1 week in Maldives – the ultimate Maldives holiday

Dipping your toes into turquoise waters from the edge of your bungalow balcony is a dream made reality in the Maldives. Across over 1,000 islands you’ll find many versions of paradise, with hundreds of exclusive luxury resorts to choose from along the way. Tourism is a key industry across the islands and the locals are therefore keen to show off their country to travellers, by way of diving, surfing and sailing adventures at sea, or treetop dining, wine tasting and pampering on land. What’s more is that the majority of Maldives luxury resorts are each based on their own private island, making for a blissful escape involving private lap pools, pillow menus and personal assistants. See our ultimate 1 week Maldives itinerary below.

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Along with the ease of island hopping, the Maldives also wins us over for its pristine waters and abundant marine life unlike anywhere else on earth

Maldives

Maldives is hard to beat for luxury beach vacations and boasts a long list of tropical attractions centred on surf, sand and sea. Though some beaches may warrant more Instagram posts than others, the truth is there’s no such thing as a bad beach in the Maldives, each offering fine white sands and aquamarine blues to lure over one million tourists in total each year since the 1970s. In just the last 10 years, the Maldives has also seen a shift, thanks to its government opening up more and more islands and allowing permits for guesthouse owners. As a result, there is more of a cultural mix on the islands, particularly the Malé and Ari atolls, with ferry, speedboat and flight routes increasing in number to connect the entire archipelago.

Along with the ease of island hopping, the Maldives also wins us over for its pristine waters and abundant marine life unlike anywhere else on earth. Maldives diving is said to be some of the world’s best, thanks to warm crystal waters hosting coral walls, underwater caves and shoals of tropical fish as well as bigger critters such as manta rays, turtles, sharks and even whale sharks. The Maldives food scene is also a winner, infused with Sri Lankan and South Indian flavours and traditions, making for some incredible seafood-centred meals from the comfort of your 6-star water bungalow Maldives resort.

Photo: Ahmed Yaaniu

Photo: Charbel Aoun

Best time to visit Maldives

November to April is generally considered to be the best time for a Maldives vacation while avoiding the rainy season which runs from May to October. If you don’t mind a little rain, however (around 12-25CM rainfall each month from May through October), the islands remain sunny and warm all year round and travelling later in the year can also earn you slightly cheaper deals and fewer crowds. Surfing season also runs between May and October when the islands see bigger waves and swells along their shores.

Gay Maldives travel

Knowing the situation for LGBTQ+ people is a must to help you stay safe while travelling the islands. The reality is that being gay or lesbian in the Maldives remains a legal issue and Sharia Law is upheld across a number of islands with majority Muslim populations. That being said, the law is one thing but the lifestyle is another. Though alcohol is technically illegal in the country (and will be confiscated at customs on arrival) many resorts cater to tourists and as such you’re certain to find a good cocktail somewhere. The same goes for same-sex couples worrying about finding a honeymoon suite; though discretion is advisable, it’s likely you won’t run into any troubles when booking or out and about. Regardless of orientation, travellers should remember that this is a conservative country and therefore public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum. Learn more about the current situation with our guide to gay travel in the Maldives.

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Fulidhoo, Maldives | Photo: Marvin Meyer

Things to keep in mind while visiting Maldives

Though you may want to flash your sun-starved skin the moment you hit the beach, you should know that the local customs and laws actually prohibit nudity (or scant swimwear) on public beaches. To make sure you’re safe before stripping off, look out for a swimwear signboard beforehand or check with your resort before booking. If you find yourself within a designated tourist-only ‘bikini beach’, stay within the cordons and pack a t-shirt and sarong for use when you leave the area.

Travelling between islands is not so difficult while in the Maldives and ferries are your cheapest option, following a pre-planned schedule and bookable in person at the port. Inquire as to times and prices on arrival in Malé. Though some resorts may recommend a speed boat as a faster way to travel, the ferry is actually rather leisurely, allowing extra time for paradise views as well as dolphin- and turtle-watching.

Getting around Maldives

Pack your comfiest flip flops because you’re sure to rack up a few kilometres of walking while on your Maldives honeymoon. Everything is quite compact on each island and even the capital city of Malé covers just 2.2 square kilometres. While cars are allowed in the capital and a few other larger islands, generally speaking, the Maldives is a car-free destination, with yachts instead of SUVs! Once you arrive at Velana International Airport (MLE) on Hulhulé Island it’s likely your resort will take care of your transfer, with a combination of ferry, seaplane or speedboat to get you to your destination. Onward flights to 12 regional airports can also be made from Velana if necessary.

Photo: Shifaaz Shamoon

Photo: Rayyu Maldives

The ultimate Maldives itinerary

Planning luxury escapes Maldives style is best done on a laid-back timeframe, so as not to feel too rushed to enjoy the sea breeze run through your hair. With just a week to spend in the Maldives, don’t try to do too much and instead enjoy the serenity within one or two key areas. Our 7-day itinerary takes us from the capital city to the tropical beaches of Ukulhas, Maafushi, Fihalhohi and the tiny Fulidhoo.

Day 1: Malé – Hulhumale

We start our 7-day itinerary on Hulhulé, spending one night in the capital of Malé to experience Maldives culture at large. Take a tour or go it alone, ticking off main attractions such as the ancient Friday Mosque and the golden minaret of the Islamic Centre, with a brief interlude at the lively fish market. Though small, the Maldivian capital packs a punch, crowded and frenetic in complete opposition to the tranquil private islands that lay ahead. Being the centre of politics and trade, Malé overflows with intrigue and commercial pursuits alike. Pause in any of the alcohol-free cafés and restaurants scattered around before joining the throngs at markets and shopping districts that weave out from the centre.

Accommodation in and around Malé can meet any budget and the waters around the island are also worthy of an afternoon trip, with clear waters and impressive landscapes. Water sports are popular along the coast too, with the beach at Hulhumale lined with canoes, wake boards and jet skis ready to propel you into the open water alongside parasailers and kitesurfers. If you stay until sundown you can also consider booking the romantic sunset cruise.

Malé, Maldives | Photo: Ishan Seefromthesky

Malé | Photo: Ishan Seefromthesky

Day 2: Ukulhas

Day 2 of your Maldives holiday will bring you via ferry or speedboat to Ukulhas, an island on the North Ari Atoll measuring just 1 kilometre across and home to a population of just 900 people. In contrast to Malé, Ukulhas moves as if in slow motion, with locals and tourists congregating around Bikini Beach on the island’s south side. Choose a hotel with direct beach access or try a newly-opened guesthouse, many of which follow sustainable practices in keeping with the local ethos. Be aware that Ukulhas’ beaches are best seen in high season (November to April) because outside of these months weather changes can bury much of the beach in high tides and coral debris.

Day 3: Snorkel at Ukulhas

Snorkelling in Maldives happens on day 3 while we’re still appreciating the glory of Ukulhas. Just off the coast from Bikini Beach, you’ll find an underwater house reef covered in live coral and inhabited by schools of tropical fish. Stingrays, cuttlefish, turtles and octopus all swim in these waters and can often be spotted from surface level. If you opt for a snorkelling safari you may also come close to manta rays and huge sea turtles towards the north. In the same region, between Ukulhas and Mathiveri Island, lies a coral reef lagoon where manta rays (measuring up to 6 metres in breadth!) are often found swimming in groups.

Alternatively, the uninhabited islands near Rasdhoo are common stop-offs on snorkelling and day tours, offering desert island vibes and sandbars stretching up to 150 metres. Be careful of the currents in these waters and pack an umbrella to beat the heat!

Ukulhas | Photo: Karl Muscat

Photo: Ishan Seefromthesky

Day 4: Maafushi

Transferring to a speedboat back in Malé will get you to the inhabited island of Maafushi, on Kaafu Atoll. The ride will take around two hours before anchoring at Villingili Port, a short distance from Villingili Beach. There are a number of independent accommodation options on Maafushi and though the beaches are easily beaten elsewhere on the archipelago, the selection of water sports on offer here is second to none. Along with an influx of guesthouses and hotels in recent years, Maafushi has fast become known for its cosmopolitanism and affordable excursions such as diving, snorkelling or day-tripping by boat. Check out the floating bars just off the coast for something alcoholic or alternatively find a resort that caters to foreigners. Before moving on from Maafushi, say thank you to the islanders by picking up a handwoven souvenir, in support of local craftsmanship.

Day 5: Maafushi – Fihalhohi

Another day, another speed boat, this time jetting towards the last island on South Male, Fihalhohi. Here you’ll find the luxury overwater villa Maldives is famous for, plus beach resorts boasting palm-thatched roofs and private terraces with Indian Ocean views. Relaxation is the order of the day on Fihalhohi, granted by exotic spa treatments and long beach days in proximity to popular snorkelling sites, such as Maavelaathu, Banana Reef, Vilivaru Corner and Maafushi Corner. As well as trying scuba diving in Maldives, travellers can also take a dolphin safari or other watersports adventures including parasailing, jet skiing, and kayaking.

Kihavah Huravalhi Island Baa Atoll

Photo: Ishan Seefromthesky

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Relaxation is the order of the day on Fihalhohi, granted by exotic spa treatments and long beach days in proximity to popular snorkelling sites

Day 6 & 7: Fulidhoo

One of the tiniest islands in the Maldives and the final stop on our itinerary is Fulidhoo, reachable by both ferry and speedboat from Malé and Maafushi. Measuring just 675 metres by 200 metres, Fulidhoo is easily walkable, though most of the action happens in the lagoon beside the main beach where snorkelling, diving and kayaking all take precedence. Being the northernmost inhabited island on the Vaavu Atoll, Fulidhoo is well known for its exceptional ocean life, including grey reef sharks, nurse sharks, manta rays, eagle rays and barracuda which live amongst the hard and soft coral to the north side of the island. Those searching for a challenging channel dive can ask the island’s only dive shop – Fulidhoo Dive – for information on ‘Miyaru Kandu’, a dive featuring a number of channel caves and overhangs. The night dive with reef sharks is also a popular choice for tourists and locals throughout the Maldives. If you’d like to stay above water while on Fulidhoo however, try a fishing excursion such as Big Game Fishing and night fishing before making the most of one more night at any of the luxury resorts Maldives that tickle your fancy.

Other islands nearby also worth considering when booking a hotel include the Alimathà resort island and the Four Seasons Maldives resort at Kuda Huraa.

Fulidhoo, Maldives | Photo Teddie Humaam

Photo: Rayyu Maldives

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Hurawalhi Island | Photo: Le Maldives

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