Glamorous 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 the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3 km (10,000 ft). The tiny islands are encircled by magnificent beaches and 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 unprecedented levels of mind-blowing luxury.

Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to the Maldives with my travel guide. Find out more about:

  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there
  • Travel requirements
  • Inspiration, highlights, & travel tips
  • Suggested itineraries
  • Recommended luxury hotels (+ reviews)

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The Maldives enjoy a tropical climate, hot all year round, with a weather pattern that is mainly determined by two monsoon seasons in which the trade winds blow from opposite directions.

The best weather in the Maldives is between January and mid-April, when the dry northeast monsoon prevails. You can expect blue skies and low humidity, although occasional, short showers can still occur (especially in the southern atolls). The dry season also coincides with the northern hemisphere’s cold winter season, which means this is high season in the Maldives, with low availability (although it never gets crowded) and often insanely expensive room rates at the resorts.

The wet southwest monsoon runs from May to October, peaking in June. Although the temperatures remain as warm as in the dry season, r;ainy days and thunderstorms are far more likely. There may be days, or periods of a few days, when the sky is often cloudy However, even during this period, there are usually long periods of bright sunshine, and more affordable room rates mean this is still a good time to visit.

The transition periods between the dry northeast and the wet southwest monsoon usually occurs sometime in late November or December and the end of April or May. These transition periods are often accompanied by a longer period of unsettled weather and overcast, rainy days.

It has to be noted that the tropical climate in the Maldives and the exact timing of the transition periods has become very much unpredictable in recent years, with the wet season becoming drier and the dry season seeing more showers. Also, there a subtle differences in weather though from atoll to atoll, since the Maldives is a very large country, stretching out over 800 km (500 mi) in the equatorial area. The northern atolls – which are home to the archipelago’s most luxurious resorts – enjoy more sunshine and have lesser annual rainfall than the central atolls (where the capital Male is located) and the atolls located south of the Equator. This geographic difference is mainly due to the fact that the dry season is more pronounced in the northernmost atolls.

Some travelers visit the Maldives, not so much for the beaches and resorts, but for the world-class diving and the opportunity of swimming with manta rays and whale sharks. Diving conditions are superb throughout the year, but the areas frequented by the larger marine animals vary with the seasons. During the dry northeast monsoon season, manta ray and whale shark diving in the Maldives is best on the western side of the atolls, whereas during the Southeast Monsoon season, manta rays and whale sharks will typically be encountered near the eastern edge of the atolls.

IMHO, it is worth paying higher prices and sticking to the dry season in the Maldives (January to mid-April) as there is not much to do on a rainy day, except drink, eat, work out, or scuba dive.


HOW TO GET THERE

The majority of the Maldives’ secluded resorts on far-flung private islands are within a one hour boat or floatplane ride from the Maldives’ main airport, Male International Airport (MLE; also known as Velana International Airport), which is located in the North Male Atoll near the capital of Male. The airport is served by a wide array of international Asian and European airlines, both charters and mainstream carriers. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Male International Airport.

Transfers from Male airport to the hotels are taken care off by the resorts:

  • Hotels located in the North and South Male Atoll are reached by boat from the airport, with a transfer time between 15 minutes and one hour. Due to their proximity to the airport, these resort experience more boat traffic and noise levels as compared the more remotely located resorts in other atolls. Boat transfers run 24 hours a day.
  • Hotels located in all other central atolls (except the Laamu Atoll) as well as the northernmost atolls are reached by seaplane from the airport, with a flight time between 20 minutes and one hour. Admiring the picture-perfect archipelago from a bird’s eye perspective is one of the ultimate experiences that the destination has to offer. However, keep in mind that seaplanes operate during daylight hours only, so you may have to stay overnight near the airport when you arrive at the Maldives after 4 pm. In addition, getting to and from a resort in a remote atoll by seaplane does take more time as compared to reaching one of the hotels closer to the airport, because of additional waiting time at the airport, although most five-star hotels offer a private lounge near the airport to ease the waiting process which seldom exceeds two hours.
  • Hotels located in the Laamu Atoll and all southern atolls are reached by a domestic flight, operated by a turboprop plane, followed by a speedboat transfer. Getting to these resort requires an often lengthy and tiring trip, something you may not be looking forward to after your long-haul flight arrives in the Maldives. Besides the 30 to 60 minute domestic flight, you also have to take into account waiting time – varying from one to maximum five hours – at Male airport, both at the start and the end of your journey. All in all, it means that getting to these resorts may take a large chunk of your holiday time on the day of your arrival and departure, making the southern atolls not ideal for a short trip. I suggest you stay at least 5 nights here to make the most of the long journey getting there. The good news is that once there, you will completely relax in otherworldly tropical scenery.

In recent years, a second international airport has opened in the southern atolls, Gan International Airport, which mostly receives domestic flights but also gets international flight from Colombo, operated by SriLankan airlines. Click here for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Gan International Airport. If you are staying at the Sangri-La Villingili resort, flying to Gan is your best option, since its only a 15 min boat ride from Gan airport, saving you a 90 min domestic flight from Male (excluding the often long waiting time at Male airport).

Before you buy a plane ticket, consider reading my tips & tricks for buying the cheapest plane ticket.


TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS

Requirements for entry into the Maldives differ from country to country, and are subject to change. Prior to departure, always check with your government and your nearest Maldivian embassy or consulate what documents you need for travel to the Maldives.

  • You need a valid passport.
  • The Maldives have a remarkably easy visa policy: everybody gets a free 30-day visa on arrival, provided that they have a valid travel document, a ticket out and proof of sufficient funds, defined as either a confirmed reservation in any resort or $100 USD + $50/day in cash.

Make sure you read my 10 tips to plan a worry-free trip.


INSPIRATION, HIGHLIGHTS & TRAVEL TIPS

There are several good reasons why you should put the Maldives on your bucket list:

  • Magnificent white-sand beaches, that rank among the best beaches in the world.
  • Incredible ocean wildlife viewing opportunities (the Maldives is the world’s best snorkeling destination).
  • Ultra-luxury overwater resorts, unmatched in the world.

The following articles may also inspire you and help you plan your holiday to the Maldives:


SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

Most people who travel to the Maldives stay at one resort for one week. I don’t recommend to travel around too much within the Maldives, since getting from one resort to another is an expensive and often time-consuming affair (since you mostly have to backtrack via Male airport).

However, if the prospect of staying an entire week at one resort on a little island sounds too much for you, there are a few resorts that be easily combined in one and the same itinerary, because they are located in the same atoll and connected via a direct and private (and often pricey) speedboat transfer. A few examples:

In addition, a select group of ultra-luxe hotel companies operates more than one resort in the Maldives, offering an enhanced and more convenient transfer experience between their properties. A few examples:


RECOMMENDED LUXURY HOTELS (+ REVIEWS)

Please visit my top 10 lists if you are eager to know how I rank the Maldives’ top hotels, based to my own experience:

Below, you find my reviews of luxury hotels in the Maldives (with pros, cons, and tips to save money per property).


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