The Maldives are a chain of 26 atolls and over 1,000 coral islands spread across a whopping 500 miles of the glittering Indian Ocean. From north to south, they’re a palette of pale white sands and aquamarine waters, all fringed and woven together by some of the clearest coral reef systems on the globe and lonely sandbanks that sprout coconut palms. There are barrelling waves for the surfers, spice-scented curry kitchens for the foodies, uber-romantic bistros on the beach for the honeymooners, and – of course – an array of luxury villas in the Maldives that cater to your every whim.
These days, the Maldives is synonymous with overwater villas. These luxury bungalows perch above the lagoons of the various atolls, with infinity pools, glass-bottom floors, and direct access to the water below. Some are bijou boltholes built in the style of real tropical cabanas.
Whether you choose a luxury resort or a private island in the Maldives, you’ll rarely be more than a stone’s throw from the water. Dive below, and you’ll find manta rays, sea turtles and whale sharks. Snorkellers can explore the reefs right off the sandy beaches, which pulse with rainbows of angelfish, parrotfish and butterflyfish. Experienced divers can venture out to more famous sites, like Manta Point and the Maldives Victory Wreck, for sightings of the bigger creatures.
With so many islands to explore, hopping from one to the other is a quintessential Maldivian experience. Embark on a traditional Dhoni boat and discover uninhabited atolls, local fishing villages, and secluded coves where there’s not a single other soul. Each island has its own unique charms, from the traditional arts and crafts of Thulhaadhoo to the lush vegetation and birdlife of Naifaru.
Then there’s Male, the compact and bustling capital. This is where you’ll likely touch down before branching out to your luxury villa or private island in the Maldives. It’s a frantic, frenetic place that meshes the cultures of Arabia, East Africa, India, and Sri Lanka in a vibrant blend of curry kitchens and markets. Don’t miss the 17th-century Hukuru Miskiy mosque, adorned with intricate wood carvings, or the Maldives National Museum for a deep insight into the country’s rich cultural heritage.
Really, though, it’s the beaches that always steal the show in the Maldives. Bleach white from tip to toe, they’re enough to rival anywhere in the Caribbean or the South Seas. Some say the best Maldives beaches are in the luxury resorts of the North Male Atoll, with dolphins, turtles, and manta rays swimming offshore. Others argue the sands of the beautiful Baa Atoll trump the bunch with their UNESCO Biosphere designation. Others still plump for the naked sandbanks of the Noonu Atoll, which peak just inches above the ocean with their slick white sands. We’ll let you be the judge.
- The simply stunning beaches of the Baa Atoll
- Coral stone mosques in the capital of Male
- Bioluminescent beaches at night
- Dive with manta rays at Manta Point
- Dine on spicy fish curries
- Enjoy a sunset cruise with dolphin spotting