Things to do in the Maldives

Must-see Maldives sights

A hotspot for honeymooners, divers, and get-away-from-it all-ers, the Maldives offer everything you’d expect of Indian Ocean paradise islands – and then some

  1. Bum around on a beach
  2. Souvenir shop in heavenly Himmafushi
  3. Make like a local at Male fish market
  4. Meander Male’s National Museum
  5. Discover dream dive sites
  6. Ramble a nature reserve
  7. Uncover Isdhoo’s ancient history

While you may well want to spend most of your time in a hammock, or stretched-out on a sun-lounger (peppered with occasional dips in the straight-up crystalline sea), these idyllic atolls have plenty of attractions to keep you entertained during your holiday of a lifetime. At your own leisurely pace, of course

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1. Bum around on a beach

First things first: Maldives beaches are divided into “bikini beaches” and public beaches - bikinis (and bare bums) are forbidden on public beaches by local law. You have to cover up. But since the Maldives is made up of almost 1200 coral islands (1192 to be exact, strung in a chain of 26 atolls), you’ll be hard pushed to choose which of its many bikini beaches to visit. Rasdhoo on North Ari Atoll comes recommended for combining the convenience of cafés with pristine sand and shallow snorkelling. For an alternate local experience, try Gaafaru Island on Kaafu Atoll. The island itself is mainly populated by Maldivians, the beach is never crowded, and you’ll encounter turtles while swimming.

Best for: sun-worshippers.

Top alternative: for Maldives holidays with added romance, try Cocoa Island beaches for nighttime fairytale phosphorescence.

2. Souvenir shop in heavenly Himmafushi

Heading to Himmafushi is one the best things to do in the Maldives if you’re looking to experience laidback village life. It’s the perfect place to pick up local artisan crafts, see ship-builders make their traditional dhoni boats, and generally soak up island life. It’s also a great surf spot.

Best for: soaking up village life while stocking up on souvenirs.

Top alternative: Male Local Market on the north waterfront – a favourite of locals and tourists alike.

3. Make like a local at Male fish market

Though it’s not for the squeamish - for starters you’ll be knocked for six by the fishy fragrance - this place has soul and energy by the bucket, and offers a taste (and smell) of real Maldivian life. Watch the day’s catch being brought in from the harbour, be boggled by the size of the tuna and grouper fish, check out the enormous octopi – visiting Male Fish Market is one of the most memorable things to do in the Maldives.

Best for: an authentic island experience.

Top alternative: if you prefer your fish cooked and plated, Male has plenty of seafood restaurants. Head to pretty Seagull Café House to try their take on traditional British fish and chips.

4. Meander Male’s National Museum

Arty types wondering what to do in the Maldives should head to Male’s National Museum in the capital of Bamako. It houses a sparky collection of archaeological and anthropological artefacts representing the island’s ethnically varied population. From musical instruments, to traditional dress, to ritual objects, it’s a fascinating place, with the added draw of temporary exhibits, and a collection of contemporary art by African artists.

Best for: culture vultures.

Top alternative: Mulee’aage Palace, the official residence of the Maldivian President. Built in 1906 and still a glimmering beacon of grandeur.

5. Discover dream dive sites

With an average sea temperature of 28°C, five percent of the world’s coral reef area, and masses of marine life, the Maldives offers some of the best diving in the world, with plenty of dive centres providing introductory, refresher and PADI courses, and escorted dives to reefs and wrecks. Try popular Maaya Thila to see whitetip sharks circling the reef. The site here starts at six metres, plunging to thirty, with overhangs, caves and thrilling swim-throughs.

Best for: water babies.

Top alternative: snorkelers will love Turtle Reef – a shallow reef off the South Male Atoll. It’s home to tonnes of (you’ve guessed it) turtles, of both the green and hawksbill variety.

6. Ramble a nature reserve

Located on Addu Atoll, the archipelago’s most southerly point, the Eedhigali Kilhi and Kottey Protected Area is the largest site of its kind in Maldives. With 28 bird species regularly sighted - among them the angelic white tern, only found on this atoll – this is a must-visit spot for nature-lovers. And even if you don’t know a hoopoe from a white-tailed tropicbird, it’s a relaxing, rewarding way to see another side to the islands

Best for: getting back to nature.

Top alternative: keep an eye (and ear) out for fruit bats hanging from the trees around your resort.

7. Uncover Isdhoo’s ancient history

Isdhoo island on the Laamu Atoll (not to be confused with Isdhoo on the Gaaffu Dhaalu Atoll) is home to the Maldives’ most significant archaeological sites - an ancient burial mound known as a hawitta, with other Buddha images elsewhere on the island. Head to Isdhoo’s northerly tip to view the mound, believed to be the remains of Buddhist stupas. With on-going research being done by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Isdhoo is likely to throw up more surprises from the past. It’s also a darn good place to dive.

Best for: history buffs.

Top alternative: Isdhoo Old Mosque, built in 1701, still in use today, and where the Isdhoo Loamaafaanu was discovered - a copper-plate book containing the oldest written records in the Maldives.

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