Few places on the planet are more photogenic than the Maldives, with its 1,200 islands scattered down the Indian Ocean. This is a paradise for divers, surfers and sailors and each of its beautiful resorts is set on its own private island, offering everything from underwater spas to open-air cinemas; sunken wine cellars to treetop restaurants.
If you're looking for snorkelling, diving, relaxing in lagoons teeming marine life and spotting dolphins while you sip a cool beverage, then a holiday to Maldives is for you. Chill out and relax with a good book, or pamper yourself with a blissful spa treatment, and dine in style on your very own private island. The wonderful year-round warm weather and white sandy beaches of the Maldives provide a stunning retreat and an ideal destination for a honeymoon.
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A pretty small capital, Malé bursts at the seams of the island it’s on and is filled with miniature skyscrapers, mosques and buzzing mopeds. Often-visited spots for tourists might include the oldest mosque in the country, Hukuru Miskiiy or the newer shinier Grand Friday Mosque, while the National Museum and the bustling fish market are also worth a look. You can stock up on essentials, find souvenirs, or try some local treats at the numerous teashops.
Most early tourism grew up around here, given its proximity to the capital and airport, and it is still one of the most popular areas. Some of the luxurious well-known resorts in the area include Jumeirah Vittaveli, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Cocoa Island by COMO, One&Only Reethi Rah, Per AQUUM Huvafen Fushi, Taj Exotica, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Gili Lankanfushi, each of which sits peacefully on its own private island. The area is also home to Maafushi Island, one of the most successful islands for locally-run guesthouses, popular with those on a budget. Some of the best surfing breaks are in this area, while the channel that runs between North and South Malé Atolls - Vaadhoo Kandu – is known for its great dive sites and Gaafaru Falhu Atoll, north of North Male Atoll, is a good choice for shipwreck dives. Shark Point - Kuda Faru – is in North Malé Atoll, populated by white-tip and grey-tip reef sharks, while Bodu Hithi Thila is known as a prime manta ray-spotting site from December to March.
The whale shark is the world’s largest fish and these gentle giants are resident in the Maldives year round, attracted by its plankton-rich waters. May-September is their most active time and one of the best places to see them is South Ari Atoll, part of the main Ari Atoll, west of Male. There are around 80 islands within Ari Atoll and several even have artefacts of old Buddhist and Hindu settlements. Resorts here include Constance Moofushi, the W Retreat & Spa, LUX South Ari Atoll and Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, which boasts an underwater restaurant.
In 2011, the entire atoll was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve as a marker of its incredible biological diversity. There are 75 islands in the atoll, 13 of which are inhabited and the area is also known for its handicrafts, such as lacquer work and feyli, the fine woven cotton sarongs you will often see local men wearing. Some of the top luxury hotels in this atoll are Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Anantara Kihavah, Soneva Fushi, Amilla Fushi and Dusit Thani.