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Left to the mercy of the soft and lapping Indian Ocean, the islands of the Maldives have been sculpted and formed into unquestionably one of the most quintessentially beautiful tropical places on the globe.
Ranging from the powdered beaches of the northern atolls to the earthy sea shacks and fishing hamlets of the southern isles, the whole nation can be found strewn across the turquoise waters some way from the Indian subcontinent.
Most visitors will land in the throbbing, pulsing city of Male, packed onto its own pinprick of an isle and boasting spice-scented markets and great mosques.
Most also don’t linger long before they hit the seaplanes or boats and make for the shimmering private bays of their chosen resort, where infinity pools and over-water cabanas are the norm.
More recently, new local guesthouses and the discovery of rolling waves have begun transforming the Maldives from honeymoon hotspot to surfing, adventure and backpacking destination, paradise is now open to all, it seems.
A daytrip or overnight stay in Male, the compact, island capital of the Maldives, gives you the chance to meet Maldivians on their home turf, as opposed to meeting mostly non-Maldivian staff on resort islands. With an area of less than six square kilometres and a population of about 150,000 citizens, Male is one of the world’s smallest national capitals. You can stroll around it in a relaxed couple of hours, see the sights and then enjoy a cool drink (it’s always sweaty-hot) followed by a sea-view lunch.
The town is built on a grid pattern (you can’t get lost) and its narrow streets host a mix of shops, new and old apartment blocks, office buildings and motorcycle jams. Visitors should dress casual-conservatively. (Maldivian women’s fashion ranges from burqas to jeans and free-flowing locks.) Male Island is intensively built-up — so densely stacked that you might expect it to sink under its own weight into its turquoise lagoon. A large dormitory suburb is being built on an adjacent artificial island and a kilometre-long, Chinese-built “Friendship Bridge” is under construction to neighbouring Hulhule Island international airport.
There are no mandatory attractions. Rather, this is a friendly, casual town for wandering and curiosity.
Perhaps, this is one of the best things to do or experience with your kids while in Male, the capital island. Just so you don’t get confused by its name, Whale Submarine is not for viewing whales but observing life on a reef and it is a popular highlight in the island. This submarine will take you on an underwater tour, where you get to see colorful corals and beautiful marine species. A few species you get to see are reef fish, blue or yellow striped snappers, yellow box fish, lionfish and turtles as well. This 45 minute tour will provide knowledge to the kids and even elders who love marine species.
Although being a popular island in Maldives, always receiving tourists from across the globe, Male does not own a natural beach. Thus, a man-made beach was constructed and called Artificial Beach. If island hopping or staying in luxurious resorts is not your thing, you and your family can visit this place filled with fun activities. Here, a number of entertainments can also be witnessed along with many exciting water sports and if hunger strikes, you can visit the Dinemore or Oxygen Cafe located in the vicinity of the Artificial Beach.
Street shopping is definitely a fun thing to do and a perfect spot where you can find almost everything is in Majeedhee Magu. A walk down the main road of Male you can see numerous shops selling varieties of goods. From latest fashion wear to gadgets to smallest commodities and even locally crafted items. You can visit this place and spend a day sightseeing local attractions and can also savour delicious food in Juways Cafe and Restaurant, Seagull Cafe or Dinemore Central. In Majeedhee Magu, the shops have a beautiful collection of garments, jewellery, watches, handbags, electronics, perfumes and cosmetics. The shops remain open from 9 am to 11 in the night.
Erected to memorialize those who lost their lives in a devastating nature’s fury that took place in 2004 – Tsunami Monument is a beautiful structure located on the coast line of Male, on the Boduthakurufaanu Magu. This iconic monuments architectural design is adorned with spheres encircled with ring like structure. You can get a beautiful sunset view from here. However, the beach near the monument is also famous among tourists especially for surfers as it is said to be the best spot for surfing.
Maafushi might not have the sprawling luxury resorts and opulent 5-star hotels that many of its nearby brothers do, but it’s got plenty of charm.
Sadly ravaged in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the place has been busy rebuilding its salt-washed fishing jetties and industrious sailor huts in the last decade.
Something that’s helped is the opening up of rights to local guesthouses, which is transforming Maafushi into one of the top off-beat island getaways for budget travelers.
Of course, you can expect gorgeous beaches backed with palms, lapping waves, and a clutch of homey little coffee shops on the shore.
Sat on the far northern reaches of the Haa Alif Atoll, itself the northernmost of all the Maldivian island chains, the beautiful site of Utheemu holds a special place in the history of this archipelago nation.
That’s because it was once the home of the revered Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu – the leader who’s credited with driving out Portuguese invaders from the isles in the late 16th century.
Of course, there are the usual sparkling white sands and lapping Indian Ocean waves, but these are punctuated by heritage sites like the Utheemu Ganduvaru, which is the gorgeous timber-built palace where the respected leader grew up.
This small palace, now a museum, was the childhood home of Maldivian national hero Mohammed Thakurufaanu, who, alongside his brothers, overthrew Portuguese rule in 1573. Visitors are escorted around the complex by a museum staff member to see the fascinating 500-year-old wooden interiors, including swing beds (used to keep cool in the heat), lamps that burn coconut palm oil and elaborate wooden carvings, plus a large palm-thatch shed used as a sleeping room for guests.
Located in the South province of the Maldives, Feydhoo is one of the archipelago’s inhabited islands and abounds in flora and fauna. The people who reside here were formerly of Gan, and are self-sufficient. While not as fertile as Gan, Feydhoo Island is luxurious with rich trees, green vegetation and shorelines that captivate the soul. The leafy streets that line the tight-knit housing blocks bear testament to the unique culture, history and natural heritage of Feydhoo Island.
Feydhoo is rich in natural beauty and abounds with greenery that blends beautifully with its ceaseless shorelines. The people of Gan who moved here after the Second World War lent Feydhoo a touch of the lush nature that they were accustomed to, leaving the island with beautiful trees and natural beauty that beckon visitors from far and wide. From tall trees swaying in gentle wafts of sea breeze, to underwater ecology that beckons admiration, Feydhoo’s natural beauty has been preserved, and personifies the attraction of all Maldivian islands.
Joined at the hip to aforementioned Feydhoo by a seaside causeway that runs just above the coral-fringed shores of the Seenu Atoll, Maradhoo is a major link in the island chain that starts with Gan to the east.
Long and thin, it juts out into the Indian Ocean like a finger fringed with narrow beachfronts and swaying groves of coconut palms.
As in Feydhoo, the locals are laid-back and lovely, and the cuisine is spicy and rich in seafood.
Be sure to take a walk down Link Road and flit between the coffee shops and sandwich vendors that meet between the palm trees there.
Romantic sunsets glow red and yellow over the lapping waters of the Indian Ocean; cocktails clink in the resort’s luxurious bar; sea kayaks bob on the turquoise shoreline, and crystal-clear waves roll in softly from the inland lagoon.
The beautiful Veligandu Island, has long been championed as one of the top destinations in the Maldives for couples.
Honeymooners and newly-weds are a common site on this long, thin finger of land on the western edge of the North Ari Atoll, and there are plenty of opulent seaside villas and suites to match.
Many travelers heading to the islands of the Maldives will be coming for one thing and one thing only: diving.
And there’s hardly a single better place to don the SCUBA gear and wetsuits in the country than at the Banana Reef.
This fruit-shaped dash of multi-colored corals and seaweed-clad sandbanks lies underwater between the isles of the North Male Atoll.
It’s served by countless outfitters, who lead excursions to uncover the striped snappers and bulbous sponges, the reef sharks and the barracudas that all coalesce here.
Thulusdhoo has traditionally been an industrious island, known for manufacturing of bodu beru (big drums), for its salted-fish warehouse and for its Coca-Cola factory, the only one in the world where the drink is made from desalinated water. In the past few years tourism has exploded, however, and there are now some 30 guesthouses here, with plans for a further 20. There are several stretches of good beach, including a bikini beach and a bridge link to a small island.
Fuvahmulah promises something a little different to the rest of the Maldivian atolls.
For starters, this speck on the map of the Indian Ocean doesn’t really have any near neighbors, and it occupies an atoll all of its own.
It’s also peppered with the occasional inland lake, which is a rare sight to see in this flat-lying country.
Meanwhile the sandbanks that ring popular Banging Beach make for some crashing rollers and refreshing salt-spray (a break from the usual relaxing lapping lagoons), and the proximity to the Earth’s equator means steamy weather throughout the year.
Perched on the eastern edge of the Maldives, in the famous Felidhe Atoll, Alimatha is a great tourist island that offers luxury cabanas, untouched stretches of pristine sandy beach, and – most importantly – some of the most celebrated SCUBA diving spots around.
The resort that covers the island can often be seen packed with eager divers, who all come to seek out the pretty coral groves and sea walls that surround the shores.
These are packed with jackfish, morays and eels, and are known for their high visibility and popular night diving packages.
Hithadhoo is undoubtedly one of the top tourist destinations in this region. Known for its diving sites, this place is also very popular for its hotels and restaurants. There are so many sites that attract tourist from all around the globe every year. The beach houses and resorts are also very famous among the tourist. In the last few years, the number of people coming here has increased. Early booking is a great idea to make your trip hassle-free. It is an island that is a perfect sport for those people who likes to spend their time beside the sea. The beaches are calm and relaxing, and the palm trees make the surroundings an exotic location for the vacation.
Kuredu is the self-proclaimed jewel of the Lhaviyani Atoll, which makes its home in the central-north reaches of the Maldivian archipelago.
A boomerang-shaped isle, it’s entirely covered by a single resort, which offers rustic bamboo shacks and rows of those ubiquitous over-water bungalows with verandahs above the waves.
The whole place is completely surrounded by its own private fringing of powdery sand, and is considered one of the most advanced SCUBA and snorkeling destinations in the country – strong currents and high waves often make it difficult to see the manta rays and tropical schools.
Unusually, Kuredu also plays host to a full 9-hole golf course.
Gan is the southernmost island of Addu Atoll (previously also known as Seenu Atoll), as well as the southernmost island of the Maldives. It is relatively large by Maldive standards.
The origin of the word “Gan” is in the Sanskrit word “Grama”, meaning “village”.
Gan is the second largest island of the atoll, after Hithadhoo, and measures 2.2561 square kilometres (0.87 sq mi) in area. Gan was formerly inhabited, but its inhabitants were moved to neighbouring islands after the British naval and airbase was built. It has had continuous human habitation since very ancient times. There were large cultivated fields of yams, manioc and coconut trees on this island. A former havitta at island’s east end had to be removed to build the runway.
This island is outstanding. The seaplane flight to get to the island has beautiful views of the atolls below. Then there is a short boat trip to the island where you are offered a coconut! The villas are so beautiful with the bathroom outside so you can have a bath under the stars literally! The service is second to none with a wonderful spa with lovely restaurants to choose from- you must try the sushi and the fabulous breakfasts!! There are no cars on the island and they provide you with bikes to get around on.
The diving is fabulous as is the snorkelling you can also do boat tours to desert islands where they pack you up a picnic and drop you on an island.