No visit to Mauritius should exclude a visit to the rugged and beautiful southwestern region. You can explore on your own by car, but if you go on a private tour or hire a taxi driver to show you around, you'll benefit from a local's knowledge of the region. The top sights are the Grand Bassin or Ganga Taloa, a sacred lake and pilgrimage spot for the island's Hindus. At 550 meters (1,800 feet) above sea level, this crater lake is edged by several temples dedicated to Shiva as well as little shrines and statues. Be sure to also visit the seven-colored earth at Chamarel, a geographical curiosity with sands in various shades of red, gray, brown, and purple, and the nearby Chamarel waterfall. Other notable attractions include the huge volcanic mountain Le Morne at the southwestern tip of the island, and the Black River Gorges and Alexandra Waterfall a bit inland. For another stunning view, visit the Trou aux Cerfs (Deer Crater), an extinct volcano that visitors can descend into. From the crater rim, the view to the western shore takes in the amazing mountain formations of Trois Mamelles and Mont du Rempart. Base yourself in this part of the island, either at Lux Le Morne or the Heritage Le Telfair Resort & Spa, for easier access to this stunning region. A long-standing tour operator is Mautourco (www.mautorco.com).
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