A beautiful set of islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is often compared to floating pearls in the water and it’s easy to see why. With sun that just won’t quit, waves like nowhere else and a way of life which just completely encapsulates the word relaxation, the Maldives is the ultimate holiday destination.
But there is so much more to these picturesque islands than sun, sea and sand. The islands are blessed with rich culture and heritage, amazing cuisine and local handicrafts which are sure to amaze. With 1,190 islands of uncharted sandbanks, the Maldives really allow you to unleash your inner island-hopper and indulge in a bit of adventure. Alternatively the country has quite a few well-established resorts geared towards giving you the most perfect, relaxing and encapsulating holiday.
While relaxation is the main order of the day with a visit to the Maldives, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to marvel at whilst you’re doing so. The capital city of Malé provides a number of interesting and fascinating things to do. Its harbour plays host to many traditional fishing boats and the whole harbour-side scene provides the hustle and bustle which makes Malé seem so electric. Trying some of the local catch and sipping on a fresh coconut juice is a must while you’re there. When you’re finished you can visit Hukuru Misikiiy Mosque and witness this amazing 350 year old building in all its glory. Its delicate coral stone structure provides an unforgettable experience as you look over the many intricate carvings on show.
Having so many islands to choose from means that the Maldives has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beautiful beaches and relaxing hideaways. The islands are the perfect place to find yourself doing nothing more strenuous than admiring the view. But if you wanted to try something else then water-sports are the way to go. Whether it’s wakeboarding, windsurfing or paragliding that takes your fancy, water-sports in the Maldives are a perennial favourite.
Wine and Dine
The Maldives is almost 99% ocean so it’s not surprising that fish is a staple of the Maldivian diet. The cuisine found in the island nation is a mix of Arabic, Indian, Sri Lankan and Oriental influences and tuna is the most popular fish consumed. The ninety tourist resorts scattered throughout the islands host diverse international menus as well as traditional Maldivian dishes, meaning you can either play it safe with dishes you know or be adventurous with those you don’t. When choosing where to eat, make sure you look into the traditional Maldivian cafes. Although they may not look as glitzy as some higher end restaurants, their food is the most authentic.
Coconuts are a major part of many dishes in the Maldives and can be served in grated form, as milk or as coconut oil which is used to deep fry foods. A few popular dishes include Garudhiya, a fish broth served with rice, lime, chili and onions. Mas Huni, which is the most popular breakfast food in the country, is shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions. And for those who love a barbeque taste they should try Fihunu Mas, barbecued fish that has been basted with chili.
Although it has been perhaps more known as a destination for couples, the Maldives has blossomed into a more than hospitable host for family holidays also. More and more resorts are catering for children and there are many that run bespoke activity clubs for children around their numerous islands. In these clubs there are activities as varied as lego rooms, film clubs and of course many a playground.
There aren’t many things that bring more joy in this world then teaching a child something new and one of the most rewarding ways to do this while in the Maldives is to give them their first water-sport experience. With more kid-friendly examples like kayaking, pedal boats and snorkelling, there are a number of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Action and Adventure
It’s said that almost half of the visitors to the Maldives are doing so with the intention of snorkelling or diving, and sometimes in fact both. Even those who hadn’t really entertained the notion of doing so, usually find themselves wanting to the very moment they see the crystal clear waters for the first time. Through the azure ocean you can see colourful fish and coral line the waters and it’s a fun activity for the whole family, whether you’re a new learner or a seasoned pro.
The Maldives is also home to 21 species of whale and dolphin and venturing out to spot these magnificent mammals is also a hugely popular pastime. Many resorts organise cruises to do just this so make sure you book a trip while you’re there. Another fun activity you can do upon the water is to go out on a dhoni, a traditional Maldivian-designed fishing boat, and try your hand at the ample fishing in the area. For those looking to get their kicks on more solid ground then beach football is popular on the islands, billiards and table tennis are available at almost all resorts and there is a nine hole golf course in Seenu Atoll.
Life's a Beach
With many of the Maldives tiny islands the question isn’t where the beach is, it’s more where isn’t the beach? But even in this beach paradise there are still single examples that stand out from the crowd. Veligandu Island Beach is certainly one that does just that. This exceedingly well-maintained beach not only has stunning clear waters, smooth sands and peaceful surroundings, it also has a number of amazing restaurants and bars on hand to quench your hunger and thirst. This amazing beach also has a diving school so you explore underwater too.
Another option is Alimatha Island. If you love peace, beauty and nature, but still want to get some adventure with snorkelling, diving and fishing, then it's simply the place to go. The resort is home to some other guests too as most nights some friendly sharks come and swim around the jetty. If you’re brave enough you can climb in and take some photos with them.
The Maldives are Muslim so public places do not serve alcohol, however, tourism is massive here so there is plenty of nightlife centred around the resorts or holiday hotspots. There are some truly unique clubbing experiences that are worth checking out. If you can afford it, the underwater party at Subsix, Per aquum, Niyama is an amazing bar that is actually submerged beneath the water, reachable by speed boat, the bar is part of a resort stretching out into the ocean. Sip cocktails as you watch fish swim past the window. In Karumba, there are DJ club nights every day of the week with different kinds of music. Kuredu holds a white night party every Friday with everyone wearing white under UV lights. For a quieter night, Gili Lankanfushi has an open air cinema; surrounded by jungle and with sand under your feet you can enjoy an ultra-romantic date watching films under the stars.
Romantic getaways are synonymous with the Maldives because of the unique chance to be together in a way that isn’t possible at home. Accommodation on most resorts is not just a room, but a private love-den designed for partners looking to spend quality time. Many villas are secluded in lush vegetation or even isolated above a lagoon which leaves guests with ultimate privacy. Gaze from the veranda to a panoramic view of the lagoon and watch as the coconut palm trees wave along the shore.
Just as there are resorts better equipped for families or enthusiastic divers, there are also resorts designed for those in love and wanting to get back in touch with each other away from the buzz of daily life. The Maldives is an ideal romantic destination because of its paradise setting, amazing cuisine and many opportunities for pure relaxation.
The Maldives have a varied culture with influences from India, North Africa and Sri Lanka all adding to the style and history of the islands. A great way to get a taste of the local way of life is to try some island hopping and visit different places as much as you can. The Old Friday Mosque – Hukuru Miskiiy – is a beautiful old mosque set in tranquil surroundings and is made with coral-stone and decorated with beautiful old Islamic tiles. Remember that it is an Islamic culture here so bring long sleeves and scarves to cover yourself in respect. Near Male there is also a disused Minaret made of the local coral-stone. Also in Male is the National Museum which has been newly moved and reinstated and is the best place to understand the rich culture of the islands.