Maldives: A Complete Travel Guide


Maldives, officially known as the Republic of Maldives is an island country located in the Indian ocean. It lies to the southwestern part of India and Sri Lanka. It comprises of a chain of 26 atolls. Each atoll contains a number of islands and isolated reefs. Maldives is one of the most geographically dispersed countries in the world. Maldives has a very small area of land, making it the smallest country in Asia.

The Maldives are the perfect destination for honeymoons and couples to make a getaway to. This country of 1,000 islands has everything that you could want in a tropical island – from palm trees to white sand beaches to pristine blue waters. With warm sunny days, from relaxing on the beaches to diving in the deep blue waters, Maldives caters to the adventurer spirit in you. Maldives is as close as heaven as you can get.

History of Maldives :

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The first Maldivians did not leave any archaeological artifacts. Their building were probably made of wood, which would have decayed quickly in the presence of salt and air. One can notice a strong underlying layer of Dravidian culture and language, with a clear Tamil-Malayalam substratum in their language.

Buddhism spread to the Maldive in the 3rd century BC and it played a foundational and a very important role in the shaping of the present day Maldives as a country. It was during this period that the culture of the Maldives as we now know it both developed and flourished. The Maldivian language, the first Maldive scripts, the architecture and the ruling institutions. The customs and manners of the Maldivians originated at the time when the Maldives were a Buddhist kingdom. Buddhism was the major religion of Maldives until the 12th century.

The importance of Arab traders in the Indian ocean can explain the reason behind the conversion of Maldives from a Buddhist country to a Islamic one. Compared to the other southeastern Asian countries the advent and spread of Islam to Maldives happened relatively late. Introduction of Islam in the country at the end of the 12th century is considered to be a cornerstone of the the country’s history.

The Portuguese landed in Maldives in 1558 and established a small garrison which they maintained from Goa. The Dutch couldn’t maintain their influence in Maldives and were driven out by the locals. This event is now commemorated as National day.

In the mid 17th century the Dutch, who had replaced the Portuguese as the dominant power in Ceylon, established hegemony with the Maldives with involving themselves in the local affairs.

The British expelled the Dutch from Ceylon in 1796 and included Maldives as a part of the British protected areas. The status of Maldives as an official prectorate to the British crown was recorded in 1887. The status of the islands was akin to other British protectorates in the Indian Ocean region, including Zanzibar and the Trucial States.

Beginning in the 1950’s, the political party of Maldives was under the influence of the British. In 1954, the restoration of the Sultanate continued the administration of the past. Amin Didi served as the first president of Maldives and introduced democracy in the country of Maldives. The government of Maldives focused on fishing and tourism to boost the economic situation of the country.

Geography and landscape of Maldives :

The Maldives consists of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, along the north-south direction, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres, making this one of the world’s most dispersed countries. The atolls are composed of live coral reefs and sandbars, situated atop a submarine ridge 960 kilometres long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs north to south.

The largest island of Maldives is Gan, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummathi Maldives. In Addu Atoll, the westernmost islands are connected by roads over the reef and the total length of the road is 14 kilometers.

Maldives is the lowest country in the world, with maximum and average natural ground levels of only 2.4 metres and 1.5 metres above sea level, respectively. In areas where construction exists, however, this has been increased to several metres. More than 80 per cent of the country’s land is composed of coral islands which rise less than one metre above sea level. As a result, the Maldives are at high risk of being submerged due to rising sea levels.

Climate and best time to visit Maldives :

The Maldives has a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification, which is affected by the large landmass of South Asia to the north. The presence of this landmass causes differential heating of land and water. These factors set off a rush of moisture-rich air from the Indian Ocean over South Asia, resulting in the southwest monsoon. Two seasons dominate Maldives’ weather: the dry season associated with the winter northeastern monsoon and the rainy season which brings strong winds and storms.

The shift from the dry northeast monsoon to the moist southwest monsoon occurs during April and May. During this period, the southwest winds contribute to the formation of the southwest monsoon, which reaches Maldives in the beginning of June and lasts until the end of August. However, the weather patterns of Maldives do not always conform to the monsoon patterns of South Asia. The annual rainfall averages 254 centimetres in the north and 381 centimetres in the south.

The monsoonal influence is greater in the north of the Maldives than in the south, more influenced by the equatorial currents.

The best time to visit the Maldives is between November and April. The high season falls between December and March. The monsoon runs from May to October, peaking around June. The northern atolls have highest rainfall May-Nov; the southern atolls from Nov-Mar.

How to reach Maldives :

By air :

Maldives has an international airport called Male international airport located in Hulhule island beside the capital of Maldives, Male. This airport is served by an array of flights from China, India, Sri Lanka and Dubai. Many flights stop in Colombo on the way.

The best way to get more value for your money is book a two way flight ticket to and from Maldives. There are flights to Maldives from all major airports in the country. Sri Lankan airlines, Air Asia, Air India are some of the airlines that offer budget airlines to Maldives.

Air travel is the best and the fastest way to travel to Maldives.

By sea :

Since Maldives is an island country which played an important part in the trade route between India and the Arab countries, a sea route was established from India to Maldives. Maldives is located in the Laccadive sea in the Indian ocean. Cruises from major port cities frequently visit Maldives.

One can start their sea voyage to Maldives from the port city of Mumbai. The ship then crosses the Arabian sea and sails towards the Laccadive sea. The ship then navigates its way to Maldives within the Laccadive sea. The total distance travelled by the ship from Mumbai to Maldives is 934 nautical miles.

Things to see and to do in Maldives :

Explore Male :

Male is the capital of Maldives and it is the most populous city in Maldives. This relatively small city is host to many interesting mosques, museums. The Hukuru Miskiiy, also known as the Old Friday Mosque, is the oldest in the country, dating back to 1656. Some other interesting places to check out are the National Art Gallery, the National Stadium, and Sultan’s Park.

Visit Mahibadhoo :

Mahibadhoo is a clean island which locals volunteer to clean once a week. The buildings are colorful featuring rainbow colored pastel designs. This island does not have a foreigner exclusive beach, and the beach is touted for its exquisite beauty. There is good snorkeling right off shore and Mahibadhoo acts as a launching pad for day trips to deserted atolls.

Go fishing :

Fishing is really popular here, this is a real treat for anyone who is interested in fishing. There is plenty game to go after, and you can spend days doing it. Night fishing adds a special thrill in and off of itself.

Ride the Whale submarine :

This popular excursion takes you along the ocean reef. This is perfect for children and those that aren’t into diving. There are several boats that can take you to the launch point — The Whale House. It is best to set up a reservation in advance, even though there are several departures daily.

Dive through the wreck of the Maldive victory :

This is a dive that is best suited for the more experienced and comfortable. There is a heightened challenge, due to the potential for strong currents. At the deepest point, the ship which originally sunk in 1981, sits at 115 feet. The structure is almost entirely intact and it is now home to a rich growth of sponges, coral, tubastrea, and a variety of fish.

Visit the national museum :

Located in Male, this small museum can be found in Sultan’s Park. First opened in 1952, this museum showcases the rich cultural heritage and history of the country. Many of the items here once belonged to the former kings and queens of the country.

Dive in the banana reef :

This is a protected marine area that is known internationally for its beauty and incredible diving and snorkeling. The numerous caves, overhangs, and dramatic cliff lines result in stunning photos with every shot you snap. The brilliant coral growth attracts a huge range of sea life, including grouper, barracuda, morays, jackfish, snapper, and more.

Relax in a spa :

When you spend the time and money to travel all the way to a place like this, it is almost a must to spend at least a few hours at the spa. The best thing about being here is that it is easy to unwind, relax, and do something great for your body. Massages, detoxes, soaks, wraps, and facials are some of the few things to consider.

Retreat to Bathala island :

This is a beautiful island in the north Ari Atoll. It is just 90 minutes by speedboat from the airport or 20 by seaplane. The beaches here are covered in soft, white sand and there is a lot of natural overgrowth. The island is small and intimate, but there is something private and humbling about it.

Go surfing :

Maldives is blessed with high waves during the March and October months. This is the ideal surfing time, with June through August holding the promise of the biggest waves. The Atoll of Male is a popular place to go, but there are tons of other great spots as well.

Participate in watersports :

Check out one of the many water sports available throughout the Maldives. The water here is great for a ride, whether it’s via a banana boat, parasailing, water skiing, or any other number of things.

Food in Maldives :

Maldivian cuisine also called Dhivehi cuisine is the cuisine of the Nation of Maldives and of Minicoy, India. The traditional cuisine of Maldivians is based on three main items and their derivatives: coconuts, fish and starches. The food here is beyond delicious and incredibly fresh.

Maldivian food is a mixture of Arabic, Indian, Sri Lankan and oriental flavours, so it’s the ideal place to visit if spicy food is your thing. Here, you can try everything from freshly caught seafood, to fragrant curries, and zesty soups that will make you squirm with its flavors.

Thanks to the waters surrounding Maldives, it’s no wonder that seafood and fish are the staple food in Maldives. The most common fish available in Maldives is tuna. Usually, tuna is served boiled or grilled along with spices and chilli and it can be eaten at any time of the day.

Coconut is another key ingredient used in Maldivian cuisine. It’s one of the most common fruits found in the atolls, so you’ll find it in most dishes. It’s normally used as frying oil, and is also grated on top of dishes like tuna curry. Also, if you need to quench your thirst, coconut water is a great option for cooling you down, plus it tastes delicious.

Here are some restaurants that serve the most authentic and delicious Maldivian cuisine.

  1. 5.8 undersea restaurant in Hurawalhi
  2. Ithaa undersea restaurant
  3. Symphony restaurant
  4. Fresh in the garden
  5. Marrybrown
  6. Maaniyaa restaurant
  7. Belle Amie bistro
  8. Sea house Maldives

Here are few of the local dishes that will help you eat like a local when in Maldives. Bis Keemiya, Boshi mashuni fresh banana salad, Garudhiya a fresh fragrant fish soup, Huni roshi and Saagu bondibai are few of the dishes that are beloved by the locals of Maldives.

Where to shop and what to buy in Maldives :

Majeedhee magu :

Situated in the heart of the city of Male, this market contains everything from electronics to garments and accessories. There are cafes selling delicious food around the corner to keep you recharged for your shopping session.

STO trade center :

STO trade center is a modern supermarket that contains everything one needs. Frequented by both locals and foreign customers, STO trade center is among the most popular shopping destinations in Maldives.

Male local market :

This huge market street is the most popular bazaar frequented by locals and tourists. Kiosks selling mouth-watering delicacies are the highlight of this market. This is the best place to buy souvenirs and other trinkets.

Chaandhanee magu :

This market holds the best of both local and imported handmade products. This place hold the most famous local and foreign imported goods. As most of the imported goods are bought from Singapore, this is also called as ‘Singapore bazaar’.

Nala boutique :

Nala boutique holds a collection of most elegant and fanciest dresses. This is one of the most popular clothing and apparel shops in Maldives. This shop has every fashion item that you need.

Money Exchange :

The currency of Maldives is called as Maldivian Rufiyaa. 1 Maldivian Rufiyaa = 4.30 Indian Rupees. Even though the exchange rate is not that steep, the country of Maldives is quite expensive.

Money saving tips :

1 Use ferries : The atolls of Maldives are served by a series of ferries from Male. They run on opposite days. After reaching a atolls capital from a ferry from Male, you can jump to the smaller islands of the atoll.

2 Stay with the locals : Travellers can lodge in the houses of locals and this is the cheapest accommodation in Maldives. Services of airbnb is widely used by budget travellers in Maldives.

3 Avoid alcohol : As Maldives is a muslim country, alcohol is banned. Only resort islands serve alcohol. The price of alcohol in such places is extremely high. So, forgo alcohol in the island country of Maldives.

4 Go on included excursions : Many guest houses have planned excursions that you can go on. It’s also a smart idea to ask around the local towns to see if they know of any special activities to do.

Maldives Visa :

Maldives issues a visa on arrival to Indians for a period of 30 days.  There is no need to apply for a visa before hand for a visit to Maldives. To give this visa, Maldives enforces few conditions. They are

  1. Passport must be valid for more than 6 months.
  2. A hotel reservation or booking must be shown to the immigration officers.
  3. Sufficient funds must be available to fund for their stay in Maldives (100$ + 50$ per each extra day of stay).

So, pack your bags, take your passport, allocate sufficient funds and leave on your epic journey to Maldives.

Important contacts :

Police – 119

Ambulance – 102

Fire department – 118

Indian embassy in Maldives – +960 332-3015