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Far-flung holidays are back on the agenda and if you're looking for somewhere truly special to celebrate life getting back to normal, we've got just the place for you.
As the Maldives become more popular and accessible, discerning travellers in search of a more exclusive paradise will want to head west of the islands to an often-overlooked archipelago.
We're talking about the Seychelles, the group of sensational islands that has impressed royalty (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge famously honeymooned here) and where you can have the most luxurious of Indian Ocean holidays. The arrival of a new hotel in Mahé, the largest of the islands, has brought style and elegance to the south-west corner.
Mango House, a five-star hotel, only 30 minutes from the airport, sits right on an idyllic beach, as you'd expect from one of the finest hotels in the Seychelles.
What sets Mango House apart from Mahé's other five-star hotels is its stylish history, outstanding service and the familiarity of staying at a house (while experiencing some amazing luxuries, of course).
The former house of Italian photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri, who has worked with the likes of Monica Bellucci and Audrey Hepburn, Mango House is as fashionable as an Indian Ocean hotel gets. While it's no longer owned by Barbieri, there are nods to the celebrated photographer throughout: in the pictures that line the walls of Italian restaurant Muse, the original main villa and the sparkling infinity pool overlooking Anse Aux Poules Bleues.
Ideal for a romantic holiday, a trip with the family (including multi-generational holidays), or even if you're flying solo (we'd happily spend some me-time here), Mango House is reminiscent of staying with loved ones, with the added luxury, freedom and privacy you desire.
From the moment you arrive and start sipping coconut water straight from the source as you check in at the Arrivals Pavilion, to saying goodbye to the welcoming hotel staff, Mango House makes you feel like you're part of its family.
The clean lines and professional service for which Hilton is known are combined with LXR's ethos of bringing you hotels in unique locations and travel experiences that are native to a place, tradition and history.
At Mango House, you'll experience the very best of barefoot luxury, where you'll benefit from fine surroundings yet feel at ease to relax however you like, whether it's spending your days in the robes found in the rooms or eating pizza at a laidback restaurant overlooking the ocean.
The boutique hotel's connection to the Seychelles allows you to get to know the island without ever leaving its doors (if you wish). Its close relationship with respected artist Michael Adams, whose studio is just around the corner from the hotel, is seen around the hotel: the art displayed in the lobby, the bespoke face masks printed with his artwork and the gorgeous robes hanging in the bathrooms for you to wear during your stay.
The design of the hotel is in keeping with the natural rocks, greenery and turquoise waters surrounding the site, too: think dark woods, warm stone hues and pops of blue-green representing the colours of the water. You'll find leafy walkways to the rooms and villas, timber structures and coconut-palm thatched ceilings for authenticity.
When it comes to bringing together local, colonial and international design, Mango House achieves this in the most elegant way. Its style is glamorous, with a barefoot luxury approach that ensures you feel just as comfortable if you leave your high heels at home.
Whether its romance, extravagant suite life or a beachfront idyll you have in mind for your trip, Mango House's sprawling rooms don't fail to deliver. The four-poster beds with muslin drapes, local Seychellois art and rugs designed to mirror the lapping waves of the ocean set the perfect scene.
The elevated King Premium Rooms With Ocean Views are ideal for solo travellers or couples. From the king-sized beds to the balconies providing an unforgettable space to relax with a book, you can easily spend hours in your room. Mango House also has two-bedroom suites, three-bedroom houses with pools and connecting rooms to ensure everyone is catered for, whether you're on your honeymoon or checking in with the family.
Starting your day with breakfast is a must at Mango House. Its flavourful menu features classics with an Indian Ocean or Mediterranean twist, such as coconut French toast and curried eggs benedict. The petite portions ensure you don't feel guilty about ordering two, or even three, dishes with tropical seasonal fruit (from papaya to passion fruit) and mango yoghurt served before you've even looked at the menu.
The restaurants at Mango House range from Japanese to Creole, with four different places to eat. Soley is the place to go for light snacks or lunches, such as bento boxes with freshly caught tuna and edamame; Muse serves up Italian fare; and Azido is the spot for fresh sushi and superb wagyu beef.
Our favourite place to dine has to be Moutya, the Creole restaurant where you can taste local dishes, including chilli bites, palm heart salad and freshly caught fish marinated in an array of spices.
How to experience the best of Mango House
One way to really relax at the hotel is with a private painting class. Whether you're creative or just looking for a mindful activity, you're in the most spectacular place to be inspired. Mango House works with dynamic Seychellois artist Nigel Henri, who can join you for acrylic painting masterclasses - it's as therapeutic as a massage at the hotel's spa.
Exploring the surroundings is easy when your base is as beautiful as Mango House. There are paddle boards, snorkels and kayaks to take to the water. If there's two of you, we'd recommend packing a few essentials, including sun cream, and taking a kayak out to Anse Soleil, a pristine beach where you can sunbathe on powder-soft sand.
Evenings at the hotel are best spent in cool lounge bar Kokoye as you sip Martinis or ask the bar staff to mix up an unusual cocktail for you. There are cigars, and gins and rums from east to west. Kokoye also frequently has a live local band playing incredible music for guests.
Around the island
With its three swimming pools, diverse restaurant and heavenly setting, you'd be forgiven for spending your entire trip at Mango House but if you do venture outside, there are a few places to know about.
First up, the beaches... You can't come to the Seychelles without a dip in the Indian Ocean and one of our favourite spots on Mahé are Beau Vallon Beach, in the north west of the island. This sweeping strip of spotless sand is the place to go for a typically Seychellois beach experience. The water here is shallow and clear, with truly breathtaking scenery of lush mountains providing the backdrop. It's loved by locals and tourists, with many restaurants lining the sand. We'd recommend enjoying Beau Vallon with coconut water or SeyBrew beer in hand.
An excellent beach for snorkelling is Anse Royale, a picturesque stretch complete with the smooth granite rocks the Seychelles are known for. There's a little island you can swim to and the coral reef is near the shore so you can enjoy the turquoise waters without the high waves.
Shopping in the Indian Ocean is always a treat, especially if you're a fan of taking home spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, lemongrass, dried vanilla pods - you'll find them all in the capital Victoria's Sir Selwyn Selwyn-Clarke Market.
This is also an excellent spot to witness everyday life in the city (which is more of a small town) and soak up the bustling atmosphere. The brightly painted Sri Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple is another site to look out for if you spend an hour or two in Victoria. The Hindu temple was built in 1992 and while it's hard to miss, it's only a small version of the mighty temples you'll see in India.
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