GlamorousÂ overwater resorts, pristineÂ white-sandÂ beaches, and aÂ spectacular underwater world make the Maldives the ultimate travel destination for the discerning traveler.Â The sovereign archipelagic nation â€“ positioned in the Indian Ocean southwest of India â€“ consists ofÂ 26 breathtakingÂ atolls boasting rich cultural traditions and natural treasures. AllÂ 1192 coralÂ islands and sandbanks (200 inhabited islands, plus 100 islands with tourist resorts) areÂ the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3 km (10,000 ft). The tiny islands are encircled by magnificent beaches and incredibly beautiful lagoons, blessed with crystal clear waters and protected by reef structures. Every resort in the Maldives is built on its own private, picture-perfect palm island, with all of theÂ worldâ€™s most exclusive hotel brandsÂ competing with each other to offer their guests unprecedented levels of mind-blowing luxury.Â A holiday in the Maldives can be easily combined with a stay inÂ Sri LankaÂ as there are numerous direct flights â€“ most of them operated byÂ SriLankan AirlinesÂ â€“ between Sri Lanka and the Maldives (with a flight time of around one hour).
GetÂ the mostÂ outÂ of your (luxury) trip to the Maldives with my travel guide. Find out more about:
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The Maldives enjoy a tropical climate, hot all year round, with a weather pattern that is mainly determined by two monsoon seasons inÂ which the trade winds blow from opposite directions.
- The best weather in the Maldives is between January and mid-April, when theÂ dry northeast monsoonÂ prevails. You can expect blue skies and low humidity, although occasional, short showers can still occur (especially in the southern atolls). The dry season also coincides with the northern hemisphereâ€™s cold winter season, which means this is high season in the Maldives, with low availability (although it never gets crowded) and often insanely expensive room rates at the resorts.
- TheÂ wet southwest monsoonÂ runs from May to October, peaking in June. Although the temperatures remain as warm as in the dry season, rainy days and thunderstorms are far more likely. There may be days, or periods of a few days, when the sky is cloudy. However, even during this period, there are usually long periods of bright sunshine, and more affordable room rates mean this is still a good time to visit.
- TheÂ transition periodsÂ between the dry northeast and the wet southwest monsoon usually occurs sometime in late November or December and the end of April or May. These transition periods are often accompanied by a longer period of unsettled weather and overcast, rainy days.
It has to be noted that the tropical climate in the Maldives and the exact timing of the transition periods has become very much unpredictable in recent years, with the wet season becoming drier and the dry season seeing more showers. Also, there a subtle differences in the weather patterns from atoll to atoll, since the Maldives is a very large country, stretching out over 800 km (500 mi) in the equatorial area. The northern atolls â€“ which are home to the archipelagoâ€™s most luxurious resorts â€“ enjoy more sunshine and have lesser annual rainfall than the central atolls (where the capital Male is located) and the atolls located south of the Equator. This geographic difference is mainly due to the fact that the dry season is more pronounced in the northernmost atolls.
Some travelers visit the Maldives, not so much for the beaches and resorts, but for the world-class diving and the opportunity of swimming with manta rays and whale sharks. Diving conditions are superb throughout the year, but the areas frequented by the larger marine animals vary with the seasons. During the dry northeast monsoon season, manta ray and whale shark diving in the Maldives is best on the western side of the atolls, whereas during the Southeast Monsoon season, manta rays and whale sharks will typically be encountered near the eastern edge of the atolls.
IMHO, it is worth paying higher prices and sticking to the dry season in the Maldives (January to mid-April) as there is not much to do on a rainy day, except drink, eat, work out, or scuba dive.
HOW TO GET THERE
The majority of the Maldivesâ€™ secluded resorts on far-flung private islands are within a one hour boat or floatplane ride from the Maldivesâ€™ main airport, MaleÂ International Airport (MLE; also known asÂ Velana International Airport), which is located in the North Male Atoll near the capital of Male. The airport is served by a wide array of international Asian and European airlines, both charters and mainstream carriers. ClickÂ hereÂ for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to MaleÂ International Airport.
In recent years, a second international airport has opened in the southern atolls,Â Gan International Airport, which mostly receives domestic flights but also gets international flight fromÂ Colombo, operated by SriLankan airlines.Â If you are staying at theÂ Sangri-La VillingiliÂ resort, flying to Gan is your best option, since its only a 15 min boat ride from Gan airport, saving you a 90 min domestic flight from Male (excluding the often long waiting time at Male airport).Â ClickÂ hereÂ for a list of airlines that offer direct flights to Gan International Airport.
Before you buy a plane ticket, consider reading myÂ tips & tricks for buying the cheapest plane ticket.
Transfers from Male airport to the hotels are taken care of by the resorts:
- Hotels located in the North and South Male Atoll are reached byÂ boatÂ from the airport, with a transfer time between 15 minutes and one hour. Due to their proximity to the airport, these resort experience more boat traffic and noise levels as compared the more remotely located resorts in other atolls. Boat transfers run 24 hours a day.
- Hotels located in all other central atolls (except the Laamu Atoll) as well as the northernmost atolls are reached byÂ seaplaneÂ from the airport, with a flight time between 20 minutes and one hour. Admiring the picture-perfect archipelago from a birdâ€™s eye perspectiveÂ is one of theÂ ultimate experiences that the destination has to offer. However,Â keep in mind that seaplanes operate during daylight hours only, so you may have to stay overnight near the airport when you arrive at the Maldives after 4 pm. In addition, getting to a resort in a remote atoll by seaplane does take more time as compared to reaching one of the hotels closer to the airport, because of additional waiting time at the airport. On a positive note, most five-star hotels offer a private lounge near the airport to ease the waiting process which seldom exceeds two hours.
- Hotels located in the Laamu Atoll and all southern atolls are reached by aÂ domestic flight, operated by a turboprop plane, followed by a speedboat transfer. Getting to these resort requires an often lengthy and tiring trip, something you may not be looking forward to after your long-haul flight arrivesÂ in the Maldives. Besides the 30 to 60 minute domestic flight, you also have to take into account waiting time â€“ varying from one to maximum five hours â€“ at Male airport, both at the start and the end of your journey. All in all, it means that getting to these resorts mayÂ take a large chunk ofÂ yourÂ holidayÂ timeÂ on the day of your arrival and departure, making the southern atolls not ideal for a short trip. I suggest you stay at least 5 nights here to make the most of the long journey getting there. The good news is that once there, you will completely relax in otherworldly tropical scenery.
RequirementsÂ forÂ entryÂ into the Maldives differ from country to country, and are subject to change. Prior to departure, always check with your government and your nearest Maldivian embassy or consulate what documents you need for travel to the Maldives.
- You need a validÂ passport.
- The Maldives have a remarkably easy visa policy: everybodyÂ gets a free 30-day visa on arrival, provided that you have a valid travel document, a ticket out and proof of sufficient funds, defined as either a confirmed reservation in any resort or $100 USD + $50/day in cash.
Make sure you read myÂ 10 tips to plan a worry-free trip.
INSPIRATION, HIGHLIGHTS, & TRAVEL TIPS
There are several good reasons why you should put the Maldives on your bucket list:
- Magnificent white-sand beaches, that rank among theÂ best beaches in the world.
- Incredible marineÂ wildlifeÂ viewing opportunities (the Maldives is the worldâ€™s best snorkeling and diving destination).
- Ultra-luxury overwater resorts, unmatched in the world.
The following articles may also inspire you and help you plan your holiday to the Maldives:
Most people who travel to the Maldives stay at one resort for one week. I donâ€™t recommend to travel around too much within the Maldives, since getting from one resort to another is an expensive and often time-consuming affair (since you mostly have to backtrack via Male airport).
However, if the prospect of staying an entire week at one resort on a little island sounds too much for you, there are a few resorts that can be easily combined in one and the same itinerary, because they are located in the same atoll and connected via a direct and private (and often pricey) speedboat transfer. A few examples:
In addition, a select group of ultra-luxe hotel companies operates more than one resort in the Maldives, offering an enhanced and more convenient transfer experience between their properties. A few examples: