Country guides Asia
The Maldives Travel Guide
The Maldives is a collection of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls. Of these atolls, 10 are open to tourism and about 90 of the individual islands are exclusive resorts. Although the islands of the Maldives were badly damaged by the tsunami of December 2004, they have once again emerged as prime holiday spots for tourists seeking supreme relaxation and unforgettable diving and snorkelling experiences.
Most of its inhabited islands are staunchly Islamic in character, yet the resort islands are allowed to exist in a kind of bubble where more typically western behaviour is tolerated. The overwhelming majority of visitors to the Maldives book all-inclusive holiday packages and spend all their time on their resort island of choice, soaking up the sun on the pristine beaches, learning to surf, or exploring the impressive coral reefs with a dive instructor. The best resorts in the Maldives are Kuramathi (for family-friendliness), Banyan Tree (for elegance), and Baros (for luxury), although there are plenty to choose from and none are likely to disappoint.
For independent travellers to the Maldives, the capital city of Male is a worthwhile sight: a bustling, bazaar-filled modern Islamic city that entices some of the resort guests with its colourful markets.
Best time to visit the Maldives
The Maldives has a humid tropical climate, characterised by high temperatures all year round tempered by cooling sea breezes. The best time to visit the Maldives is during the dry season (December to April), though this is also the high tourist season so prices will be higher and accommodation might be scarce. The best months for diving in the Maldives are November and April, while the best time for surfing is from March to May and then again from September to November.
What to see in the Maldives
-Get lost in the busy capital city of Male with its beautiful mosques, bustling bazaars and interesting museums.
-The Huskuru Miskiiy (Friday Mosque) is a magnificent 17th-century structure, famous for its golden dome and coral engravings.
What do in the Maldives
-Plan a wedding or honeymoon at one of the exclusive resort islands.
-Learn to surf, do a diving course, or try any number of watersports.
-Head to Fuamulaku and go on a jungle hike to explore the island's great biodiversity.
Getting to the Maldives
Cheap flights to the Maldives are easy to find from the US and UK. Direct flights to Male International Airport are available from some major British airports, with the flight taking about 10 hours. Those flying from the United States will have to book a connecting flight. Some resort islands are accessible by air; others will require travel by boat from Male.
The Strode Venturer by Hammond Innes and Beach Babylon by Imogen Edward-Jones.
The Island President (2011)
Mas huni (shredded smoked fish served with grated coconut and onion), fihunu mas (barbecued fish basted with chilli and spices) and bambukeylu hiti (breadfruit, served in a variety of ways).
What to buy
The Maldives is not known as a shopping destination, and the range of souvenirs available is mainly limited to fridge magnets, t-shirts, postcards and shell necklaces.
What to pack
Pack lightweight clothing, insect repellent and sunscreen for a holiday in the Maldives. Visitors should not pack alcohol or pork products or pornography, as these items will land them in trouble with authorities on their way into the country.
What's on in the Maldives
Republic Day (11 November) is the most festive of the Maldives' national holidays, celebrating the (second) abolishment of the monarchy that occurred in 1968.
Did you know?
-At an average of just 4'11" above sea level, the island-chain of the Maldives is the world's lowest country.
-Only 200 of the 1,192 islets that make up the Maldives are inhabited.
-The adult literacy rate in the Maldives is one of the highest in the world at 99 percent.
A final word
The great attraction of a holiday in the Maldives is that visitors know precisely what they're going to get: fancy all-inclusive resorts, clean white-sand beaches, gorgeous turquoise waters, and limitless diving opportunities.