A Cheat Sheet to the Best Seychelles Islands

With 115 islands spread across the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles is gifted with some of the world's most idyllic beaches. However, it's so much more than a beach paradise. Distinct flora and fauna -- much of which cannot be found elsewhere -- have evolved over millennia on this remote archipelago. Seychellois culture mixes African, European, and Asian influences, and is easily accessible once off the resort property. Many of the islands lie hundreds of miles apart, meaning you’ll have to plan ahead for accommodations and transportation. To help you map our your holiday, we’ve broken down the six best islands and atolls in the Seychelles.

Praslin Island

Beach at Constance Lemuria

The Seychelles’ second-largest island, Praslin, draws visitors to its gorgeous beaches, extraordinarily unique flora and fauna, and relaxing atmosphere. The island’s premier beach, Anse Lazio, is lined with palms and massive granite boulders, creating an unforgettable setting for taking in the sunset, lazing in the azure waters, or relaxing under the trees. A bit farther west, Anse Georgette is far less expansive, but it’s the perfect spot for a secluded swim. 

Praslin’s remote location has produced exceptional biodiversity, with many species only found on the island or in the Seychelles. The coco de mer palm, which produces the world’s largest nut, grows only on Praslin and offshore Curieuse Island. The Vallée de Mai, a protected UNESCO site, is home to the majority of trees. A number of hiking trails penetrate the primeval forest, allowing for short, one-kilometer jaunts or longer treks. Consider joining the free guided tour at 9 a.m. or hiring your own guide to help spot geckos, black parrots, and many of the 50 indigenous plants on the island. Another option: Fond Ferdinand, a nature preserve with hundreds of coco de mer palms and superb wildlife-spotting opportunities. 

Our Praslin Hotel Pick: Constance Lemuria is scenically situated in a palm forest and within walking distance of several beaches, including Anse Georgette and Petite Anse Kerlan. The ocean views can be enjoyed from the three-tiered pool as well. 

La Digue Island

La Digue; Falco Ermert/Flickr

Less than four square miles, La Digue manages to pack in some of the nation’s most gorgeous beaches and coastline. Located just southeast of Praslin, the island can be reached via a 15-minute ferry ride. Boats arrive on La Digue’s west coast, where most of the island’s population resides between the neighboring villages of La Passe and La Réunion. Bicycle is the primary form of transport here, making a trip from the hotel to local fruit stands and Creole eateries a breeze. From here, head in any direction to find yourself a serene stretch of white-sand beach. On the southwest coast, Anse Source d’Argent captivates visitors with its massive, pink-hued boulders and fine sand. On the east coast, Anse Coco’s massive boulders create a sheltered pool, perfect for kids to safely enjoy the crystal-clear water. Another stunning spot, Grand Anse, grants remarkable views and powdery white sand. However, avoid the tempting azure water, as strong currents make for extremely dangerous swimming conditions. If you can manage to pull yourself away from the beach, hike up La Digue’s rocky hills and jungle to Belle Vue cafe, where you can enjoy a drink and absorb the panoramic views. 

Our La Digue Hotel Pick: Le Domaine de L’Orangeraie offers romantic and stylish villas overlooking the Indian Ocean. The ferry and plenty of beaches are just a short walk away.

Mahe Island

Beach at Banyan Tree Seychelles

The Seychelles’ largest island is home to its main airport and roughly 90 percent of the national population. That being said, there are plenty of remote corners and empty beaches that merit exploring. Mahe’s best beaches require some effort to reach. The short trail to Anse Intendance cuts through dense forest and granite boulders before emerging upon one of Mahe’s most unspoiled beaches. Meanwhile, the nearly two-kilometer trail to stunning Anse Major meanders through Morne Seychellois National Park. Beyond the beach’s beauty and solitude, the calm bay is great for offshore snorkeling.

Mahe’s interior boasts a rich array of flora and fauna, especially in Morne Seychellois National Park, which covers over 20 percent of the island. A range of hiking trails take in the lush forests and mountain scenery, including the 3,000-foot peak of Morne Seychellois, the park’s namesake. As you climb higher in altitude, keep an eye out for carnivorous pitcher plants and critically endangered jellyfish trees. 

Before departing Mahe, it’s worth lingering for a day in Victoria, the Seychelles’ capital and largest city with 25,000 people. Stroll through Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market to browse the morning’s catch, local fruits, and spices. The compact capital showcases the diversity of Seychellois culture, featuring mosques, temples, and churches. Head to the revived National Museum of History to get a dose of the archipelago’s brief, yet rich, history. 

Our Mahe Island Hotel Pick: The Banyan Tree Seychelles is ideally situated above Anse Intendance beach and encircled by swaying palm trees. The luxury property is well-suited for families, too, with a number of private and infinity pools.  

Curieuse Island

View from Curieuse Island; So Seychelles/Flickr

Located just offshore Praslin, most visitors make their way to Curieuse to visit giant tortoises and explore its often-empty beaches. Following the most recent destructive fire in 1967, the Seychellois government launched conservation and restoration projects to protect the remaining coco de mer palms and other unique biodiversity. This includes over 300 Aldabra giant tortoises that have been relocated to the island for breeding. A group is kept at the island’s ranger station, which is open to visitors, while many others are free to roam the nearly one-and-a-half-square-mile island. The island’s offshore attractions are preserved under the Curieuse Marine National Park. The shallow waters at Baie Laraie are perfect for snorkeling and spotting parrotfish and hawksbill turtles swimming among the coral. Onshore, head inland across the rugged granite island to witness the ruins of a leper colony that operated until 1965. The hike from Baie Laraie passes through mangrove forests as well, along an elevated boardwalk. 

Denis Island

To be granted access to picturesque Denis, visitors must be guests of Denis Private Island, the only accommodation option on this slice of paradise. The small island is nearly fully encircled with white-sand beaches and lined with palms and casuarina trees. Nature trails allow visitors to meander across the island, which is just over one mile at its widest point. Given its size, those visiting between July and December will likely come across many non-human inhabitants, including giant tortoises, paradise flycatchers, and sea turtles.

Aldabra Atoll

Another UNESCO site -- Aldabra Atoll -- received protective status as the world’s largest raised coral atoll. The Aldabra Atoll encompasses four coral islands surrounding an inner lagoon. The atoll is the native habitat for the Aldabra giant tortoise -- roughly 150,000 of these massive, docile creatures roam the beaches here. The atoll is also home to dugongs and a number of bird species. Due to its remote location (Mahe is 1,000 kilometers northeast) and lack of development, the Aldabra Atoll can only be visited on chartered excursions with approval from the Seychelles Islands Foundation.  

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