7 holiday hotspots in the Indian Ocean

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Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

The western Indian Ocean, with its idyllic islands and mainland hideaways, is an eternally alluring holiday destination. Thanks to stylish hotels, year-round warm waters, exciting activities and opportunities for spotting rare and endangered wildlife, it is generally considered to be the quintessential place to go for a little luxury.

Holiday hotspots in the Indian Ocean © Patryk Kosmider - Adobe Stock Image
Holiday hotspots in the Indian Ocean © Patryk Kosmider - Adobe Stock Image

But how do you decide where to go, especially if you've never been before? If you're looking for good value with a dose of local life thrown in then consider the likes of Sri Lanka or Goa, while pure escapism and natural beauty can be found in the Maldives and Seychelles.

To help you on your way, we've looked at seven of the major places to go on holiday that either lie on the fringes of, or bob peacefully in, the world's third-largest ocean.

Getting to the Indian Ocean: check out the latest winter sun deals on holidays to destinations across the Indian Ocean with TUI*.

1. Goa, India

The most bewitching, beguiling and beautiful beach destination in this vast country reclines out west. Goa* is unlike anywhere else in India, in no small part due to the near 500 years it spent under Portuguese rule. Cultural influences linger in the mixed Hindu and Catholic population, as do delicious culinary legacies.

Once synonymous with hippie culture, today Goa is an escape for everyone, whether you want to party in buzzing resorts in the north like Candolim and Baga or slip south for a more luxurious chill in hideaways like Arrosim and Cavelossim. Inland, evocative temples and churches lie amidst the waterfall-sprinkled jungle.

Beach in South Goa, India © Ivan Nakonechnyy - Adobe Stock Image
Beach in South Goa, India © Ivan Nakonechnyy - Adobe Stock Image

Local fishermen haul in a rich bounty, which means the seafood here is a huge draw, notably fish which is often spiced with coconut. To finish, there are those glorious Portuguese pastéis de nata custard tarts.

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2. Sri Lanka

Savvy holidaymakers are increasingly discovering the joys of this diverse island nation just off the southern tip of India. It's a much easier place to get your head around than India, however, as all the main attractions are, relatively, close together.

Sri Lanka* offers a wealth of variety as you can be chilling for a morning on a starched white beach in the southwest between popular Negombo and the historic city of Galle. Then in Galle, for example, you can wander the afternoon away exploring a slew of fortifications, temples and the famous cricket ground

Other legacies of British rule include the tea plantations that enjoy the cooler temperatures of the mountainous hinterland. There are safaris, too: Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to spot leopards.

Getting around on the old-timer rail network is a lot of fun as well; choose a route that terminates in the bustling, but not overly hectic, capital of Colombo, where a medley of sights and more great food await.

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3. The Maldives

The archipelago of the unashamedly stunning Maldives* is a place whose name, quite correctly, evokes images of beach-holiday heaven. We're talking super sleek villas hovering over crystal clear seas, swaying palms and couples strolling hand-in-hand, or cocktail-in-hand, at sunset.

Here, you don't have to feel bad about not visiting a vault of museums as the chances are there will be little more to your island than one exclusive resort.

Idyllic resort island in the Maldives © Icemanphotos - Adobe Stock Image
Idyllic resort island in the Maldives © Icemanphotos - Adobe Stock Image

Instead, take your pick of luxurious beach holiday activities be it grabbing that cocktail, slipping into the water for a swim or snorkel, indulging in a massage or tucking into a romantic dinner for two guilt-free.

The 26 island groupings (atolls) are easily accessible by seaplane or speedboat from the capital, Malé. Northerly atolls, like Lhaviyani and Raa, have more of a Robinson Crusoe vibe, while South Ari Atoll has a reputation for world-class scuba diving. Their southern siblings tend to offer the latest designer hotels.

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4. Seychelles

This is a real-life Treasure Island escape; an archipelago of 115 islands cast adrift almost 1,000 miles from the African mainland. It's easy to see why William and Kate jetted here for their honeymoon. You have those Indian Ocean white sand beaches writ large, plus a jungle-clad hinterland that evokes the likes of Thailand and Bali.

And crucially, if you want the privacy of a Royal, you don't have crowds getting in the way. Anse Lazio on Praslin Island is a 'typical' Seychelles* beach: the alluring ocean is fringed by white sand and dotted with granite boulders while parrots squawk in the jungle just behind.

The island is also home to UNESCO-listed Vallee de Mai Nature Reserve while Aldabra Atoll is home to way more wild tortoises than people. You can get active by yomping up the nation's highest peak in Morne Seychellois National Park on Mahe, the nation's biggest island.

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5. Mauritius

Lying more than 1,000 miles off the coast of Africa, this volcanic island nation* is a dead ringer for the Caribbean with its velvet cloak of rainforest, cotton-white beaches (over 180 miles of them) and marine-rich reefs. Sunseekers head for the beaches, which sweep right around the south, west and east, leaving the north a playground for windsurfers and kite surfers.

Exploring the interior of Mauritius at Eureka Falls © Danmal25 - Adobe Stock Image
Exploring the interior of Mauritius at Eureka Falls © Danmal25 - Adobe Stock Image

One of the largest unbroken reefs in the world ensures that snorkelling or scuba diving is a life-affirming pleasure. Inland the forests soar towards 800m-high mountains teeming with rare wildlife; the dodo may be extinct, but over 600 species still thrive here.

The local culture is woven of influences from Madagascar to the west as well as the days when both the French and the British held sway. One glorious legacy is the tastebud-tingling Creole cooking.

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6. Mombasa, Kenya

Mombasa is Kenya's premier beach resort. A real stunner, its swathe of sandy beachfront is backed by superb hotels and a lively, colourful and vibrant city.

You can spend the day on the sands just chilling on a sunbed on the likes of southern charmer Diani Beach (the sun is a nigh constant companion this close to the equator) or bashing around in the ocean enjoying an array of watersports.

Push beyond the sands and a proper African city emerges (Kenya's oldest and second-largest), awash with street life, backed up by historic fortresses, museums and churches.

The eclectic culture is woven with Portuguese, Omani and British influences. For a day trip to remember, head to Mombasa Marine National Park for some spectacular snorkelling.

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7. Zanzibar, Tanzania

The mere name Zanzibar* evokes romance and, thankfully, the reality of the 'Spice Island' does not disappoint.

The beaches of the main eponymous island in the archipelago are white-sand wonders, while the waters are alive with all manner of marine life, from turtles and dolphins to whales and whale sharks.

Kendwa Beach in the far north of Zanzibar © Anatoliil - Adobe Stock Image
Kendwa Beach in the far north of Zanzibar © Anatoliil - Adobe Stock Image

The capital, Stone Town, is a mix not so much of African and European influences, more African and Arabian as it has been a key trading hub with the east for millennia. The grand streets burst with all manner of shops and dining options.

Not all vessels trading here made it home, however, leaving behind world-class wrecks for expert divers. Other adventures include exploring the mangroves in the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park.

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Ready to book that much-needed escape? Check out the latest deals on holidays with TUI to bag your luxurious break for less today.

More about the Indian Ocean

  • Top deals & discounts
  • Indian Ocean weather overview
  • Indian Ocean climate averages by month
  • More destinations
  • Best time to go to Indian Ocean
  • Indian Ocean 5-day weather forecast

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Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
Posted on Wednesday 27th October 2021 in: Africa Asia Beach Indian Ocean Winter sun

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