Mauritius is a fascinating, world-in-one island slice of paradise.

Its very name conjures up images of tropical luxury and stupendous extravagance. While in many destinations famed for cobalt-blue seas, white sandy beaches and luxury hotels, you may eventually find yourself wishing for something to do besides sunbathing and swimming, it's often hard to know what to do next in Mauritius.

The island is loaded with historic sights, cultural diversity, geographic variation and almost limitless activities to distract you from the daily grind of beach and pool. But perhaps its single biggest asset is the relaxed charm of its warm and welcoming people.

Off major shipping routes, Mauritius remained uninhabited until the 16th century, allowing it to develop into one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. To the north of Port Louis are the Pamplemousses Gardens. These, created at the end of the 18th century, are known to naturalists throughout the world for their large collection of indigenous and exotic plants, including the giant Victoria regia water lilies and many species of palm trees. Of particular interest is the talipot palm, which is said to flower once, after 60 years, and then die.

From the sand-rimmed lagoons to the picturesque islands off the country's coastline, there's truly something here for everyone.