Made up of a whopping 1,192 islands – or atolls – the Maldives is a mesmerising landscape. The immaculate beaches that nestle against coral reefs and azure seas are enough to enthral the most metropolitan of city-dwellers – but there’s more. Steeped in culture, the Maldives is home to spectacular museums, decorative mosques and quaint fish markets.
With so much on offer, where do you start? Here’s a quick guide to some of the amazing things to see and do in the Maldives, over seven paradisiacal days.
Day one: Malé
Also called King’s Island, Malé is the bustling capital of the Maldives and is a hub of culture. If you’re keen to step away from your resort and experience the ‘real’ Maldivian way of life, look no further. Home to the coral stone Hukure Miskiiy (Old Friday Mosque) and Grand Friday Mosque, these are some of the most decorative and oldest mosques of their kind.
Looking to walk-off the local cuisine? You’re within a short walking distance of Sultan Park – an area that plays residence to an eclectic array of trees and plants, and the remains of the Royal Palace; a real spectacle.
While deceptively small, what Malé lacks in size (around 5.8 km squared), is made up for in character. You’ll be taken aback by a trip to the bustling Malé Fish Market, home to fresh sea produce and the dramatic din of haggling traders. Why not get involved and test out your bartering skills?
Day two: snorkelling and diving
What’s a trip to the Maldives without exploring the picture perfect reefs of the archipelago? With countless kilometres of sea-life on your doorstep, snorkelling and diving opportunities are abundant throughout the islands. Take a trip to Madivaru (Manta Reef) and you can expect to see a collage of creatures; from turtles and tuna to snapper and parrotfish. This famous diving spot is named after the gigantic manta rays who flock in their numbers to feast on clouds of plankton.
Another must-see site is Fotteyo Kandu – a spectacular reef with soft tendrils of coral and humongous Alcyonacea, a particularly colourful species of coral. As you swim through a labyrinth of caves, arches and holes, you’re likely to encounter barracuda, rays and even hammerhead sharks.
Alive with amazing wildlife, other hives of natural beauty are Hanifara Huraa, Helengela Thila, and Dhidhdhoo Beyru.
Day three: The National Museum
Located in Sultan Park, the National Museum houses a breath-taking collection of relics, artefacts and carvings that typify the rich history of the Maldives.
A conversion of the old palace building, the museum was opened by then-President, Ameer Mohamed Amin Didi, in the 1950s. Built in an effort to preserve the history of the Maldives, tourists can find an eclectic mix of objects recovered from the islands’ ancient and medieval periods.
With ornaments and costumes owned by the Sultans, weaponry, armour and household wares, the National Museum has something for everyone. Some of the most fascinating pieces are the wood carvings – executed with exceptional accuracy, these Arabic and Thaana-engraved pieces commemorate the conversion of the Maldives to Islam.
Day four: Tomb of Mohammed Thakurufaanu
Mohammed Thakurufaanu is one of the Maldives’ most celebrated heroes. Born into a noble family, he led a revolt against Portuguese invaders during the 16th century. Backed by a small group of people, including his two brothers, Mohammed successfully became the nation’s ruler for several years.
Revered by the nation as a well-loved and brave figure, the people built a tomb in honour of his dynasty. Situated in the centre of Malé, in the grounds of a small mosque, the tomb of Mohammed Thakurufaanu is open to both locals and tourists.
If you would like to experience the cultural and historic heritage of the Maldives, a visit to this hand-carved tomb should be high on your agenda.
Day five: Ithaa Undersea Restaurant
For real foodies, sometimes it’s not just about the plate in front of you, but the entire dining experience. And in this vein, we’ve found the crème de le crème.
Sitting five metres below sea level, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is a mesmerising spectacle in the South Ari Atoll. With a menu that includes Maldivian lobster carpaccio and saffron champagne risotto, this is the perfect location for those in search of a romantic evening.
Serving six-course set dinners in the evening, and four-course meals at lunch, Ithaa’s main attraction is, of course, its spectacular glass roof. Windows arch all the way down to the diners’ tables, allowing customers to witness colourful coral reefs and a plethora of sea-life that span from humungous schools of yellow fish to reef sharks.
As if this unique and intimate restaurant didn’t have it all, its wine cellar is home to 20,000 bottles of 1,400 different labels. Enough to keep your glass full while you take in the views!
Day six: jet skiing
Does viewing the islands of the Maldives from the Indian Ocean get any better?
As luscious green seas shoulder all of the islands, jet skis aren’t hard to come by. With the majority of the islands inaccessible by plane or car, a jet ski provides adrenaline junkies with the perfect tool to explore hidden treasures and untouched spots. You could even take part in a jet ski safari, where a guide will show you some of the most pristine locations and popular hubs for wildlife. Newer jet skis even have lower emissions and quieter engines, meaning that the island’s natural beauty is preserved as you weave between waves. So why not spend a day letting off some energy and explore the tranquil waters of Kani, or the majestic wilderness of Bandos?
If you have children, one thing to remember is that most rental companies require individual riders to be over the age of 18.
Day seven: spa experience
Chances are that if you’ve travelled to the Maldives, you’re looking for a slice of luxury.
After a week of sightseeing and with the long flight home looming, there’s nothing better than unwinding with a hot stone massage or full body treatment – and why not! Listen to the gentle azure sea lap against pristine sands while you are pampered to the nines; after all, you deserve it.
If you’re looking to splash out, try The Finolhu Villas. A heavenly garden-island on the lagoon, this breath-taking resort has everything you could possibly wish for, including a ‘Beyond Organic’ spa. Housing zen-like pool bars, fresh seafood cooked by world-class chefs, and of course, beauty treatments galore, this place is like heaven on earth.
If you’re heading off to the Maldives this summer, there’s plenty to keep you on your toes when you want a break from the sun lounger.