Maldives holidays

Experience Maldives

Best Places to Visit

Right in the south of the Maldives is the capital, Male. This bustling city is crowded with motorbikes and tourists, and although it's often just a stop off for tourists on their way to other islands, it can offer an authentic taste of Maldivian lifestyle, with an incredible number of shops and markets to peruse. Outside of Male, there are no actual hotels, but plenty of resorts. The bonus of this is that all needs are catered for and often a high level of privacy is offered, with many islands featuring just one or two resorts.

Dive resorts usually have more limited facilities, but stunning underwater views. The top-rated dive sites are Middle Point and Okobe Thila. However, if you're an experienced diver, you'll want to head to Girifushi Thila. Reef diving is a favourite pastime and the Maldives boasts some vibrant, beautiful reefs, such as the Banana Reef and the HP Reef, located at the North Make Atoll.

Holiday resorts are more family orientated while luxury resorts for honeymooners or those after the full paradise experience are often very remote, and some can only be reached by rowboat; however, such privacy comes at a cost.

Many people come to the Maldives in search of relaxation, and it isn't hard to find it. Ihurua Island is home to a resort and spa, and pristine natural surroundings due to the island having only been opened to the public ten years ago. The spa here offers a wide variety of holistic treatments which can help to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit. If you need a chance of scene from the beach, the snorkelling here is amazing thanks to the crystal clear waters.

The Maldives offers some of the best scenery in the world and Kuramathi has many excellent walks that allow visitors to see virtually aspect of the country. Perhaps the most fascinating is the Hermit Cab Walk. A circular walk, there are plenty of the colourful and fascinating crustaceans to enjoy. There are also guided tours through many of the tropical forests in Kuramathi, giving visitors greater insight into the natural order of things along with the lifecycle of a coconut!

Alimantha Island is best described as an aquatic resort. Famous for its marine life and scuba opportunities, the island also boasts 1km of golden beach and many tropical lagoons. Beach bungalows are the typical accommodation, here.

Top Landmarks

One of the main reasons people come to the Maldives is for the snorkelling and diving. For the more experienced diver, there is the Maldives Victory Dive, located just north of Male. The Victory, a cargo vessel some 12 metres underwater, sank in 1981 and is now home to all manner of sea life, including turtles.

In the capital of Male there is the Friday Mosque, also known as Hukuru Miskiy. Built in 1658 out of coral stone, this ancient building houses the tombs of many members of the royal family and the country's national heroes, as well as remarkable decorative work.

If it's something a bit more up to date you're after, there is the'Islamic Centre. Constructed in 1984, it is the Maldives' biggest mosque. Remember to dress respectfully if you wish to visit. Not far from here is Sultan Park, where you will find the Presidential Palace and the Maldives National Museum. The latter is the best place to observe the nation's historic artefacts.

On the way back to your hotel, why not stop off for some souvenirs at Chaandanee Magu, a lively shopping street in the centre of Male. Many of the stall-holders speak English and there are a lot of authentic Maldivian pieces on offer, such as traditional Maldivian mats woven from natural fibres, known as thudu kunas. However, some exports such as turtle shell, pearl oyster shell and black or red coral are prohibited, so keep this in mind when shopping.

Entertainment

Although there are bars on the main islands and in the capital of Male, the Maldives is a Muslim nation, so these venues do not serve alcohol. However, many resorts carry a special alcohol licence which allows their guests to enjoy cocktails in their on-site bars.

Many resorts hold beach barbeques for their guests, and the most lively resorts boast beach parties that last into the early hours of the morning. Live music is popular in the resorts, some of which also host cultural shows.

If you're after a bit more culture, head to Male. Here, you can sample the alcohol-free cocktails and check out the live music which is played in the bars nightly. Although there are cinemas in the Maldives, not all show English films and films which are screened may be out of date.

Like many countries, the Maldives has festivals throughout the year. Independence Day on 26 July is marked by parades and celebration, as is Republic Day on 11 November. Held in the third month of the Islamic calendar, the Prophet's Birthday is an important festival. To see it at its best, visitors should head to Male.

Bear in mind when you're booking that the Maldives is an Islamic country, so the Islamic holy month of Ramadan means strict fasting and prayers daily. The Maldives is quiet around this time of year. However, the end of Ramadan, Eid, is marked with massive celebrations, live music and military displays.

Dining Out

As you would expect from a country composed of islands, the Maldives is big on seafood, and some of the best seafood dishes in the world can be found here. The masroshi, or fish pancake, is much nicer than it sounds, andbajiyaa, a pastry with fish stuffing, is a must-try.

One of the best places for fish dishes is Huvafen in North Male. This cutting-edge resort has three a la carte restaurants, a huge array of dishes and a wine cellar that rivals that of most French bistros.

What you won't find in the Maldives is any street food. Cuisine here is strictly a restaurant affair, with Italian, Chinese, Indian and Sri Lankan all available. If you're after a taste of home, Hulhule Island Hotel, Male, has an impressive international menu. It is also the only place in the capital with a licence to serve alcohol.

A majority of the resorts come with all-inclusive packages and serve buffet breakfasts and lunches, with a more formal sit-down evening meal. However, if you do head to an off-site restaurant, be aware that it is standard practice for eateries here to add a 10 per cent service charge, so there is no need to tip.

Beach

The Maldives is best known for its stunning beaches. Each island tends to only have a handful, or just one, resorts, so finding a place to get away from it all and really enjoy your holiday could not be easier. The south is currently the remotest part of the Maldives, although with the influx of tourism this is set to change. Among the most beautiful beaches is Nalaguraidhoo, on South Ari Atoll.

Romance

The Maldives is one of the top honeymoon destinations, and it's easy to see why; spending two weeks with your partner in this paradise is the very definition of a romantic getaway. You can request a honeymoon experience in the majority of resorts, such as the Cocoa Island resort. Built over the water, this resort can cater to visitors' every desire, and accommodation features a spa for that added luxury.

Family

Although the Maldives is best known for romantic holidays, there are plenty of places to take the family, too. Adaaran Hudhuranfushi is an island resort that caters for everyone, with sports and activities suitable for the whole family. Resorts like this sometimes offer special family rates or free stays for infants.

Adventure

Diving, sailing and surfing can be enjoyed throughout the Maldives, and if it's your first time trying these activities there are many schools on hand to help you. For surfing, the biggest swells are usually in the off-season, from around June to August. If you're keen to get away from the crowds, then the southern islands are where you'll find surf schools and no end of space to surf until your heart's content.

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Need to know

Language

The primary language spoken in the Maldives is Dhivehi, a mix of English, Hindi and Arabic that most closely resembles languages spoken in countries such as Sri Lanka. Despite Dhivehi being the language most commonly used when conversing, English is recognised as the Maldives second language and is taught in all schools. It is widely spoken by the locals, particularly those in the tourist industry. The larger and more prestigious resorts employ translators, who can be fluent in a variety of languages. As a result, it is not uncommon to find those who speak Spanish, Italian, Russian, German, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Hindi ad English, in the areas where there are major tourist resorts.

Currency

The currency used in the Maldives is the Maldivian rufiyaa (pronounced roo-fee-yah), with Rf1 divided into 100 laaris. The Rufiyaa comes in banknote denominations of Rf500, Rf100, Rf50, Rf20, Rf10 and Rf5. In terms of coins, the rufiyaa comes in denominations of Rf2 and Rf1. The American dollar is also commonly used. Many resorts accept credit cards and travellers' cheques in pounds sterling and American dollars. If you want to change currency into rufiyaas for small purchases or use in restaurants, this can be done easily at any bank and in the majority of tourist resorts. Some hotels and large shops offer this service, too. Although there are a lot of ATMs on the island, very few accept foreign cards, so remember to prepare cash or travellers' cheques in advance. Debit cards fall into this bracket as well, with very few resorts choosing to accept them.

Visas

Tourists do not need a visa to visit the Maldives, as all visitors are granted a 30-day tourist visa on arrival. However, anyone who has travelled through a central African or South American nation before arriving in the Maldives will need to present a certificate showing that they have been vaccinated against yellow fever. Visitors whose passports will expire within 30 days of arrival will be denied entry. British nationals can accept their tourist visa, as long as they have a valid onward or returning ticket and enough funds to cover their stay.

Climate

The Maldives islands make up some of the lowest lying land in the world. As a result, temperatures are tropical all year round, even hitting the twenties and thirties during the wet season.

Before visiting the Maldives, take the Hulhangu Monsoon season into account. Lasting from May to November, fierce storms and torrential rains punctuate the periods of sun.

Main Airports

There are two international and five domestic airports in the Maldives. Both international airports are privately owned and have been upgraded to international standards. Male International Airport receives flights from all major airlines as well as domestic flights from other islands in the Maldives.

Flight Options

The most popular entry point for flights is Ibrahim Nasir International Airport near Male. It receives a lot of scheduled services direct from London with carriers such as Sri Lankan Airways (London Heathrow), British Airways and Thompsons (London Gatwick). It also welcomes non-direct flights with carriers such as Emirates (via Dubai). Deals vary depending on the time of year. Direct flights from London usually take around 10 hours.

Travel Advice

Although taxis and boats are available, booking a resort that provides transport takes a lot of the stress out of your journey. When visiting, bear in mind that the Maldives is a Muslim country so alcohol is only available in the resorts and cannot be brought into the country. Pork items are also forbidden. Remember to dress modestly on the main islands and in the airport - save your bikini and shorts for the resorts.

Other Transport Options

There are currently no scheduled boat services from neighbouring Sri Lanka that can take passengers to the Maldives. Independent yachters keen on visiting the Maldives by boat should be aware that there is quite a lot of legislation to comply with due to the presence of many reefs, which make the waters hard to navigate. The easiest and best way to enter the Maldives is by air.

Getting Around

Many tourist resorts pick guests up at the airport while for those who want to explore the rest of the islands, there are five domestic airports in the Maldives. However, as the Maldives is made up of roughly 28 islands, the most popular and perhaps the most exciting way of getting around is by boat. Reasonably priced taxis are available in the main tourist resorts. Be aware that taxis in Male have an additional charge for carrying luggage.

Air

Seaplanes are an amazing, albeit expensive, form of travel. As they fly at low altitude, passengers get to see the islands in all their glory, as all journeys are made in daylight hours. The two main charter seaplane companies are Trans Maldivian and Maldivian Air Taxi. Both fly from Male's airport.

Ferry

Water taxis take visitors between the main islands. However, it is possible to opt for a speedboat. Most of the big travel companies in Male can help tourists to charter a speedboat, from a small runabout to an impressive, multi-decked number. It is possible to hire a vessel for a day, along with a crew. It is standard practice for the hirer to pay fuel charges and for the boat to be refuelled at the end of the day.

MAP

MALDIVES`S WEATHER TODAY

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MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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MONTHS

FACTS

  1. Supported by UNICEF, the Maldives has implemented a unified education system. Since 1978, there has been a leap of 70% literacy to 98% literacy among adults
  2. Coconuts are believed to be a potent ingredient in black magic spells and curses
  3. The Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls, resulting in 200 inhabited islands and 80 that are uninhabited
  4. With a ground level average of around 1.5 metres and, at its highest point, being only 2.3metres, the Maldives is the lowest and flattest country in the world
  5. Each part of the Maldivian flag is symbolic: the moon represents Islam, the green represents palm trees and the red represents the blood shed by Maldivian heroes

FACTS

  1. Supported by UNICEF, the Maldives has implemented a unified education system. Since 1978, there has been a leap of 70% literacy to 98% literacy among adults
  2. Coconuts are believed to be a potent ingredient in black magic spells and curses
  3. The Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls, resulting in 200 inhabited islands and 80 that are uninhabited
  4. With a ground level average of around 1.5 metres and, at its highest point, being only 2.3metres, the Maldives is the lowest and flattest country in the world
  5. Each part of the Maldivian flag is symbolic: the moon represents Islam, the green represents palm trees and the red represents the blood shed by Maldivian heroes

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