The Insider Guide to the Maldives
The Maldives, one of the top honeymoon destinations in the world, is so much more than beach-front bungalows and romantic candlelit dinners under the stars. Think world-class diving, ancient architecture and incredible food just waiting to be discovered – partner or no partner.
The Main Attractions
A tropical archipelago lying on the equator between the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, the Maldives is made up of around 1,200 islands in 26 atolls. Mostly famed for white sandy beaches, palm trees, epic coral and clear turquoise waters, the Maldives is a perfect destination for those looking to relax, unwind and enjoy island life. For those keen on digging a little deeper, however, the Maldives is an intriguing destination, sitting at the crux between cultures and empires, with a long and varied history thought to date back more than 2,500 years. While the early history is pretty hazy – some archaeologists speculate on links to the Romans – the islands became a stopover for Arab merchants on trading missions around the 2nd century CE, who were so pleased to find the shores covered in cowry shells – an early form of currency – that they named them the Money Isles. Malé, on the aptly-named Malé Atoll, is both the capital of the Maldives and the ancient King’s Island, where royal dynasties ruled from a walled city. Now, a densely populated metropolis, only the 17th-century coral stone Old Friday Mosque, the 12th-century Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu Miskiiy, the old National Museum building, and the Medhu Ziyaarai (central tomb) – part of the Muleeaage (the official residence of the President) – remain as monuments to the vibrant past. Most people swing through the capital, flying in and jetting off to resort islands on the same day, but, if you find yourself with a short stopover, head over the Sinamalé Bridge (China-Maldives Friendship Bridge) to the capital and swing by the lively Male Fish Market. For more of a traditional Maldives escape, head to the Ari Atoll, where you can explore paradise beaches, dive on shipwrecks and snorkel. One of the most popular islands here is Dhigurah, the marine playground of the Maldives, home to whale sharks and dolphins. Alternatively, Kuramathi is the place to go for all-out luxury, with dreamy bungalows over the water. Further afield, at the southern tip of the archipelago, Fuvahmulah is perhaps one of the most beautiful islands in the world: with ancient Buddhist stupas, mud baths, photographic lakes and tiger sharks. And in the north, Vaadhoo is the home to Sea of Stars Beach. Closer to Male, Thulusdhoo is a beautiful island with surf and plenty of guesthouses – making it perfect for a Maldives island holiday on a budget. Still undecided? Read on for more insider tips.