The nineteenth century saw an exodus from the coastal areas to the cooler central plateau as people sought to escape natural and human disasters – from malaria and cholera epidemics to devastating cyclones. Small villages began to flourish and develop into the busy towns you see today, which now house around a third of the island’s population. The heavily populated Plaines Wilhelms district is not terribly inspiring unless you’ve got time to poke around and get under the area’s skin; the towns are mainly visited as shopping stops on island tours. Although a few speciality shops are worth a look if you’re passing through, more sophisticated and accessible shopping can be found elsewhere. Curepipe is where most locals recommend, while the bustling town of Quatre Bornes is famous for its market, one of the island’s best for clothes and handicrafts, held on a Thursday and Sunday along the main St Jean Road. Curepipe’s wealthy and elegant suburb of Floreal is where you should look for textiles and Phoenix is a popular stop to see artisans hand-blowing glass.

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