Left at the mercy of the soft, rolling Indian Ocean, the islands of the Maldives have been sculpted into one of the most beautiful tropical destinations in the world.
From the powder-covered beaches of the northern atolls to the underwater huts and fishing hamlets of the southern islands, the entire nation is scattered in turquoise waters some distance from the Indian subcontinent.
In Male, situated in the middle of an island sting, visitors will find a bustling city packed with spice-scented markets and immense mosques. Plus, most don’t linger long before Reach out to seaplanes or boats and head to the shimmering private bays of your chosen resort, where infinity pools and overwater cabanas are the norm.
More recently, new local bed and breakfasts and the discovery of the waves have begun to transform the Maldives from an ideal place for honeymoons to a destination for surfing, adventure, and hiking.
The city of Malé – the capital of the Maldives atolls – is full of scooters, cars, and Indian bazaars piled high with coconuts and spices. She has the frenetic feeling of a place crammed into a place too small for her. And that’s because it is.
Although rarely visited (most travelers bypass the town by seaplane heading directly to their resort), the town is crowded with a pint-sized islet in North Malé Atoll.
However, it manages to bring fascinating sights, like the 17th-century Friday Mosque and the gold-topped Islamic Centre, onto its streets.
Another must-have is the men’s market – just make sure you’ve mastered your haggling skills.
- Hulhumale Island
Located just across the glistening waters from the capital Male, Hulhumale Island is ever-expanding and more and more land is being claimed to house the city’s vast urban orchards.
It is also the home of Velana International Airport, which is the main gateway to these paradise islands for the most part.
However, don’t let the way it sounds put you off – Hulhumale is actually a lovely place.
It has a gorgeous – albeit man-made – beach on its eastern hip, a slew of leafy neighborhoods, a glass-roofed mosque, and landscaped promenades high above the Indian Ocean.
- Maafushi Island
Maafushi may not have the sprawling luxury resorts or luxurious 5-star hotels of most neighboring brothers, but it has plenty of charm.
Sadly ravaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the place has been busy rebuilding its salt-washed fishing piers and industrious sailors’ shacks over the past decade. Local hosts have also helped turn
Maafushi into one of the best quirky island getaways for budget travelers. welcoming on the shore.
- Utheemu Island
Situated at the northernmost point of Haa Alif Atoll, itself the northernmost of all the Maldivian island chains, the magnificent site of Utheemu holds a special place in this nation’s history of the archipelago. Indeed, it was once the home of the venerable Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu – the leader who is credited with driving the Portuguese invaders from the islands in the late 16th century.
Sure, there are the usual sparkling white sands and crashing waves of the Indian Ocean, but these are punctuated by heritage sites like the Utheemu Ganduvaru, which is the magnificent wooden-built palace where the respected leader grew up.
- Feydhoo Island
The history of Feydhoo is curious. In the 19th century, the inhabitants of the neighboring island of Gan now lived between the leafy streets and the tightly packed housing blocks (more on this later). When the British arrived before World War II, Gan became an airbase and the locals were sent to the nearby island of Seenu Atoll.
This was Feydhoo, which today is a pretty picture of Maldivian life lived. Come stroll the winding lanes and sample seafood curries with the locals – the welcome is always warm.
- Maradhoo Island
Connected to the hip of Feydhoo by a beachfront causeway just above the coral shores of Seenu Atoll, Maradhoo is an important link in the island chain that begins with Gan in the east.
Long and slender, it juts into the Indian Ocean like a finger lined with narrow seafronts and groves of coconut palms.
As in Feydhoo, the locals are laid back and charming, and the cuisine is spicy and rich in seafood.
Be sure to take a stroll down Link Road and past the cafes and sandwich vendors that meet between the palm trees.
- Veligandu Island
Romantic sunsets glow red and yellow over the rushing waters of the Indian Ocean; cocktails clink at the resort’s luxurious bar; sea kayaks float on the turquoise shore and crystal clear waves gently roll in from the inland lagoon.
The most beautiful and popular destinations for couples. Honeymoons and newlyweds are a common sight on this long, slender finger of land on the western edge of North Ari Atoll, and there are plenty of opulent beachfront villas and suites.
- Banana Reef
Many travelers heading to the islands of the Maldives will come for one thing and one thing only: diving. Checkout here more things to do in the Maldives.
And there’s hardly a better place to don scuba gear and wetsuits in the country than Banana Reef. found underwater between the islands of the North Malé Atoll. It is served by countless outfitters, who lead excursions to spot striped snappers and bulbous sponges, reef sharks, and barracudas that meet here.
- Thulusdhoo Island
It is the soul of the Caribbean. Largely overlooked, this point in the Male Atolls is surrounded by wide stretches of sand from which bulbous coconut trunks sprout. Once in a while a good seafood barbecue. All this fits perfectly with the other hobby of travelers on Thulusdhoo: surfing. Look for the fun scrolls to the left that turn into barrels near nearby Villingilimathi Huraa.
- Alimatha Island
Perched in the east of the Maldives, in the famous atoll of Felidhe, Alimatha is a large tourist island offering luxury cabanas, pristine stretches of sandy beach, and, most importantly, some of the most famous scuba diving spots around.
The resort that covers the island can often be seen packed with eager divers, all of whom come to seek out the pretty coral groves and breakwaters that ring the shores. These are packed with trevallies are known for their high visibility and popular night dive packages.