24 hours in Malé

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In contrast to the pristine beaches and idyllic turquoise lagoons of the resort islands, is the Maldives’ frenetic yet fascinating capital city. Tourism is the biggest economy in this Sunni Muslim society (the country welcomes almost a million visitors per year); fishing is the second-largest economy. Speedboats carrying tourists to resorts criss-cross over the channel, iPhones buzz in the coffee shops, scooters weave through the narrow streets, and colourful fishing boats chug in and out of the harbour. The Maldivians have a vibrant heritage and are believed to originate from India, Sri Lanka, Africa, and Arabia. Ancient mosques and souvenir shops selling traditional handicrafts stand alongside glittering high-rise offices on this compact 2.2km2 island.


Head to the Fish Market (Marine Drive) pre-dawn to watch fishermen from neighbouring islands arriving to sell their catches. The hefty tuna and 1.5m-long sailfish being hauled in makes for a genuinely eye-popping spectacle.

Stroll to the Artificial Beach (Henveiru) to join families enjoying a refreshing dip and aqua-aerobics at Malé’s only beach. Just remember to respect the conservative local culture by not exposing too much flesh.

Pop to one of the beachside cafés at Alimas Carnival (Henveiru) to feast upon a delicious Maldivian breakfast of mas’huni roshi. Mas’huni is a blend of tuna, coconut, onion, lime and chilli, served with thin tortillas.

Visit the 17th-century Old Friday Mosque (Medhuziyaarai Magu) hewn from coral and carved with intricate decorations. Opposite is the tomb of Abu Al Barakaat, who introduced Islam in 1153.

Lunch at Sala Thai (Buruneege). This boutique hotel serves authentic Thai cuisine in the tranquil walled garden or sleek Thai-themed interior. Then pop to the hotel’s FootRub outlet for a revitalising massage.

Visit the National Museum. Explore a selection of Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim artefacts from the Maldives. Highlights include royal thrones, beautifully decorated Qur’ans, and a whale skeleton.

Tuck into an aromatic Maldivian fish curry at Nalahiya Hotel as you admire the sunset. The rooftop restaurant is one of the best spots in the city to watch the sun setting over Villingili Island.

Set off on the Whale Submarine for an adventure 40m underwater. Aquatic creatures become more active at night; if you’re lucky, you may spot sharks and barracudas, or sleeping manta rays.

Chill out by the pool at Traders Hotel’s rooftop restaurant as the lights of Malé twinkle below. Enjoy a mouth-watering ‘mocktail’ (Malé is ‘dry’), and if you’re lucky you may catch a live DJ set.


Malé, Maldives
Distance: 3,351 km
Flight Time: 4 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: 2 flights a day

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