Left to the kindness of the delicate and lapping Indian Ocean, the islands of the Maldives have been etched and framed into undeniably a standout amongst the most quintessentially delightful tropical places on the globe.
Going from the powdered shorelines of the northern atolls to the natural ocean shacks and angling villas of the southern isles, the entire country can be discovered strewn over the turquoise waters some path from the Indian subcontinent.
Most guests will arrive in the throbbing, beating city of Male, pressed onto its own particular pinprick of an isle and bragging flavor scented markets and awesome mosques.
Most additionally don’t wait some time before they hit the seaplanes or pontoons and make for the gleaming private narrows of their picked resort, where endlessness pools and over-water cabanas are the standard.
All the more as of late, new nearby guesthouses and the revelation of moving waves have started changing the Maldives from special first night hotspot to surfing, experience and hiking goal – heaven is currently open to all, it appears.
Thrumming with scooters and cars and Indian bazaars stacked with coconuts and spice, the city of Male – the capital of the Maldives atolls – has the frenetic feel of a place crammed into a slot that’s too small for it.
And that’s because it is.
Although rarely visited (most travelers bypass the city on seaplanes heading straight for their resort), the town is crammed onto a pint-sized islet in the North Male Atoll.
It manages to fit some fascinating sights between its streets though, like the 17th-century Friday Mosque and the gold-tipped Islamic Centre.
Male Market is another must – just be sure get your haggling skills up to scratch.
2. Hulhumale Island
Sat just across the sparkling waters from the capital of Male, the island of Hulhumale is forever growing and growing as more and more land is reclaimed to house the sprawling urban tendrils of the city.
It’s also the home of the Velana International Airport, which is the main gateway to these paradisiacal islands for most.
However, don’t be put off by how all that sounds – Hulhumale is actually a charming place.
It’s got a gorgeous – if artificial – beach on its eastern haunch, a clutch of leafy neighborhoods, a glass-topped mosque, and planned promenade walkways above the Indian Ocean.
Maafushi might not have the sprawling luxury resorts and opulent 5-star hotels that many of its nearby brothers do, but it’s got plenty of charm.
Sadly ravaged in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the place has been busy rebuilding its salt-washed fishing jetties and industrious sailor huts in the last decade.
Something that’s helped is the opening up of rights to local guesthouses, which is transforming Maafushi into one of the top off-beat island getaways for budget travelers.
Of course, you can expect gorgeous beaches backed with palms, lapping waves, and a clutch of homey little coffee shops on the shore.
Sat on the far northern reaches of the Haa Alif Atoll, itself the northernmost of all the Maldivian island chains, the beautiful site of Utheemu holds a special place in the history of this archipelago nation.
That’s because it was once the home of the revered Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu – the leader who’s credited with driving out Portuguese invaders from the isles in the late 16th century.
Of course, there are the usual sparkling white sands and lapping Indian Ocean waves, but these are punctuated by heritage sites like the Utheemu Ganduvaru, which is the gorgeous timber-built palace where the respected leader grew up.
In the 19th century, the people now living between the leafy streets and tight-knit housing blocks here were the inhabitants of nearby Gan island (more on that one later). When the British came in the run up to WWII, Gan was transformed into an airbase, and the locals were shipped out to live on the next island along in the Seenu Atoll.
That was Feydhoo, which is today a pretty picture of lived-in Maldivian life.
Come and stroll the winding walkways and sample seafood curries with the locals – the welcome is always warm.