A trip to the Maldives is one of the biggest travel dreams of all. And Male is the beginning of all the excursions towards the discovery of the treasures that this country has to offer. Certainly the capital of the island complex, it will not be the best you will see on your trip to the Maldives, but it is definitely worth visiting!
A few words about the city
Male is the capital and the largest (perhaps the only) city of the island state of Maldives. It is located approximately in the middle of the island complex of 1,200 islands, on the south side of Kaafu Atoll and counts 104,403 inhabitants. Its name comes from the word "Mahaalai", meaning the royal palace or capital (King's island) in Sanskrit. In Male, there are all the state buildings and state services of the country, as well as the unique airport of Maldives and the main port. The truth is Male has nothing to do with the rest of the Maldives, but being there is definitely worth discovering. So I have chosen for you what I think is worth paying attention for someone visiting the city for the first time.
The Republic Square, also known as Jamboree Maidan, was constructed in 1989 and is probably the only square in all of the Maldives. It is located in front of the main pier of the Port of Male (Jetty 1) and is considered the most central point of the city. At one end of the square, there is a charming fountain, while on the other stands a huge pole with the flag of the country. Around the square there are many state buildings, such as the Police Headquarters, the National Security Agency (NSS), the Mint, the Ministry of Defence and many others.
If you want to get a taste of the everyday life of the locals in Male, you don't have to look far. The Fish Market is located next to the port and is arguably the commercial center of the country's most important industry, fishing. Unlike most such markets, there is no specific schedule here, nor will you ever find it closed. Throughout the day, fishermen from all over the country sail to the edge of the market and unload their daily catch. The most popular fish for sale is, of course, tuna, which you will see in various sizes, from very small to really huge! It is worth walking through the market and admiring the locals cleaning and filleting the fish, which looks like a show.
Maldivian National Museum
The Maldivian National Museum has been in operation since 1952 and has a large collection of historical artifacts from the country. The exhibition begins on the lower floor with a gallery dedicated to the ancient and medieval period of Maldivian history. Objects on display include weapons, religious paraphernalia and household goods, as well as many striking carved Arabic and Thaana pieces of wood commemorating the country's conversion to Islam in 1153. On the upper floor the modern period is represented, and some valuable specimens of the lacquered boxes, for which the Maldives are famous, are exhibited! Also, you will find various pieces of antique technology, such as the first gramophone, telephone and a huge computer. One of the most curious relics you will come across in the museum is the minutes of the famous underwater cabinet meeting, held under President Nasheed in 2009. Equally interesting is an impressive marine collection, with its trademark, the 6-meter-long skeleton of the very rare Longman's Beaked whale, which has yet to appear alive in the ocean! Unfortunately, during protests against former President Nasheed in 2012, fanatical extremists entered the museum and destroyed about 30 ancient Buddhist coral sculptures from the country's pre-Islamic period as they were considered "idols." Security remains tight. Admission for locals costs 25 rufiyas (about 1,5e), while tourists will have to pay 155 rufiyas, which is about 9.5e.
The Presidential Palace of the Maldives or Muliaage, as its official name in the local dialect, is the place where the president of the Maldives currently resides. The palace was built from 1914 to 1919 and in 2019 celebrated 100 years of history. It is located in the center of Male, where the Houses of Sultans and Kings used to be! The Muliaage was built by Sultan Mohammed Shamsuddin III for his son, Prince Hassan Izuddin, as a gift for his arrival in the Maldives after completing his education in Ceylon. The Prince lived in the palace from 1920 to 1934, when he was arrested, and the building was in disuse until World War II. Since then, the building has been used for various government administrative purposes or as the residence of visiting heads of state and other dignitaries. The current President, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih resides in Muliaage since taking office in November 2018!
Sultan Park is the largest and most central public park in Male. Also known as Rasrani Bageecha, it was formed after the transformation of the royal gardens of the palace, built in the 16th century. The giant iron gate at the entrance of the park is the only piece that speaks of the old glory of the palace. This particular park is known for its green and peaceful environment, which makes it ideal for picnics and walks. It has ponds surrounded by white lilies and is full of birds singing above the tree branches. The best time to visit is early morning or late evening.
Directly opposite the park you will find one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, the Islamic Centre. Its official name is Masjid al-Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu al-Auzam and it is considered a typical example of Islamic architecture! The Islamic Center was built with the help of several Islamic countries in the 1980s and was opened in November 1984 by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Main features of this colossal structure are its large golden dome and 43 meter high minaret! Today, it houses the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, an Islamic library and several conference rooms, believed to be able to accommodate up to 5000 people at a time. Finally, next to it is the Victory Monument, which was built in memory of the incredible victory of the Maldivian soldiers over the Tamil Tigers, a militant organization.
The Sinamale Bridge, also known as the China Maldives Friendship Bridge, is an attraction in itself. It is 2.1 km long and was funded by China as a sign of friendship. It connects the capital Male with the islet of Hulhumale, where the country's International Airport is located. The beautiful entrance of the bridge symbolizes Islam along with the unity and national consciousness of the Maldives. Finally, from there you will have panoramic views of the whole city, while during peak hours there is usually traffic confusion.
The Tsunami Monument is located at the westernmost point of Male and was built to commemorate the victims of the deadly 2004 tsunami that devastated many countries around the Indian Ocean. One of these countries was unfortunately, the Maldives, with an estimated 74 deaths, hundreds of injured and extensive property damage on many of the islands. The 20 steel spheres encircling the monument symbolize the country's 20 atolls, while the rising pillars represent tsunami waves. The construction's bars pay tribute to the victims of the disaster, and the names of the 74 victims are carved into the edifice. Finally, this particular spot is one of the best to see the sunset in the capital, while surfers prefer it to tame the waves.
King Salman Mosque
The King Salman Mosque is the largest and most impressive mosque in Male, with a capacity of 10,000 worshippers. The mosque was designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Maldivian independence. Construction began in 2018, and although still not fully completed, it was unofficially opened in April 2022. The construction of the mosque was partly funded by Saudi Arabia and named after King Salman, of Saudi Arabia. Architecturally it is of particular interest, since it does not resemble any ordinary mosque. It is a six-story building, with five minarets, representing the Five Pillars of Islam, while it lacks a traditional dome. Instead, the dome-like structure is designed to resemble a Bedouin desert scene! Entrance to the mosque is free.
For many years a visit to the Maldives entailed a stay at a luxury resort, thus a vacation for the few. These luxury resorts are located on private small islands throughout the Maldives island complex and offer high quality services. As soon as you arrive in the country and Velana International Airport, the respective resort will have arranged your transfer to the island you have chosen by boat or seaplane. Throughout your stay there, you will feel like royalty, living moments taken from your most beautiful dreams. Depending on the packages you choose, there are spa services, huge food buffets with everything imaginable, water activities and more. Of course, such an experience costs, and in our case it costs dearly. Typically, a night at such a resort starts from 700 euros and can reach several thousand euros. This is one of the reasons why the Maldives is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations.
My personal opinion, however, is that you have not visited the Maldives unless you go to one of the local islands. You will not get in touch with the people of this country, you will not see their life, you will not taste the authentic local flavors! They are completely safe places, with zero crime, which rely entirely on tourism. Unspoilt and unpretentious places, which have begun to receive tourists only in recent years and more specifically since 2009! With people who, despite the fact that they live on the edge of poverty, be happy and kind to everyone, even if they see you for the first and perhaps last time. And, of course, there the prices are normal and approachable by each of us. In the Maldives there are 1192 islands, some larger, some smaller, some inhabited, some uninhabited, some resorts, other islands of the locals. As you can see, the options are countless, but we chose to find ourselves on one of the islands of Alif Alif Atoll and more specifically Ukulhas and we did not regret it for a second. It is a tiny island, which is easy to walk from one end to the other in just fifteen minutes. It is known for its wonderful beach (bikini beach), its hospitable people and its well maintained waste management system. Finally, the rest of the islands of this atoll, Rasdhoo and Mathiveri, seemed equally beautiful to us, which we visited for a while.
How to go
Of course, it would not be possible to have a direct connection between Thessaloniki and Male, so you should definitely make some stops to reach your final destination. The best option is a combination of Wizzair flights from Athens, with a stopover in Abu Dhabi, where with proper planning one can find tickets starting from 310€ round trip!
Where to stay
Although Male is a small town, you won't have any trouble finding a hotel to stay in, as most tourists hardly stay in the capital. The accommodation I have to recommend in Male is the Beehive Premier, which offers free travel from the airport and has beautifully renovated rooms with sea views. As for the local islands, I have to recommend Ranthari Hotel & Spa in Ukulhas, which offers the ultimate living experience.
How to move
I can assure you of one thing. While in Male you will not need any means of transport. Male is a small island that you can easily get around on foot in just a few minutes. So the distances are short and any attractions are concentrated near the port. However, if you need a means of transport, there are buses in the city that cover the whole island and reach the airport. Finally, taxis are very economical, but they usually only accept cash!
What to eat
Maldivian cuisine harmoniously combines the culinary traditions of India, Thailand and China. As a Muslim country, pork (and alcohol) is banned, which means that you will find main dishes with poultry, beef and, of course, a lot of fish, especially tuna! Furthermore, most of the national dishes contain rice, various seasonings, mostly curry, coconut, lemon juice and fish broth (garudium). Of course, in the Maldives, you will also taste delicious exotic fruits such as passion fruit, mango, pineapple, grapefruit, banana, papaya and others, which are also used as raw material for juices, smoothies and desserts. Some of the most popular dishes in the country are Mas Huni (pasta with tuna, onion, coconut and chili), Kuli Borkiba (boiled fish with spicy spices and pies), Fiya Satani (salad with onion and green chili peppers), Cypress Torah (spicy soup with zucchini, curry and chili peppers), Handulu Bondibay (dessert with rice pudding and cockerel) and finally Dhufun (nut with various spices). To taste authentic Maldivian flavors, I recommend visiting the Sea House Café, while for coffee and dessert the Seagull Café House.
In the Maldives we travel with a Passport with a validity of at least 6 months, while a Visa is not required in advance. Upon your entry into the country, your passport will be stamped.
In the Maldives the language used is Dhivehi, while most, for tourist reasons, also know English. However, everyone is willing to help if they know.
The country's currency is the Rufiya (MRF) and its exchange rate is currently €1 = 16.44 Rufiya. Of course, the local currency comes second, since most transactions are done in US dollars. Finally, everyone accepts euros.
I would suggest you carry cash, mostly US dollars, as most shops will charge you a fee for using a card or the local currency!!
Male is two hours ahead of Greece (GMT +5).
There are specific options for getting to and from Male airport. If you plan to go directly to another island, you should make arrangements in advance with the accommodation where you will be staying to reserve a speed boat or seaplane.
If you are going to Male again, hotels usually offer free transportation, while taxis are very cheap.
There is no Greek embassy or consulate in the Maldives. Our country is diplomatically represented in the Maldives, through parallel accreditation, by our Embassy in New Delhi, India!
The best time to visit Male and the Maldives, in general, is between November and April, i.e. after the monsoon season.
Recommended excursions → Ukulhas, Rashdoo, Mathiveri, Vaavo Shipwreck