Updated: Oct 31, 2021
The Maldives is a chain of 26 atolls. What's the difference between and atoll and an island you might ask? An atoll is a type of island consisting of a ribbon reef that nearly or entirely surrounds a lagoon and supports, in most cases, one of many islets on the reef platform. Atolls have unique geology, so not all islands with a reef and a lagoon are atolls while islands are a contiguous area of land, smaller than a continent, totally surrounded by water.
Maldives happens to be one of the most beautiful places in the Indian Ocean. Whether you spend the day on the powdered beaches of the northern atolls or in an earthy sea shack along with the fishing hamlets of the southern isles, you can't go wrong. The country scattered across the dazzling turquoise blue waters are in the Indian subcontinent. Many people will first visit the busy city of Male, where you land at MLE airport. The metropolis is large compared to other nearby atoll islands and boasts many spice scented markets and the many mosques. Most visitors don't stay long but head for a seaplane or a boat to get to the gleaming bays of beautiful resorts where overwater villas and infinity pools aren't too hard to come by. Recently many local guesthouses and rolling waves have begun to transform the Maldives from honeymoon hotspot to a place where surfing, diving, and adventuring on a backpack destination. The Maldives are paradise, and paradise is open beginning July 15 post-pandemic.
An Islamic city packed with scooters, cars, and Indian bazaars stacked with coconuts and spices. Male is the Maldives' capital, a crowded place filled with the culture and flavor of how the locals live. Rarely visited, most people pass by the city on seaplanes heading for their resort. The town is a bursting pint-sized islet in the North Male Atoll with fascinating sights between its streets. One of the views includes the 17th-century Friday Mosque and the gold-tipped Islamic Centre. The Male Market is another must-see, but make sure you are ready to haggle.
Just across the gleaming waters from the capital of Male, the island of Hulhumale is forever growing as land reclaims out of the ocean. It is home to smaller airstrip the Veena International Airport, which is the primary way to get to the paradisical islands. Hulhumale is a very charming place. It has a gorgeous beach on its eastern haunch, a clutch of leafy neighborhoods, a glass-topped mosque, and a planned walkway that rests above the Indian Ocean.
Luxury is how to describe this island, with plenty of charm, sprawling luxury resorts, and opulent 5-star hotels like many nearby atolls. Even though ravaged by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004, it has bounced back. The place has been as busy rebuilding its salt-washed fishing jetties and industrious sailor huts since, and have done a fantastic job. These fishing areas helped them open the local guesthouses' rights, which has transformed Maafushi into one of the best off-beat island getaways for budget travelers. You can expect pristine beaches with lush palm trees, lapping waves, and a clutch of homey little coffee shops and many stores.
Sitting on the far northern reaches of the Haa Alif Atoll, the northernmost of all the Maldivian island chains is one of the most beautiful sites of Utheemu. Holding a special place in the history of the Maldives Utheemu is a local favorite in the chain of islands. This island is famous for where Sultan Mohamed once called home. Thakurufaau is the leader who was given credit for driving Portuguese invaders away from the isles in the late 16th century. They are also known for the sparkling white sands and dancing Indian Ocean waves. Be sure to visit the heritage sites like the Utheemu Ganduvu, a gorgeous wood-built palace where Sultan Mohamed grew up.
Feydahoo's story is one of intrigue. In the 19th century, people living between the leafy streets of a tight-knit housing block here were the inhabitants of the nearby Gan island. When the British transformed Gan into an airbase on the run-up to WWII, the locals were shipped to live on the next island in Seenu Atoll. The island is Feydhoo today, a typical picture of Maldivian life. So come and stroll the winding walkways and try the delicious food that includes the seafood curries, a local specialty. Locals always have a warm welcome waiting for you.
A sibling island of Feydhoo by way of a seaside causeway, Maradhoo sits above the coral-fringed shores of the Seenu Atoll. It links many isles to Gan in the east. jetting into the Indian Ocean with many beachfront resorts and swaying palm trees. Maybe you could catch a coconut? Check out Link Road, and be sure to visit the different coffee shops and sandwich vendors that lay beneath the palm trees.
4. Veligandu Island
If you haven't seen the romantic sunsets that glow yellow and red over the Indian Ocean's shining waters, then you haven't lived. Have a cocktail in the resorts luxurious bar, sea kayaks bob on the turquoise shoreline, and the crystal clear waves roll in on the beach from the inland lagoon—the beautiful Veligandu Island which is known as one of the best destinations in the Maldives for couples. Many people come for their Honeymoon, and newly-weds are another common site on Veligandu Island. There are a ton of seaside villas and suites to match which you will choose.
Why do people come to Banana Reef? There is only one thing, and it is for diving. There is no place to put on the SCUBA gear and wetsuit in the Maldives than at the Banana Reef. The many different colors and shapes of the coral and seaweed lie with the sandbanks underwater between the isles of the North Male Atoll. It is served by many who lead excursions to uncover the striped snappers and bulbous sponges, the reef sharks, along with the barracudas that roam here.
The spirit of Thulusdhoo Island is, of course, in the saltwater of the Caribbean Sea. The most undiscovered island in the Male Atolls ringed by wide sand spaces from which bulbous coconut trunks sprout by the hundreds. Beaches here are naturally amazing, and the locals draw their fishing boats to flint up a good sizzling seafood barbeque. All of this is a perfect pastime of travelers on Thulusdhoo, diving, and surfing, is of course too. Watch for the surfers making fun left-hand rollers that turn into barrels off of Villingilimathi Huraa.
Fuvahmulah is a little different than the rest of the Maldivian atolls. This spot on the Indian Ocean map doesn't have neighbors, and it occupies an atoll all of its own. It also has a few inland lakes, which is a rare sight to see in the Maldives. The beaches of Fuvahmulah are a must-visit as the proximity to the equator means steamy weather throughout the year.
So no matter which island/atoll you choose, you can't go wrong if you are looking for affordable luxury and relaxation. Have you been to, or are you considering the Maldives for your next unique getaway? Sign up here for our weekly travel tribe tips and getaway ideas.