The archipelagic nation of the Maldives is renowned for its pristine, white sand beaches, turquoise water, coral atolls and tropical climate. Prized as the ultimate holiday destination, our essential Maldives guide contains everything you need to know about the Indian Ocean paradise.
Currency: Maldivian rufiyaaa
Famous for: Its unique geography. Comprised of approximately 1,190 coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls making up two island chains, the Maldives sits on top of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a prominent volcanic and oceanic plateau in the Indian Ocean and has the lowest elevation of any country in the world. Crystalline lagoons and coral reef surround the islands, providing an underwater ecosystem that supports thousands of marine species. The Maldives has numerous protected areas on land and under the sea. Multiple bird species, such as the white tern, and marine species, such as parrot fish and sea turtles, are also protected.
The Maldives has a tropical monsoon climate with warm temperatures, ranging from 25°C to 31°C, and an average of eight hours of sunshine per day all year round. The southwest monsoon, or wet season, runs from May to November. The northeast monsoon, or dry season, runs from December to April.
What to Do
Feeling energetic? Take your pick from an extensive list of water-based activities on offer, such as deep-sea fishing, sailing or windsurfing. Or explore the coral reef and the abundance of marine life that calls it home with a scuba diving or snorkelling excursion.
If you want to spend some time on dry land, pay a visit to Malé, the capital of the Maldives, where you can visit the National Museum and take in the impressive golden dome of the Grand Friday Mosque, built in the 1980s, or the Hukuru Miskiy (Old Friday Mosque), built from coral stone in the 17th century.
What to Eat
Maldivian, or Dhivehi, cuisine, is dominated by seafood – especially tuna – but breadfruit, cassava, coconut, rice, screwpine, sweet potato and taro are also common ingredients. There is a strong Indian influence, with curries such as mas riha among the most popular dishes. Any good Maldives guide will recommend mas huni, a coconut and tuna salad typically eaten for breakfast. Other specialties include garudiya, a spicy fish broth; kulhi boakibaa, fishcakes; and handulu bondibai, sweetened sticky rice.
The state religion of Maldives is Islam and the culture on the inhabited islands is conservative. There is no need for women to cover their heads, but both men and women should dress modestly when away from their hotel, showing as little flesh as possible. Shake hands with local men but not with women. Eat with your right hand; the left hand is considered unclean.
What to Pack
It is going to be hot, so go for summer clothing in light, breathable fabrics, as well as a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect you from the sun. You will spend a lot of time on sand and in the sea, so forget socks and think flip-flops, sandals or slip-ons rather than dress shoes or heels. Opt for practical swimwear. Remember, you will need to cover up on the inhabited islands, so if you are planning on leaving the resort, a long- sleeved top and a pair of trousers is advisable. If you are visiting during the wet season, pack lightweight waterproofs.
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