The Maldives are all about the coastline. With world-class diving and stunning beaches, these shoreside getaways are unforgettable. Adding to the array of exotic delights to visit in the Maldives, are the charming capital and heritage sites.
Malé’s the capital and an unmissable place to visit in the country. It’s compact, built in a grid formation, and has just 150 000 residents (meaning there’s little chance of getting lost and you needn’t linger long) but offers interesting diversions for the traveller passing through.
You probably came to the Maldives with shopping in mind; if so head to Madjeedhee Magu. It’s a one-stop shop for everything you could need, from bespoke garments to electronics, but you’re most likely to be drawn in by the traditional clothing items such as the colourful scarves many locals wear.
Artificial beach is a top drawcard for Malé. The capital boasts no natural beaches but the enterprising Maldivians found a way around that by building this beach for locals and tourists to cool off after a long day. It’s a safe place for swimming and also hosts great nightlife and city carnivals.
The National Museum is where you can soak up the nation’s history after a stroll in the Sultan’s Park. Another attraction is the Grand Friday Mosque with its gilded dome.
2. Banana Reef
Banana Reef ranks among the best diving sites in the world for its year-round clear visibility, abundance of sea life and calm currents. Expect to experience spectacular underwater landscapes with deep caves bursting with fish, rocky overhangs and colourful coral. A highlight for many visitors are the black and white Bannerfish which often rush by in schools of 1000.
Located in North Malé Atoll, the reef gets its name from its shape but there’s much more to this Maldivian destination than diving. It boasts beautiful beaches and exudes that sought-after tropical atmosphere with exotic fruit trees and turquoise waters. This is one place in the Maldives you can’t miss.
3. HP Reef
HP Reef is sometimes known as ‘Rainbow Reef’ and it’s easy to see why. There’s an endless array of eye-catching marine life to be seen underwater, including eagle rays, blue coral, rainbow runners and tuna. ‘The Chimney’, an exciting swim-through in exactly the structure described, is a must-see for all diving enthusiasts at the reef.
Also situated in North Malé Atoll, HP Reef is in proximity to sublime beaches.
4. Nalaguraidhoo Island
Often referred to as ‘Sun Island’, Nalaguraidhoo delivers on its nickname. The weather is warm and welcoming, especially in summer, and there’s lots on offer. The beaches are some of the best to visit in the Maldives and host numerous watersports such as windsurfing, as well as diving and snorkelling.
The island is occupied by one resort: Sun Island Resort and Spa. This is where fantasies of tropical paradises to visit in the Maldives become reality. On offer are rooms with glass doors opening right onto the powdery sand and bungalows hovering above the azure waters on stilts.
5. Alimatha Island
Lush greenery and shimmering shores make this tiny island one of the most popular with international visitors to the Maldives. Everything happens on the beaches. The tranquil, clear waters of Miyaru Kandu provide excellent snorkelling and diving, with opportunities to come close up with larger sea animals, including stingrays. Heading offshore, boating trips offer amazing views and swimming opportunities, while the regular volleyball matches make for endless fun.
Away from the water, the Ayurvedic Massage Centre excels at traditional massage techniques guaranteed to relax your muscles after a long day swimming.
6. Utheemu Ganduvaru
The birthplace of the Maldives’ national hero, Utheemu Ganduvaru is a must-see on the itinerary of places to visit in Maldives. Sultan Mohammed Thakurufaanu became legendary in the archipelago for leading a fifteen-year independence war against the Portuguese and founding a dynasty.
Utheemu Ganduvaru is a complex of traditional Maldivian buildings that preserves furniture almost five hundred years old: oil lamps, swing beds and wooden carvings. The staff take visitors on a tour of this most fascinating of destinations in Maldives, providing detailed information that brings the island’s heritage to life
7. Como Cocoa Island
Just a 40 minute boat ride from Malé, Como Cocoa is a secluded island in a pale blue lagoon, most popular with couples and those seeking peace and quiet. It’s dominated by one eponymous resort which offers luxury rooms in stilted bungalows.
The diving and snorkelling are without faults, as are the soft beaches. The wellness menu includes yoga sessions and various spa treatments. All in all, it’s a fairytale place to experience in the Maldives.
8. Baros Island
Another private paradise, Baros Island is surrounded by a typically cerulean Indian Ocean, ideal for couples.
Book time at a secluded sandbank that rises gently out of the seas and is reachable by boat. The Piano is another isolated spot in the ocean, a wooden deck furnished with a single table and chairs for intimate meals in an unbeatable setting.
At sunset, the Lighthouse Lounge Bar is the hub of the island with regular jazz nights and as the night gets darker, look up at the starry sky for sublime star-gazing: shooting stars are to be expected.
9. Kunfunadhoo Island
Environmentally-friendly Kunfunadhoo Island is a laid-back place to visit in the Maldives. Soneva Fushi, the UNESCO-protected biosphere surrounding the island, is home to an abundance of plant and animal life that islanders are carefully preserving.
Only non-motorised water sports are allowed (canoeing, surfing and paddle-boarding etc.) and diving sites do not damage the natural habitat. A tour from the port will introduce the island’s marine life and beautiful scenery.
The islanders are pioneers in recycling with recycled drinking bottles and creating artworks from recycled materials. Expect to go barefoot during your stay; your shoes must be removed on arrival to protect the beaches. You’ll understand why once you step into the luxuriant sand on those gorgeous beaches.
If you’re looking for the authentic Maldivian lifestyle, Feydhoo must rank as a top place to visit. It has an intriguing past: when nearby Gan island became a British base during World War II, residents moved to Feydhoo.
The small settlement is characterised by winding alleys, fringed with palm trees. The citizens are welcoming and serve mouthwatering seafood curries.
From destinations for local culture and heritage to those encircled by the Indian Ocean, the Maldives offers a host of stunning attractions. These ten places to visit in the Maldives are sure to linger long after you depart the country’s splendid shores.