Maldives holidays

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Experience Maldives

Best Places to Visit

Head on a holiday to the Maldives and the first place you will likely visit is Malé. the capital. 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's a must-see for those on package holidays to Maldives. Originally the island where dynasties came to rule and royal palaces were erected, today this tiny island comprises quirky cafes, local fish markets and street vendors serving up a slice of the Maldives you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

Outside of Malé, there are plenty of other islands to explore – 1,192 to be exact. One of the prettiest is Utheemu. Placed at the head of the Haa Alif Atoll, this little island is the number one place to visit if you’re looking to get back to nature. Not only are there flawless beaches and azure coastlines that come as part and parcel of the Maldives, but here you’ll find a huge helping of history, too. Head, for instance, to Utheemu Ganduvaru in the north and find the former childhood home – and small palace – of Muhammad Thakurufaanu, a national hero who liberated the country from Portuguese rule.

Activities

With more deep sea lagoons than you can imagine, you’re unlikely to find yourself floundering for things to do on a Maldives package holiday. For the very best dive spots, head to Ellaidhoo. This dainty island boasts rainbow-coloured reefs, imposing overhangs (ideal for Instagram pics) and resplendent caves.

If you would prefer to stay dry on your Maldives holiday, you’ll find some of the finest scenery in the world right on your doorstep. Kurumathi, a small island just a few miles off the North East Ari Atoll, has a plethora of nature walks to enjoy. Perhaps the most beautiful of them all is the Hydroponics Garden Walk. This gorgeous reserve is bursting with so much flora and fauna that around 70 per cent of the island’s cruciferous vegetables come from these gardens alone.

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Top Landmarks

Package holidays to the Maldives are well known for their floating water villas and pristine dive spots – but that’s not all there is. In fact, once you look a little deeper, you might be surprised by what you uncover.

Head to the capital of Malé, for instance, and you will find the antiquated and ornate Friday Mosque. Also known as Hukuru Miskiiy, this 17th-century building is crafted almost entirely out of coral stone, handpicked from neighbouring reefs. Walk beyond these walls and you will see a surrounding graveyard with carved coral tombstones distinguishing males, females, sultans and their families.

In close proximity is Sultan Park, a lush swathe of land which, with its peaceful ponds and untouched vegetation, offer a stark contrast to the bustling street markets which rattle on within the city. If that’s not enough to tempt you on your Maldives holiday, history buffs will be pleased to hear this public park is also home to the Maldives National Museum, a space where royal possessions and ancient archaeological findings sit side by side.

If you’re looking to grab some souvenirs, you’ll want to pay a visit to Chaandhanee Magu. This lively shopping street in the centre of Malé proffers both trinkets and traditional mats (woven from natural fibres, known as thudu kunas) for which the island nation is famous for exporting.

Entertainment

Although there are bars on the main islands and in the capital of Malé, the Maldives is a predominately 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 also hold beach barbeques for their guests, and the most lively resorts boast beach parties that carry on into the early hours. Live music is also popular in the resorts.

If you're after some local culture, head to Malé. 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 some may be out of date.

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

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, and bajiya, a pastry with fish stuffing, is a must-try.

One of the best places for fish dishes is Huvafen Fushi, an island in the Malé atoll. 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 on Maldives holidays 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, has an impressive international menu. It's also the only place in the capital with a licence to serve alcohol.

Many 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

Package holidays to Maldives are best known for offering stunning beaches. Each island tends to only have a handful of 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 paradise is the very definition of a romantic getaway. You can request a honeymoon experience in many of the resorts, including Cocoa Island resort. Built over the water, this resort can cater to visitors' every desire, and accommodation features a spa for that added luxury. Maldives holidays are romantic in every sense of the word.

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. If you're looking for some adrenaline-fuelled fun, there are water sports available across the islands.

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 tranquil space to ride the waves.

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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 schools. Also, English 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 and 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. Also, passports should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the Maldives. 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 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.

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Main Airports

There are two main airport hubs on the Maldives, with a whole host of other domestic airports. Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (MLE), or Malé International Airport, receives flights from all major airlines as well as domestic flights from other islands in the Maldives. Gan International Airport is the main access point for the southern parts of the country, and is located on Gan island in Addu City, the southernmost atoll of the country. Hanimaadhoo International Airport, Villa International Airport and Dharavandhoo Airport are among a variety of others that serve domestic flights.

Flight Options

The most popular entry point for flights is Ibrahim Nasir International Airport near Malé. It receives a lot of scheduled services direct from London. It also welcomes non-direct flights via locations like 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 other domestic airports in the Maldives. However, as the Maldives is made up of 26 natural atolls, 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 Malé 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. The two main charter seaplane companies are Trans Maldivian and Maldivian Air Taxi. Both fly from Malé'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 Malé can help tourists to charter a speedboat, from a small runabout to an impressive, multi-decked number. It's also possible to hire a vessel for a day, along with 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.

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. Coconuts are believed to be a potent ingredient in black magic spells and curses
  2. The Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls, resulting in 200 inhabited islands and 80 that are uninhabited.
  3. With a ground level average of around 1.5 metres (and highs of 2.3 metres), the Maldives is the lowest and flattest country in the world.
  4. 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. Coconuts are believed to be a potent ingredient in black magic spells and curses
  2. The Maldives consists of 1,190 coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls, resulting in 200 inhabited islands and 80 that are uninhabited.
  3. With a ground level average of around 1.5 metres (and highs of 2.3 metres), the Maldives is the lowest and flattest country in the world.
  4. 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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