Serene beaches, tropical rainforests and dollops of history make this archipelago in the Indian ocean a tourist paradise

This archipelago of 115 islands, which make up the smallest country in Africa, has always been on my bucket list, but the picture-perfect beaches and the clear blue waters were not the only reasons. Seychelles has a past connection with Cyprus, my home country.

Landing Seychelles International Airport was one of the most beautiful landings I have experienced; the small airport is a unique experience in itself, resembling a lineup of food stalls instead of check-in counters.

In the car, as we began our ascent on the mountains, my view was dominated by green and red colours. Countless tall, green trees in a forest like landscape surrounded us throughout the drive. And numerous red uniform clad school kids on the pedestrian paths, walking side by side, giggling and sharing stories as they headed home.

The local cuisine is a blend of French, Chinese, Indian and African, comprising mostly of fish, seafood and shellfish dishes, either steamed, grilled, baked, cooked in banana leaves or smoked. Rice and curries are an essential part of the cuisine, Octopus curry is a famous dish to sample and, for the more adventurous eaters, there's bat curry. Shark chutney is a favourite amongst the locals, and additional food staples included coconut, breadfruit (its chips make for a typical and delicious snack), jackfruit, mango and kordonnyen fish.

In Mahe, visit Morne Seychellois National Park, the largest of its kind in Seychelles, where the mountains rise to 900 metres and is the best choice for hikers and nature lovers, or for those who merely wish to do more than just spend the day at the beach. Look out for the endangered jellyfish tree and the carnivorous pitcher plant.

Visit the ruins of Venn's Town, a settlement established in 1875, where a boarding school was built for slave children who were left on the island after the abolition of slavery. The Mission Lodge offers panoramic coastal, mountain and forest views, a famous vantage point in all of Seychelles, where Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed a cup of tea at the pavilion in 1972. Le Jardin Du Roi Spice Garden and Restaurant is an excellent option for tasting Creole food, and a pleasant place to find out more about Seychelles' history in the spice industry.

If you opt for a more relaxing time in Seychelles, take your pick from the many beaches that Mahe has to offer; Anse Intendance on the south coast is considered to be the most beautiful.

Victoria, the capital city, was named after Queen of England, in 1841. Filled with colonial architecture, small and clean streets, the capital gives out a strong sense of the past, Victoria is a laidback place despite there being more than a handful of attractions to see here.

Next to the Natural History Museum, look out for the Clock Tower, modeled after Little Ben in central London. The National Cultural Centre, a majestic structure in central Victoria, and Kenwyn House, a historic house, now a store, and a great example of colonial architecture, and two buildings worth noticing. Around town, you can find souvenir stalls, and a visit to the Victoria market should be on your list.

For traditional Seychellois cuisine, visit Marie Antoinette, a restaurant that is considered a national monument, as the original building is over 100 years old. Hop to Praslin, the second largest island and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Vallee de Mai.

La Digue island has some of the most secluded beaches in Seychelles; so if peace, quiet and privacy are what you are after, this is the place for you. Bicycles are the common mode of transport as cars are not allowed here. Orchids and vanilla vines adorn its forests. Trek up to the Nid d'Aigle (Eagle's Nest), the highest point on the island (333m), for spectacular views.

On the west coast, formed approximately 750 million years ago, the colossal Granite boulder attracts many visitors. Previously a coconut plantation, the Union Estate is worth a short stop as you make your way to Anse Source d'Argent, one of the most pristine beaches in the country and often quoted as "the most photographed beach in the world". For a traditional Creole meal, the Fish Trap is a great choice.

At Curieuse island, explore the ruins of a former leper colony, its mangrove forest, and if you are lucky, you will spot some giant hump head parrotfish, giant tortoises lazing about and turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs. Anse Jose, the Doctor's House, now a museum, is a fine example of Creole colonial architecture. Silhouette Island has one of the most pristine forests in all of Seychelles. Legends about the island claim that a corsair by the name of Jean Hodul had buried his treasure there. If time permits, visit the Aldabra Atoll, the world's largest coral atoll, and a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Source: Christina Voskou for WKND Mag