Unrivalled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and an amazing underwater world make the Maldives an obvious choice for a true holiday of a lifetime. The Maldives is home to perhaps the best beaches in the world; they are on almost every one of the country’s nearly 1200 islands and are so consistently perfect that it is hard not to become blasé about them. While some beaches may boast softer granules than others, the basic fact remains: you will find this whiter-than-white powder sand and luminous cyan-blue water almost nowhere else on earth. This fact alone is enough to bring nearly a million people a year to this tiny and otherwise little- known Indian Ocean paradise.
With some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, the clear waters of the Maldives are a magnet for anyone with an interest in marine life. The richness and variety are astonishing: baby sharks can be spotted in any lagoon in the country, while dazzling spectacles such as huge coral walls, magnificent caves and schools of brightly colored tropical fish await you when you get down to the reef. Manta rays, turtles, friendly sharks and even the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, can be seen all over the country and, amazingly, none of the life on the reef is dangerous.
Beautiful Addu Atoll, the most southerly of the Maldives island groups, is definitely worth visiting for divers. Here, the coral escaped the bleaching of El Niño and is the best in the country; while a modern road linking Gan's Equator Village resort to the Maldives' second city of Hithadhoo is a great place for a bike ride.
From Malé, take a ferry trip to the nearby man- made island of Hulhumalé, a utopian town that looks set to become the new hub of the country in decades to come as sea levels rise. Hulhumalé is 2m above sea level, which is mountainous by local standards.
One of the most frequented beaches in Maldives, Nalaguraidhoo Beach boasts of clear azure waters, shimmering white sand and pristine surroundings. A visit to Nalaguraidhoo Beach must be a part of your itinerary, as the beauty of this attraction is bound to leave you speechless and create memories that you can cherish for years to come.
A quarantined island which owes its name to a local flower, Mirihi Island boasts of an exclusive house reef and a pristine beach. The island has a resort, which offers 36 tourist bungalows. One of the most popular tourist beaches in Maldives, Mirihi Island is perfect for honeymooners and solace seekers. The entire island is covered with palm trees and lined with snow- white sands and the water bungalows here are an added attraction.
In South Nilandhoo Atoll, the island of Kudahuvadhoo has one of the mysterious bundles known as hawittas. They are probably the ruins of Buddhist temples, though the validity of this is yet to be established. This island also has an old mosque, which is said to have some of the finest masonry you will ever see.
Located in the southern province of the Maldivian archipelago, Fua Mulaku is the smallest of the atolls with just one island. Fua Mulaku has the largest island in Maldives. This solitary island is exceptionally fertile, producing fruits and vegetables that are not grown elsewhere in the country, like mangoes, oranges and pineapples.
Located on the Utheemu Island, one of the inhabited islands of the Haa Alif Atoll, Utheemu Ganduvaru is popular as the birthplace of Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu. The Utheemu Ganduvaru is essentially the wooden palace in which Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu grew up and has been very well maintained over the years and portrays the lives of the affluent many years ago
Malé's National Museum
The interesting collection of artifacts, including the Sultan's thrones and palanquins, in Malé's National Museum, is well worth a visit. It's located in the city's main green space, Sultan's Park.
One dive that shouldn't be missed is at Mushimasmingili Thila (Shark Thila), where you will see grey reef sharks, giant snappers and tropical reef fish in this pristine northern section of Ari Atoll.
One of the oldest dive sites in Maldives to become internationally known, Banana Reef gets its name from the shape of the island when viewed from above. The area has some of the most beautiful caves, cliffs and coral growths. A popular spot with divers, the caves at Banana Reef contain several species of exotic fish, and other marine life like the squirrelfish, soldierfish and Maldivian grubfish.
One of the most beautiful diving spots in Maldives, Alimatha Island is located on the eastern edge of Maldives. Other activities that can be enjoyed here include wind surfing, canoeing and cat sailing, or you can sit back and enjoy an Ayurvedic massage at the Ayurvedic Massage Centre.
If Malé's crowded streets are getting you down, then take the ferry to Villigili, the relaxed next door island where you can join locals at the beach, watch cricket matches in the park and picnic under the palm trees.
Windsurfing at Lhohifushi and Dhonveli
For a taste of some of the Maldives more challenging activities, try windsurfing at Lhohifushi and Dhonveli in North Malé Atoll, two island resorts where the country's most famous breaks can be found. The season for surf is from March-October.
Spa treatments: For an enormous range of treatments, massages, therapies and other pampering make an appointment at your resort's spa.
Buy Local crafts: Many resorts offer day trips to inhabited islands where you can usually visit local artisans in their workshops and buy some of the beautiful local arts and crafts. Malé, the capital, also has several markets of fresh and wholesome food produce for those wanting to sample local fare.
Diving and snorkeling: To appreciate the exceptionally varied and plentiful underwater life, go diving or snorkeling, some of the best sites in the world are found in the Maldives. All of the resorts have professional, fully-equipped dive schools offering a range of activities.
Fishing trip: A fishing trip on a modern speedboat equipped for big game fishing is a great experience for any fisherman. Go at night to catch groupers, snappers, squirrelfish or barracuda. Round off the trip with a barbecue with the day's catch.
Enjoy a boat cruise: A sunset boat cruise aboard a dhoni, the wooden boat that is the Maldives' standard mode of transport is a blissful way to end the day. You will cruise around uninhabited islands, where you will be served drinks and snacks while local musicians play their traditional bodu beru drums to attract dolphins.
Whale Submarine: Non-divers will love this alternative way to get underwater and see the busy life on a coral reef a short distance away from Malé. The submarine is pressurized, so you can also do this before flying.
Maldives Victory Wreck: For an unforgettable underwater experience, dive to the Maldives Victory Wreck (which sank in 1981), lying on the western side of Hulhule. This is a dive for experienced divers.
Fish Head aka Mushimasmingali: Thila is a world-renowned dive site famous for featuring a plethora of gray reef sharks. The sharp vertical reef has multiple ledges and hosts a diverse population of additional marine life such as sea fans, anemones, black corals, fusiliers, Napoleons, and schools of feeding barracuda.
The tiny, crowded capital city of the Maldives is a fantastic place to visit for a day as it gives you the chance to see real life away from your resort, meet Maldivians on an equal footing, and take in a slice of south Asian island life. On a visit to the capital, don’t miss the beautiful 17th century coral stone Hukuru (Friday Mosque) in Malé. The nearby Grand Friday Mosque, topped with an enormous golden dome, is also possible to visit outside of prayer times.
The second largest island in the Maldives, it is also the second largest inhabited island there. The part of the island south of the town is lushly vegetated with palms and shrubs, whilst the northern end of the island consists of a partially stony, unreal scrubland, which can be explored only on narrow trails. Hithadhoo Town is marked by dusty roads, narrow lanes, leaning houses and dense vegetation. Island traffic is generally quite colorful, particularly when hundreds of island school children dressed in a multitude of differently colored school uniforms are queuing up for the bus.
North and South Malé Atolls
These atolls boast remote-feeling desert-island paradises and many of the country’s most famous island resorts, despite being home to the Maldives’ main international airport. Excellent dive sites pepper both sides of Vaadhoo Kandu, the channel that runs between North and South Male Atolls. At the outer edge of the atolls, dive sites can be explored from only a few resorts or by safari boat. Gaafaru Falhu Atoll, North Male Atoll, has at least three diveable shipwrecks. North and South Male Atolls will be where most people experience the Maldives, and both atolls are stunning visions of cobalt-blue water and white sand and island idyll.
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