Located in the Indian Ocean, the Republic of Maldives is an archipelago consisting of a set of coral islands with lagoons encompassed by reefs called atolls, which exemplify the kind of beauty people often call paradise. Due to its open design, it was a region that was a regular path of seafarers from other parts of Asia and Europe. These visitors helped to grow the Maldives as a nation and as a strategic partner to other countries.

With nearly 1,200 islands, about 200 of which are habitable, the Maldives has managed to leverage its command of its environment to create a unique traveling experience for visitors. Its exotic beauty and unique geography enable travelers to experience marine life in a way few other locations can provide. The Maldives offers a fresh perspective on what it means to really get away, and as it works to preserve its diversity, visitors are able to benefit in ways that keep them coming back for new adventures.

01Isdhoo Island

Maldivian Tropcial Sunset with Bamboo Villa and Lights on smooth Ocean Robert Knofe / Getty Images

One of the inhabited islands of the Haddhunmathi Atoll is Isdhoo, which is home to Buddhist ruins that include one of the largest stupas. These prayer temples provide a glimpse into the religious history of the Maldives when monasteries were extremely important to the kingdom of the country. Apart from the purpose, there’s also the design of the structures on the island. One of the mosques on the island is made from rich, ornate wood and coral stones, which provides a striking contrast in texture and color.

02Hulhumalé

Hulhumale island. Republic of the Maldives ShevchenkoAndrey / Getty Images

Hulhumalé is reclaimed land that was developed into a man-made island adjoined to the local airport in the capital Malé. The white sandy beaches extend to both sides of the island. If you’re into snorkeling, you may meet some reef fish, rays, and blacktip reef sharks. In the evenings, you may have the chance to play football or basketball with friendly locals.

03Mulee'aage Palace

Muleeaage Sultan's Palace in Male, Maldives narvikk / Getty Images

As the Presidential residence, Mulee’aage was built on the ancestral home of Sultan Muhammad Shamsuddeen II, during his second reign. The Sultan built it for his heir, Prince Hassan Izzudin, and the young prince hosted many music and dance performances regularly. Eventually, the house was abandoned, the Maldivian Monarchy was abolished, and Mulee’aage became the Presidential Palace. Within it is Medhy Ziyaarai, an enclave with the tomb of a revered Moroccan scholar.

04Addu Atoll

Aerial view made with drone of Canareef Resort Maldives, Addu City, Herathera island, Addu atoll (former Seenu Atoll), Maldives. Luxury travel holidays background. mbbirdy / Getty Images

 

Addu Atoll is a series of islands at the southernmost section of the archipelago. With 20 uninhabited and four inhabited islands, this heart-shaped atoll includes houses made of coral along with coconut palms and banana trees. In addition to a beautiful lagoon that provides a natural anchor for vessels looking for safe harbor. One inhabited island, Maradhoo-Feydhoo, was established during British rule when some residents of Feydhoo were moved to Maradhoo and were eventually given part of the land.

05Fuvahmulah

One of the two wetlands in fuvahmulah, Maldives

Fuvahmulah was named because it was an island with betel nut palms, known locally as fuvah. One of the most prominent landmarks at the northeastern end of Fuvahmulah island is the Fua Mulaku Havitta, which is the ruins of a Buddhist temple. This area was the heart of the Buddhist community and was the last place to accept Islam during the period of conversion in the early 13th century. The remains of the building fell victim to carelessness by unprofessional diggers who were more interested in looking for valuable artifacts than in archaeological discovery.

06Baa Atoll

Aerial view of the Maldives from a seaplane

Southern Maalhosmadulu Atoll, Fasdūtherē Atoll, and Goifulhafehendhu Atoll comprise Baa Atoll for a total of 75 islands, 13 of which are inhabited. Maalhosmadulu is the most populated, with over 11,000 people. As a natural atoll, it’s home to diverse fauna in addition to large mangroves. Its ring-shaped reef structure, known as faru, makes Maalhosmadulu most distinctive. From the sky, the islands of Baa are encased in swaths of light blue against the darker blue of the sea, adding to the intrigue. The sights and experiences in Baa Atoll are numerous, but if you’re up to doing a bit of birding, check out the uninhabited island of Olhugiri, which is a perching site for the great frigatebird.

07Thulusdhoo

Over under shot of a surfer girl duck diving a tropical wave with palm trees in the background. Richinpit / Getty Images

If you’re into surfing, Thulusdhoo is the place to catch a break. Cokes Surf Break is the biggest and most consistent wave spot on the island. Apart from surfing, you can even do stand-up paddleboarding on calmer waters along with snorkeling or scuba diving, where you might get to hang out with a few dolphins.

08Tsunami Monument

Tsunami Monument

December 26, 2004, was a day the city of Malé will never forget when it was hit by a deadly tsunami that originated in Aceh, Indonesia. The Tsunami Monument depicts the rising waters that overtook each of the Maldivian atolls, while the vertical rods contain the engraved names of those who lost their lives that day. If you're looking for a relaxed spot, this is a good space to go for a walk.

09Kelaa

Tropical Island in the Ocean, Maldives graphixel / Getty Images

Kelaa, an inhabited island in the Haa Alif Atoll, is one of the largest islands that's home to about 2,000 people who make their living through agriculture and fishing. Before and during the Second World War, it served as a British outpost. The mosque built during the Utheemy Dynasty by Sultan Mohamed Ibn Ali still stands. If you are there during Eid, you’ll get to experience a variety of cultural events. Visitors can explore the island's various farms and groves by bicycle or motorbike.

10KulhudHuffushi

Upper North Province, Haa Dhaalu Atoll, The Maldives AtanasBozhikovNasko / Getty Images

As the capital of the Haa Dhaalu Atoll, the history of Kulhudhuffushi speaks to hard work and courage. After three damage-causing rainstorms during 1812, 1819, and 1921, the residents came together, and when they felt the Malé government was being unjust in the 1940s, they led the whole atoll in rebellion. The island gets its name from the kuhli, the mangroves that the people use for building, fish farming, and other necessary functions. During Eid, you can catch traditional Mashi Maali performances.

11Fulidhoo Island

Moldaves traditional boat on white sand beach with turquoise azure water and blue sky with fee clouds and lot of boats in background on small island not far from Maafushi island in Indian Ocean DavorLovincic / Getty Images

Fulidhoo island, in the Vaavu Atoll, is famous for its diving spots and training. Visitors at all levels can do 10- to 30-meter drift dives, where they get to see sharks, tuna, and barracuda. Then, there are the relaxed wall dives where you can investigate the marine cave life during sunset or at night.