Not too many people think about the best places to visit in the Maldives because the islands are known more for their luxury and pristine seas than a plethora of sights and attractions. It’s true that the biggest lure of visiting the Maldives is the unimaginable perfection of the Indian Ocean, coupled with idyllic island resorts featuring overwater villas, tropical gardens, and exquisite dining experiences.
However, there are many famous dive sites, reefs, and beaches in the Maldives that should be on the wish list of all beach lovers and snorkelling enthusiasts. You may be surprised to know that the islands are also home to lesser known historical sights and natural lakes. Most importantly, the capital city Male is a treasure trove of cultural and rustic attractions, which definitely call for a detailed sightseeing tour. So let’s take a look at the 26 best places to visit in the Maldives.
Best Places to Visit in the Maldives
- Banana Reef, North Male Atoll
Banana Reef is called thus because the island it’s located on looks like a banana from atop. The site is full of wonderful underwater attractions such as a huge cave on the western end and more caverns along with dramatic overhangs on the north-eastern tip. The coral reef wall here teems with banner fish, grouper fish, sharks, oriental sweetlips, barracudas, and many more.
- HP Reef, North Male Atoll
HP Reef is a protected marine area that also goes by the name of ‘Rainbow Reef’. Located to the south of Girifushi Island, the reef is known for its blue corals and arresting caves. A tunnel-like formation known as ‘The Chimney’ takes divers right to the top. The reef is full of barracuda, plankton, grey reef sharks, trevally, rainbow runners, and more.
- Miyaru Kandu, Alimatha Island
Located on Alimatha Island which is also home to a resort, Miyaru Kundu is another popular dive site in the Maldives. Divers flock to the overhang which is populated by numerous reef sharks, mantas, eagle rays, tunas, and napoleon fish. This site is recommended for experienced deep divers who are visiting the Maldives between November and April.
- Sea of Stars, Vaadhoo Island
Usually occurring on Vaadhoo Island in Raa Atoll, the Sea of Stars is a bioluminescent beach that captures the imaginations of travellers at night. Late summer is when the phytoplankton populate the reefs in large numbers, making the waves in the sea glow as they ripple. The sea glitters for a long length, making it truly a Sea of Stars.
- The Artificial Beach, North Male Atoll
Why miss out on the pleasures of the beach during your stay in Male, the capital of the Maldives? The Artificial Beach is a man-made beach specially constructed to fill this gap. You can go swimming in the summers or take a stroll along the sand. Often, the beach hosts live music concerts, carnivals, parades, and a variety of water sports.
- Utheemu Ganduvaru Palace
Located on Haa Alif Atoll, the island of Utheemu is home to numerous historical attractions, the most famous of which is the Utheemu Ganduvaru Palace. It is the wooden dwelling of the erstwhile Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu, who is credited with freeing Maldives from the clutches of the Portuguese invaders. The palace has been excellently preserved and offers a glimpse into Maldives’ royal past. Visitors can see the various quarters as well as wooden carvings and decorations.
- Kandhuvalu Mosque, Utheemu Island
Although entry is only permitted to those of the Muslim faith, you can always admire the Kandhuvalu Mosque from outside. Built from coral sandstone and porite coral, the mosque is centuries old and once served as the shrine for Mohammed Thakurufaanu, a legendary figure in the Maldives. The mosque is small, with interiors carved from teak. Another mosque worth visiting is the New Mosque, featuring white-washed exteriors and a golden dome.
- North Shore Beach, Utheemu Island
The North Shore beach is a pristine stretch of sea on Utheemu Island with soft white sand and water of the clearest blue. Come here for a stroll after visiting the heritage sites on the island. There is also an ancient cemetery on the island that may be worth a visit.
- National Museum, Male
The National Museum is situated in the Sultan Park in Male. The park used to be a component of the Maldivian Royal palace compound, dating back to the 17th century. The museum consists of three storeys that are full of artefacts from Maldivian history. As you look at the ancient stone relics and royal antiques, you get a better picture of Maldives’ ancient Buddhist past and the advent of the Islamic rulers.
- Majeedhee Magu, Male
Majeedhee Magu is one of the most famous and attractive street markets in Male. It is a must visit for those who love beautiful clothes, handmade textiles, and accessories. You will also find cosmetics, jewellery, and electronics at the market which stretches across a long street. The street is also occupied by larger supermarkets and stores.
- The Grand Friday Mosque, Male
Built by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar in 1656, the Grand Friday Mosque is the largest of all the mosques in the Maldives. It is home to the renowned Islamic Centre and can house almost 5000 people at a time. It is dominated by a beautiful golden dome, intricate artwork, minarets engraved with corals, and the tombs of many royal and historical personalities.
- Hukuru Miskiy, Male
Hukuru Miskiy is an old and detailed mosque that also goes by the name of ‘Old Friday Mosque’. It is one of the best examples of a beautiful structure built using coral boulders. On Fridays, the mosque can accommodate over 10,000 devotees! The orientation of the mosque is such that people can face Mecca while offering their prayers. It is known for its intricate inscriptions and woodwork.
- Mulee-aage Palace, Male
The Mulee-aage Palace was built in 1906 and it is where the President of the Maldives resides. The grand white building stands before the Hukuru Miskiy Mosque. Over the years, the palace has housed many important ministries and courts. On the palace grounds, one also finds the tomb of Abul Barakat Yousef Al-Berberi, a Moroccan scholar credited with introducing the Maldives to Islam.
- Male Fish Market
Fishing is integral to the economy of the Maldives and you can witness the excitement first-hand at the Fish Market in Male. Vendors and buyers crowd the market situated near Republic Square. Every day, fishermen unload their haul in the afternoon, after which the fishes are cleaned and fileted. You can buy everything from skipjack, tuna, and groupers to barracudas, dolphin fish, snappers, and sea bass.
- Tsunami Monument, Male
The Tsunami Monument is a striking steel structure circled by two rings of spheres. It was built as a memorial for those who perished during the tsunami in 2004. The uniqueness of the monument makes it a must-see. The steel spheres stand for the 20 atolls of the Maldives, while the soaring tower symbolizes the water’s uprising. Incidentally, the surrounding sea is ideal for surfing.
- Sultan Park, Male
Sultan Park is a beautiful public garden constructed alongside the erstwhile Royal Palace. Also called the Rasrani Bageecha, the park features a huge iron gate that has been borrowed from the palace that once existed on the same ground. The park offers a nice breather from the city, with many ponds, birds, trees, and white lilies. Many come here for a stroll during the day.
- National Art Gallery Maldives, Male
If you love art, make sure to visit the National Art Gallery in Male, Maldives. The Government of the island nation opened it in 1999 with the aim of sharing Maldivian art with the public. However, the gallery also has a good collection of international displays. The gallery was established to safeguard the local heritage and history via rotating exhibitions of art, photography, and installations.
- Mohammed Thakurufaanu Al-Auzam’s Tomb, Male
Mohammed Thakurufaanu Al-Auzam is a well-known figure in Maldives as he freed the people from the rule of the Portuguese. His tomb can be found in the back alleys of Male, and a steady stream of visitors go there to recall his brilliance. The tomb is white and blue in colour, featuring lofty pillars, curved arches, and a flight of stairs.
Hulhumale is a reclaimed island close to Male International Airport. Although it’s best known as a transit point for tourists, the island is not without its own charms. Head to Hulhumale Beach on the eastern part of the island and enjoy its shallow water and pristine white sand.
You can also go snorkelling or scuba diving and meet black tip reef sharks. A variety of other exciting water sports are also available. To cool off, take a stroll through Hulhumale Central Park. You can also visit the local mosque and market, and watch local boys playing football and volleyball.
- Maldive Victory
Maldive Victory is a shipwreck that is popular among divers. Be prepared for strong currents if you plan to visit this historical site. The wreck is of a cargo ship that crashed against a reef and went underwater in 1981. Today, its remains are inhabited by a variety of corals including tubastrea or sun corals, schools of colourful fish, and even sponges.
- The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge
The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge stretches for 2.1 km and was opened to the public in 2018. It is today known as the Sinamale Bridge and connects Male to Hulhumale and Hulhule. It is the first bridge to cross over the sea in the Maldives and was built by China Harbour Engineering. The bridge looks rather spectacular when seen aerially. It will eventually be a part of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
- Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll
Hanifaru Bay is a wonderful dive site teeming with manta rays, sting rays, and grey sharks. Divers flock to the bay to witness the feeding patterns of the manta rays and the mating season of whale sharks. The island itself is uninhabited. If you’re lucky, you may see up to 200 manta rays feeding together for several hours. The water is rich with plankton, making it attractive to the rays.
- Dhadimagi Kilhi Lake, Fuvahmulah Atoll
Fuvahmulah Atoll is known for a pair of freshwater lakes, one of which is Dhadimagi Kilhi. Situated in the Dhadimagu ward, it is around four feet deep and comes second in the list of largest lakes in the Maldives. It is surrounded by thick forests, ferns and reeds, which are used by the locals to make mats. Orchards of mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and tropical almonds also fringe the lake. The beautiful lake sits in the midst of marshland.
- Bandaara Kilhi Lake, Fuvahmulah Atoll
The other freshwater lake in Fuvahmulah Atoll, Bandaara Kilhi is larger than its counterpart and in fact, the largest lake in the Maldives. It is situated in Maalegan ward and was once used for fishing. The lake is not suitable for swimming. It features an observation deck and jetty for visitors to observe the surrounding flora and fauna. Birds living in the area include the common moorhen and the white-breasted waterhen. There’s also a restaurant near the lake.
- Thoondu Beach, Fuvahmulah Atoll
Also on Fuvahmulah Atoll, Thoondu Beach pleases visitors with its pure white sand. It is a popular beach in the Dhadimagu ward, and a protected area. The sand is populated by small white pebbles that are unique to the island. Often, people pocket a few as souvenirs. The beach is also famous for a natural phenomenon called Bissaaveli, during which a shallow lagoon is created in the midst of the beach, which is perfect for swimming.
- Kondey Island, Northern Huvadhu Atoll
Located in the Northern Huvadhu Atoll, Kondey Island is a must visit for history enthusiasts. The island is home to four ancient Buddhist prayer mounds. Divers will enjoy exploring the lovely 2km-long coral garden surrounding the island’s coastline. On the island, one finds thousands of years old Hindu figurines and Buddhist stupas, as well as limestone carvings.