The tiny island of Malé is the republic’s capital, the center of politics and commerce, the exact representation of Maldivian modernity. Its image stands as a stark contrast to the picture of idleness and serenity that almost all the other Maldivian islands paint.
Here in Malé, life can get a little bustling. Buildings, mosques, parks, roads, and motorbikes abound. But although Malé offers no ultimate beach adventures – it in fact is surrounded by seawalls – the capital presents promising experiences like any other capital in the world.
See firsthand the Maldivians’ deep devotion to the Islam faith by visiting the Islamic Centre. Opened in 1984, it is the most famous and elegant architectural landmark in Malé. Its golden dome can be seen from all points in the capital, making the Centre all the more a standout. But what makes the Centre a treasured and famed structure is the Grand Friday Mosque, which is situated right in the middle of the Centre. This structure has a capacity of more than 5,000 people, earning for itself the distinction as the largest mosque in Maldives.
Huskuru Miskiiy is another mosque worth visiting. A structure that is made of coral carvings, this 17th-century mosque used to be the main mosque in Malé prior to the construction of the Grand Friday Mosque. Very much part of the Maldivians’ religious commitment, the mosque is amazingly well-kept and adorned.
When in Malé, make sure to also visit Mule-Aage, the palace garden that was used to grow crops during World War II but now houses the President’s Office, and the National Museum, where a large deposit of artifacts, from centuries-old thrones to robes, are securely preserved. Also, check out any of Malé’s markets to experience the local shopping culture.
Baros, which is located in the northern part of the Malé Atoll, is one of the uninhabited Maldivian islands turned into an island resort. The island offers nothing but tropical vacation experience marked by privacy and undisturbed by modernity.
The imagery of the island seems to jump out directly from a postcard. Baros is glorious for its beauty. When you get here by plane, allow your eyes to gaze upon its oval form, which is bordered by coral reefs and glistening waters of the shallow lagoon. When you get here by boat, set your eyes on the beautiful palm-lined shore that gets even more beautiful as you go nearer the island. And when your feet finally land on the ground, be mesmerized at how the water, sand, trees, and villas make an enthralling, not to mention romantic, composition.
But not only will your appetite for everything beautiful be satisfied here, because your cravings for fun-filled water adventures have a place in this romantic island as well. The shallower parts of the island are ideal for swimming and waterskiing, while the parts with thick coral reefs are best for diving and snorkeling.
Bandos, like Baros, was developed into an island resort. Nestled in the North Kaafu Atoll, this calming beauty is set over a lagoon whose water shimmers at the glint of the sun. The scenery is every bit dreamy, completed by the white sand, rich vegetation, stunning sky, sun peeking from the cottony clouds, and vast expanse of the turquoise water.
Perfect for romantic getaways, Bandos embraces visitors with an overwhelming magnificence, the kind that you can only expect from a paradise. Indeed, Bandos is a paradise, isolated entirely from the bustles of the metropolis. And whether you are walking along the shore or looking out from your bungalow, you will experience the island’s inescapable beauty in its entirety.
Like in any other Maldivian islands, tourist activities in Bandos are water-based, which include swimming, waterskiing, diving, parasailing, canoeing, and wakeboarding. But if you want to have a break from the water, you can always have a spa session to rejuvenate yourself for yet another water adventure.
The serene atmosphere and amusing landscape of the island of Thinadhoo, formerly known as Havaru Thinadhoo, completely contradict its bloody history. Certainly, Thinadhoo was born anew, breaking itself free from the ghosts of the detestable 1962 genocide.
The nature seemed to rejoice, as the island has become even more beautiful, leaving visitors helplessly mesmerized. This island located in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll boasts of beaches neatly adorned with a variety of trees, which make the island free of pollution. When the golden sun makes an appearance, the light is diffused into all parts of the island and through these trees, creating a pattern of shadows. And when it sets, the bluish sky turns into what seems like a board of contrasting colors and becomes a backdrop of an inspiring silhouette.
Thinadhoo, like any other Maldivian island, is a restful island with several accommodations. Here in the island, you can do various water activities or just be idle as you let your eyes marvel at the visual feast. Whether you are a honeymooner, a poet looking for inspiration, or a traveler who wants to experience the best of nature, Thinadhoo definitely has something good to offer.
Addu Atoll has been a bit slow in establishing the local tourism industry, but after having several improvements in transportation, Addu takes a full swing. This heart-shaped atoll is the biggest in southern Maldives and is currently the center of business in this part of the country. It also holds the designation of being a city island, falling second to Malé in importance.
As expected, Addu islands, specifically Villingili and Gan, have their own awe-inspiring resorts. And if you want to hop from one island to another, you can go to Equator Village, a top-class resort in Gan, which can lead you to the nearby islands via causeways. Just get onto a bicycle, and you’ll soon see the breathtaking views and witness the village life in the other islands. Because the atoll offers this kind of accessibility, many tourists include Addu in their must-go Maldivian places.
North Malé Atoll
North Malé Atoll, one of the four atolls making the Kaafu Atoll, is considered the heart of tourism in the country. It has the most number of resorts and is the most visited diving area. North Malé Atoll has its location to thank for. As part of the Kaafu Atoll, it lies in the middle of the atoll chain and is very near the airport. It’s thus understandable that North Malé Atoll is a favorite Maldivian location.
Whichever resort you choose to stay in, expect to be greeted by a majestic tropical landscape. Palm fronds sway to the calming sound of the sparkling turquoise water, while the golden sun peeks from the azure sky that stretches beyond.
Of course, satisfying your visual cravings is only part of the itinerary, because a visit to North Malé Atoll is never complete without experiencing the spectacular undersea world.
The Banana Reef is one of the most frequented dive sites in the atoll. Here you will find a long stretch of reef in the shape of a banana and schools of various fish such as morays, snappers, and angelfish. Maldives Victory is another famous dive site. This cargo wreck has been covered with coral and has become the home to several marine species since its unfortunate sinking in 1981. In the southeast part of North Malé Atoll is Manta Point, where manta rays, along with octopus, whitetip reef sharks, and other species, can be spotted.
If diving is not your thing, then you can enjoy the day by swimming, snorkeling, lazing around the beach, tanning under the sun, or having a relaxing message.
South Malé Atoll
Like the atoll to its north, South Malé Atoll is a diver’s haven. Its islands of serene beauty have rich and diverse marine life, inviting divers to take an underwater exploration. Truth is, South Malé Atoll is popular for liveaboards.
South Malé Atoll has several topnotch dive sites, with Cocoa Thila as one of the most popular. It is characterized by a large pinnacle that provides a good view of tunas, eagle rays, and other species. Then there is Guraidhoo Kandu South, a vast and complex region known as one of the most beautiful dive sites in Maldives. Its topography, along with its diverse marine species, is an attraction. In fact, Guraidhoo Kandu South is a favorite spot for underwater photography as is Vadhoo Caves, a region of several caves where corals of varying colors and marine animals of different kinds abound. Unicornfish and soldierfish are only some of the marine animals you can see in Vadhoo Caves. Whitetip shark also frequents the region.
Baa Atoll consists of three atolls and is collectively considered a traveler’s paradise. Its 75 islands are surrounded with emerald water that is home to a diversified population of marine species.
Like most atolls in Maldives, Baa Atoll has an active tourism industry. Its island resorts boast of a breathtaking, picture-perfect view, with the water as the main attraction. If you come to any of the resorts, make sure to savor every minute of your stay. Swim and snorkel to your heart’s content. Enjoy the delectable tropical food. Walk along the shore barefoot. Watch the dramatic appearance of the sun at dawn and its farewell at dusk. And of course, if diving strikes your fancy, explore any of the inordinately beautiful dive spots.
Maavaru Kandu is one of the most popular dive spots in Baa Atoll. Its warm water and beautiful overhangs attract diving enthusiasts. Dhonfanu Thila, another famous dive site, is a magnificent dive site for its pinnacle.
Also, don’t forget to visit the island of Thulhaadhoo, which is famous for being the only place in Maldives that does lacquer handicrafts.
North Ari Atoll
Imagine yourself in an over-the-water villa, running your eyes through the expanse and legendary view of the turquoise water. The glittering blueness reaches far beyond your sight and combines with the light blue shade of the sky. But the dazzling view doesn’t end there because when you turn around, you see the almost sparkling white sand contrasted by the dark green color of palm fronds. Such is how the nature plays with colors in North Ari Atoll.
North Ari Atoll is uncrowded, peaceful, and well preserved. Testament to this is its line of island resorts that offer unsullied natural beauty. In these resorts, you can get closer to nature by snorkeling, canoeing, and trying other water activities. And if you are into diving, you can explore pristine dive spots such as Fish Head, Fesdu Wreck, and Maaya Thila Reef, which, by the way, is hailed as the best dive spot in the country. But if you want a different kind of adventure, you can go island hopping in a dhoni (traditional boat). After all the activities, reward yourself by spending a whole day idling – rest in a hammock right in front of the breathtaking view, have a massage at the resort’s spa, and read a book by the shore.
South Ari Atoll
South Ari Atoll is a paradise stunningly composed of clear turquoise water, lush vegetation, powdery white sand, and dazzling clouds. And like the northern part of Ari, the southern part is also a striking diver’s haven.
One of the most famous dive spots in South Ari – in fact, in all of Ari – is Broken Rock, a region that features a formation with a split in the middle; hence, the name. Here in Broken Rock, you can observe a diverse marine world composed of species such as moray eels, Napoleon wrasse, soft corals, and sponges. If you want to investigate overhangs and caves, dive into Kalhuhadhihuraa Faru. Manta ray, gray reef shark, and octopus are only some of the species that make up the underwater splendor in this region. Overhangs are also present in Moofushi Faru, a two-kilometer reef teeming with marine animals, including sharks, manta rays, and sting rays.
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