Today (March 13, 2017): Top 10 best things to see & do in the Maldives.
Glamerous overwater resorts, pristine white-sand beaches and a spectacular underwater world make the Maldives the ultimate travel destination for the discerning traveler. The sovereign archipelagic nation – positioned in the Indian Ocean southwest of India – consists of 26 breathtaking atolls boasting rich cultural traditions and natural treasures. All 1192 coral islands and sandbanks (200 inhabited islands, plus 100 islands with tourist resorts) are encircled by incredibly beautiful lagoons blessed with crystal clear waters and protected by reef structures. Every resort in the Maldives is built on its own private, picture-perfect palm island, with all of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands competing with each other to offer their guests even higher levels of unprecedented luxury. I hereby present you 10 reasons why you should put the Maldives on top of your bucket list (if you haven’t done so yet).
There is more information below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite Maldivian experience in the comments section, or take my poll below!
Male, the capital of the Republic of the Maldives, is located a short hop from Hulhulé Island, home of the international airport. With a population of more than 130,000 people (one-third of the nation’s population) on a small 2,5 sq km or 1 sq mi island, Male is among the most densely populated cities in the world. Although most people only catch a glimpse of the capital’s high-rise buildings while on their way to their resort of choice, Male is well worth a visit, especially at the beginning or end of your holiday when you may have a few hours to kill while waiting for a flight. There are several monuments in Male that reflect a noble past in contrast to the cacophony of modern city life. Highlights are the relics at the National Museum (located in the former’s Sultan palace), the Old Friday Mosque or Hukuru Miskiiy (dating from the 17th century) and the colors, sounds and odors of the local fish market. Some of the ancient coral stone and timber mosques in Male – with their magnificent carvings and grand design – are currently under consideration by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.
- Official website: Visit Maldives
For most people, thé iconic image of the Maldives is that of a deep blue ocean interspersed by tiny palm islands surrounded by ridiculously clear lagoons and sugar white beaches. The only way to see that breathtaking view of 50 shades of blue is from the air, and although you will catch a few glimpses of the islands from your plane upon landing or departure at Male airport, the best vantage point for the breathtaking panoramas is offered by the waterplanes that take guests to their resorts. Indeed, while all resorts in the North and South Male Atoll provide speed-boat transfers to/from the airport, the more remote (and often more luxurious) resorts require a seaplane transfer, with a flight duration ranging from 15 minutes to one hour. Most seaplane transfers in the Maldives are operated by Trans Maldivian Airways. Flying on board a seaplane in Maldives and admiring the picture-perfect archipelago from a bird’s eye perspective is one of the ultimate experiences that the destination has to offer.
- Official website: Trans Maldivian Airways
The Maldives is widely regarded one of the world’s ultimate romantic destinations, and for a good reason. What’s not to like about its iconic sunsets, sugar white beaches, world-class spa facilities, unparalleled snorkeling and diving, Michelin-starred restaurants, endless vistas over clear lagoons, and stunning overwater villas. It’s no wonder honeymooners flock here in droves. Enjoying a fabulous reputation for privacy, the Maldives truly deliver a dream honeymoon, with most resorts providing bath rituals with candles and rose petals and romantic bed decorations at night for newly wed lovers. How much more romantic can it get? With a reputation as one of the world’s most sought after luxury honeymoon destinations, the Maldives is also a popular honeymoon destination for the rich and famous. Katy Perry and Russell Brand and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are just two of the high-profile (former) couples who spent their honeymoons in the Maldives. However, don’t limit these lovely islands to just your honeymoon, though. They’re also perfect for a family holiday or a friend’s getaway.
Mind, body and spirit benefit from the serenity of a holiday in the Maldives especially when this is enhanced with relaxing and rejuvenating sessions at a resort’s spa. There are an estimated 110 top quality spas at island resorts plus some spas in Male and even one in the public terminal at Male International Airport, as well as informal ones catering to guests staying on inhabited islands. In the Maldives, a spa has become much more than its conventional meaning of a commercial establishment offering health and beauty treatments. Resort spas not only match the luxurious standard of the resort’s accommodation, they go beyond it in design and location. There are spas built on stilts over a lagoon enjoying panoramas of infinity; spas surrounded by lush tropical vegetation; spas on their own islands; spas on the beach and in temple-like sanctums; spas serenaded by babbling water, and phenomenal underwater spas. Every spa seeks to convey a breath-taking ambience of secure serenity where exotic therapies defy the imagination.
It is estimated that nearly half the guests on holiday in the Maldives arrive with the intention of snorkelling or diving or, as soon as they see the crystal clear waters of an island’s lagoon and the colourful fish and corals, can’t resist giving it a try. Indeed, the breathtaking beauty of the majestic underwater world that surrounds the paradise island is beyond imagination. Deep channels separate the 26 atolls that run from the Haa Alifu Atoll in the North over 800 nautical km (500 mi) to Addu Atoll in the South, and concentrate nutrient rich ocean currents into and out of the atolls. The latter supports an abundance of marine life, making the Maldives one of the world’s premiere scuba diving venues as well as the single best spot on the globe to dive or snorkel with giant whale sharks, harmless reef sharks and tremendously impressive manta rays. Most resorts feature their own certified dive center, and have access to a diverse range of dive sites suitable for divers of all experience levels; they also run courses to learn the beginner how to dive in the colourful underwater world.
- Other accolades: The Maldives feature in my top 10 list of the best wildlife experiences in the world.
If diving sounds too challenging for you, you’ll be happy to know that the Maldives stand head and shoulders above any other destination on earth when it comes to snorkeling. Snorkeling is open to everyone who can swim and doesn’t require a lot of experience. All resorts feature a so-called ‘house reef’ close to their shores, where the shallow lagoon precipitously drops off into the deeper ocean waters. The house reef is that area close to the vertical drop off where the coral begins to aggregate in a kind of coral garden teeming with marine life and colorful fish. The shallow water enclosed by the house reef also serves as a large natural swimming pool and protects swimmers from the ocean waves and strong tidal currents outside the reef. Snorkeling in the waters off the Maldivian islands can bring you face to face with everything from surgeon fish, tuna, and parrot fish, to eagle rays, turtles and even hammerhead sharks. Quality of the house reef differs from resort to resort, and the best house reefs are located at Soneva Fushi, Park Hyatt Maldives, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Anantara Kihavah, Six Senses Laamu, W retreat, and Angsana Ihuru.
- Other accolades: The Maldives feature in my top 10 list of the best wildlife experiences in the world.
Almost all of the world’s overwater villas are located in French Polynesia (South Pacific Ocean) and Maldives, although there are some alternatives to be found outside these ultimate Bounty Islands. Currently, there are around 8,000 overwater villas in the world, and about two-thirds of them are located in the Maldives. A stay inside a ultraluxe villa nestled over a beautiful stretch of turquoise lagoon is high up the bucket list of most discerning travelers and for a good reason. Indeed, it is hard to top an island getaway experience in a bungalow style room perched above pristine water where a dip in the warm sea waters of the Indian Ocean is literally outside your door. The Maldives’ most exclusive resorts offer palatial overwater residence that will outdo your wildest dreams, with stunning features ranging from outdoor dining gazebos and infinity pools to in-room glass viewing panels and retractable roofs, allowing guests to view schools of fish below or gaze above into the sky.
The Maldives are billed as a slice of heaven and one of the world’s greatest beach destinations and it’s hard to find any reason to argue with that. The more than 1000 islands are graced with the whitest sandy beaches and surrounded by the bluest of water. The only things you hear on the beach are the palm trees swaying in the wind and the warm Indian Ocean waters lapping the powder soft sands. If you enjoy spending your lazy days on your own private stretch of white beach while the sun’s golden rays glide across your body, then you should go for a beach villa, with nothing but the azure sea in sight. While all beaches in the Maldives are marvelous, the quality of the beaches does differ from island to island, since – unfortunately – some resorts make use of sandbags, sea walls and coarses sand to preserve the state of their idyllic beaches. IMHO, the following luxury resorts feature the Maldivian’s most pure, white, talcum powder sands, sweeping handsomely round their idyllic islands: Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani, Park Hyatt Hadaaha, Six Senses Laamu, Four Seasons Landa Giravaaru, COMO Cocoa, and Taj Exotica.
- Other accolades: the Maldives features in my top 10 list of the world’s best beach destinations.
The Maldives have become the globe’s ultimate luxury holiday playground for honeymooners, surfers, divers, spa enthusiasts, sunbathers and even the occasional celebrity. Synonymous with unrivaled luxury, the Maldives have the most luxurious hotel resorts anywhere on earth, with room rates that match the archipelago’s reputation. Those looking to pay top dollar – often more than $5,000 USD per night – for some of the world’s most decadent luxury resort experiences will be spoilt for choice here. Every resort is constructed on its own unpopulated and pristine tropical island, ensuring exclusivity, serenity and total privacy. Guests can choose between villas built on the shore’s blinding white sand or accommodations perched on stilts above the shimmering blue lagoons. Top-drawer spas, Michelin star dining, unrivaled butler service and impressive wine cellars are the norm. To help you choose the right resort for your upcoming Maldivian hotel, I previously published a list with my 10 preferred resorts in the Maldivian archipelago, each with its own take on the castaway luxury that has made the Maldives famous.
The newest resort of genius Maldivian-based hotelier Sonu Shivdasani, the CEO of Soneva, is so revolutionary that it will blow you off your feet, even those that are return guests to the Maldives. Perhaps the most luxurious (and awaited) resort opening of the last years, Soneva Jani opened its fabulous doors last autumn and it does not fail to impress. It follows Soneva Fushi, which set the standard for Maldivian hideaway luxury 20 years ago, and joins the stable with Thailand’s Soneva Kiri as well as a luxury yacht also in the Maldives. Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on Medhufaru island, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The Maldives’ most exclusive hotel is fringed by pristine beaches, blanketed with lush tropical greenery, and surrounded by a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. Each one of the 24 water villas has a private pool and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The highlight of the villas is the retractable roof in the master bedroom, which slides back at the touch of a button so that guests can lie in bed and stargaze.
Contact me to receive a complimentary room upgrade at Soneva Jani at the time of booking.
- Hotel website: Soneva Jani
- Other accolades: Soneva Jani also features in my list of the most anticipated hotel openings of 2016, the 10 most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and 10 reasons why you should put Soneva Jani on your bucket list.
- Review: coming soon (April 2017).