Why visit the Maldives? Obviously for the idyllic pale tropical beaches complete with palm tree fringing, hammocks and hotel-hut-bungalows hovering over the water, the coral jungles and brightly coloured marine life you can snorkel by without much effort, lush scenery around beautiful waterfalls and of course a chance to share the laid back lifestyle. But why do you want to visit? Are you looking for a tropical island to unwind or honeymoon on? A chance to dive some of the world's best dive sites, a tropical island sailing hop, a cultural experience or something in between?
If it's relaxation you're chasing then check out the resort choices and weigh up each beautiful photo as it passes... Divers can do the same over the Maldives' best dive sites, then look into live aboard options or diving tours that will take you out to, and under, up to four different dive sites a day. But for Maldives holiday inspiration that includes the cultural highlights as well as plenty of time on some of the world's most beautiful beaches pick your island or islands from the list below.
There are 26 atolls and more than a thousand islets included in the Maldives group. Just in case you thought choosing would be easy. Most visitors arrive at, and spend some time on Malé, one of the largest islands and the capital. Visitors can choose to:
1. base yourself there and sail out to the others, 2. base yourself somewhere quieter and come in for the day, 3. hop between a few island resorts or 4. leave your bags on a boat and sail between several ports.
Malé was traditionally the King's island, so if you can't afford to book out your own private island or to stay at one of the island resorts you may well end up staying here - but if it was good enough for the king you're hardly slumming it. This is also the most urban island, be prepared for colourful office blocks wriggling with workers, buzzing motorbikes and busy marketplaces. This is the real Maldives, the way the locals live it, and though the alcohol free bars and restaurants might be a bit of a surprise there's enough going on to replace that buzz with another.
One of Male's other draws is that it's the cultural hub, so even if you're only visiting not saying, make time for the National Museum, packed with beautiful pieces of art and other items and examples of the historic and rich accoutrements of the royal family, which is part of Sultan Park, one of the few green spots on the island – there's not much in the way of soil on the Maldives.
The Mulee-aage Palace, the ornately carved white, colonial style building across the road from the Friday Mosque (Hukuru Miskiiy), is where the sultans moved to at the beginning of the 20th Century; when they were thrown out it became the Presidential Palace. The Medhu Ziyaaraiy Tomb, the tomb of the Moroccan scholar thought to have brought Islam to the Maldives is one of the other important religious sites on Male. For something a bit more current, visit the local fish market, fruit bazaars, and firewood market, before spending an evening dancing, just to prove that you don't need to drink to have a good time.
Tourism really kicked off here in the 70s and 80s, but it's the European rather than American market who've shown the Maldives the most lovin'. There are many many resorts to choose from, many of them with a whole island to themselves.
Cocoa Island has the huts on stilts over water that typify the tropical island holiday ideal: stilts over paradise. It's also got world class diving and snorkelling and a world class spa.
Nika Island Resort, on Kudafolhudhoo Island (not actually called Nika Island?), has only ten apartments, but each one has it's own private beach, overlooked by bungalow huts.
Nalaguraidhoo, or Sun Island has just the one resort and some of the best beaches on any of the Maldives' inhabited islands, as well as a reef that in some places you can see from the shore.
Bandos Island, has more of the same palm trees, diving, beaches, but this time it's also got space for your lucky kids, if you have any and are willing to take them on holidays to paradise.
Veligandu Island has a tropical jungle as well as an 80 metre long beach and a small resort. Off shore it flaunts some of the Maldives' best diving spots.
Velidhu Island is another good place to base yourself for a diving holiday. Above the waterline it's more of the water bungalow postcard look.
Nakatchafushi is great for, surprise, surprise, the beach and snorkelling
Kuramathi is a larger island and has three hotels on it – offering you a variety of restaurants at least...
Rasdhoo, is capital of the Alif Alif Atoll region, which means it's a centre for people living in the region, and the best place for local shopping and trading, and a good choice if you're interested in seeing the local way of life. It doesn't scrimp on the diving off idyllic shores, or the snorkelling in beautiful calm lagoon opportunities either.
Madivaru is a Robinson Crusoe type island, just one with a five star Banyan Tree resort on it, and amazing diving – not sure if Robinson Crusoe brought his diving gear.
Mushimas Migili, is another one worth noting for its lagoon, complete with all the colourful coral and marine life that makes for snorkeller's daydreams.
Even if you get a good deal on your accommodation instead of opting for one of the lux resorts, your flights can still make a break in the Maldives expensive, so it's not worth visiting for less than a week. Many people opt to combine their visit to the Maldives as a relaxing after thought to a journey though Sri Lanka or Kerala, India.Thiruvananthapuram is only a short flight from Malé.
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