate with the locals who will easily help you.
Seychelles has just under 100.000 residents and that makes everyone know everyone. It gives such an island vibe in the best way where there is plenty of kindness and profit. Creole culture has warmth, hospitality and even humor, and therefore it is not only nature that attracts so many to the islands - it is also the smiling people.
The best islands in the Indian Ocean for sustainability
To travel responsibly and sustainably has become more important to many people and it is fortunately an area in strong development.
An obvious first choice is Seychelles. The state has created huge national parks here havet and a green fund. The hotels proudly display their initiatives, which range from solar cells and no plastic to coral reef restoration and local projects.
There is a huge pride in the population over the nature one has, and that makes there a sincere desire to take care of it. There is also a youth movement that is clearly pushing the government and the hotels to keep evolving.
Sri Lankan culture is very much about taking care of people and nature. It is easier to find vegetarian food than food with meat, and there is a flourishing tradition of organic foods and spices. The island has not come this far in terms of sustainable transport, but is far in many ways in terms of the limited economic resources.
Some of the inhabited islands on Maldives takes the task seriously, eg the inhabited island of Bodufolhudhoo, where plastic bags have been banned and the beaches are looked after. By the way, Bodufolhudhoo is a good experience in contrast to the less pleasant neighboring island Rashdoo.
But it is far from all the islands in the Maldives that take responsibility. Nor are all the major resorts that are 100% dependent on imported goods in a country that even has a very hard time dealing with waste.
The first time you experience a local throwing plastic bottles directly in havet, you are quite surprised until you realize that unfortunately it happens regularly. So take care here.
The cheapest islands in the Indian Ocean
There is a really big difference in the price level in the different places. Here are the top three islands if you do not have the world's largest budget for food, accommodation and transport:
Sri Lanka is what we usually call 'Thailand-cheap'. Food and ordinary transport are so cheap when you bring Danish kroner that it is not something you need to think so much about. However, hotels are available in all price ranges, and entrances are often unnecessarily high.
The Andamans is so far enough away from the tourist stream that you can travel really cheap around down here. It also means that the infrastructure is not always perfect, but it is cheap.
The big island Madagascar has a lot of hotels and restaurants where you really get value for your money. Beautiful boutique hotels by a national park cost less than a hostel in Denmark, and restaurant prices are often so low that you think of places like Thailand.
Reunion, Seychelles og Maldives often have northern European prices, and Mauritius is not that far from. However, you can easily visit those countries on a smaller budget, but then it just requires planning, and that you use public transport, for example, book guest houses and cheap apartments or travel out of season.
The islands with the fewest other travelers
If you like to get a little away from where everyone else is going, there are several great options.
The paint addicts are Maldives northern cousin. They are also called Lakshadweep, and if you are in doubt about how unknown they are, you can try google “Lakkadiverne” where you will probably see results for the Maldives instead…
The islands belong India and has previously been closed land, but no more. The Coral Islands are located next to one of the most obvious places to visit in India, namely Kerala and you can sail or fly out here. It's fairly simple, but there are both hotels and other goodies for visitors.
Comoros are almost as unknown as the Lakkadivers. It is a small archipelago located close to Africa and here you can also find beautiful beaches and friendly locals.
It is not a classic tourist destination and the guide is not the most stable, but if you are into adventure, you can easily consider it. The same goes for the neighboring island of Mayotte, who tuned himself into France in 2014, although the island does not have the same European culture as at all Reunion.
The Andamans is so isolated that not many people find their way here. You have to go via India and so on from there out to the small islands. It is a beautiful place where there is plenty of space and lots of experiences to pick up.
Mauritius also has a fairly unknown island, Rodrigues, 600 km to the east in the middle of nowhere. Although there are a strip of hotels here, it is mostly local travelers from the nearby islands who come here.
Mozambique also has a strip of fairly unknown islands, the most obvious being the archipelago of Quirimbas with Ibo, Medjumbe and Vamizi and also the Bazaruto Islands.
Far out at the eastern end of the Indian Ocean has Australia also a few islands, namely the Christmas island 'Christmas Island' and the Cocos islands 'Cocos Keeling Islands', and here also come quite a few visitors.
The capital Malé in the Maldives now surprises most people, because few have expected a mini-Hong Kong in the middle of a coral island, and here you only have to spend the night if you really need it in connection with your flight. But if you go out to the islands that are further away, there are quite a few visitors.
The main island of Mauritius itself is also quite densely packed especially along the coasts. There are also relatively many people at Reunion, although it now does not seem crowded due to the much nature.
The best islands in the Indian Ocean overall
All the islands have a lot to offer. Ultimately, it's up to you what you focus on and what you have the budget and opportunity for. That said, there are some of the islands that we overall have an easier time recommending to new travelers looking for the classic delights of the Indian Ocean. These are the three:
Mauritius is fine for a week's beach holiday, but then there is not much more to experience either. On the other hand, Mauritius can easily be combined with the neighboring island of Reunion, and then you have a perfect combination. If you are into more adventure, is Madagascar a really good bid.
Good trip to a great place on the world map. Good trip to the Indian Ocean.