The Maldives is one of the world’s most sought after holiday destinations. Referred to as the jewel of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is situated a few hundred kilometres to the southeast of India and Sri Lanka. It is made up of about 26 atolls, with each containing dozens of islands and coral cays. With the exception of Male, the capital city, most of the region is undeveloped, with a sprinkling of luxurious resorts across the archipelago.
However, this natural beauty certainly comes at a price. Nothing in this world is free…particularly in the Maldives. It has to be one of the most expensive destinations in the world, with even the cheapest Maldives hotel going for more than a hundred US dollars a night. On top of this, add a 10 percent government surcharge and tips, and visitors can really feel the sting, particularly with the fact that no other place in South or Southeast Asia is quite like this.
Transportation wise, the Maldives is best viewed and explored using seaplanes, but high-speed boats are also quite common. Visiting the many attractions located around this large archipelago can take some time, so travelling by seaplane reduces the journey times quite significantly. But, what is there to see in this magnificent corner of the world?
Natural: There are quite a number of natural attractions within the Maldives, and many of them have something to do with the luscious, underwater coral gardens that ubiquitously fringe around the many islands and cays. The Banana Reef is one of the most popular dive sites in the island state. It is a protected marine reserve that boasts coral gardens, beautiful cliff overhangs, caves and unique marine wildlife.
In addition to the Banana Reef, Mushimasmingali Thila is another of the top dive spots not only in the Maldives, but throughout the world. It includes overhangs, levelled ledges, and coral growth, but most importantly, grey reef sharks frequent the area. There is also a spot for wonderful snorkelling activities.
Although it didn’t begin as a natural attraction, the Wreck of the Maldive Victory is an old shipwreck diving site that has been popular for more than two decades. The coral reef that surrounds the ship, not to mention that hundreds of different marine life that reside in the area, make for an unforgettable snorkel and scuba dive site.
Cultural: Scuba diving and water activities are not the be all and end all of the Maldives’ tourist itinerary. The Maldives has an interesting history and culture that will surely intrigue tourists. Within the capital city of the island state, Male, there are numerous attractions worth visiting. The National Art Gallery is a fantastic, although small, art exhibition in the city of Male. It is the only source of Maldivian art in the country.
The National Museum showcases various historical exhibitions of the country’s history, both pre-Islamic and Islamic era. It is found on the Sultan’s Park, which is also an interesting attraction within Male.
A quick flight to Gan, in the southern region of the Maldives, gives tourists the chance to see traditional Maldivian villages at work. This has only become more popular after Gan’s airport was upgraded.
Spiritual: the Maldives is a staunch Islamic state, but does contain some exciting pre-Islamic sites. The island of Isdhoo contains beautiful, ancient Buddhist ruins from the Dravidian era. In addition to Buddhist spiritual sites, there are numerous Islamic sites to experience, including Hukuru Miskiiy, the oldest Islamic mosque in the Maldives. Within Male, there are various other important mosques worth visiting too, including the great mosque in Hulhumale.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Maldives Hotel content.