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Top places to visit in Maldives

Tropical beach with coconut palms in Maldives
Image courtesy: ©Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

Unrivalled luxury, stunning white-sand beaches and an amazing underwater world make the Maldives an obvious choice for a true holiday of a lifetime. Apart from the astounding beach life and water sports, Maldives has many top attractions to maintain its tourism. Take a look at some of the best places to visit in the island nation.

Old Friday Mosque, Malé

This is the oldest mosque in the country, dating from 1656. Its beautiful structure is made from coral stone, into which intricate decoration and Quranic script have been chiselled. Visitors wishing to see inside are supposed to get permission from an official of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Most of the staff are officials of the ministry, and if you are respectful and well-dressed they will usually give permission to enter the mosque on the spot.

National Museum, Malé

The National Museum may be a ferociously ugly building recently gifted by China, but it nevertheless contains an excellent and well-labelled collection of historic artefacts that serve to trace the unusual history of these isolated islands. There are galleries devoted to the ancient and medieval periods of Maldivian history. Quirkier relics include the minutes of the famous underwater cabinet meeting held under President Nasheed in 2009 and an impressive marine collection, the highlight of which is the 6m-long skeleton of the very rare Longman’s Beaked Whale, which is yet to have been sighted alive in the sea.

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Utheemu Ganduvaru, Northern Atolls

This small palace was the childhood home of Maldivian national hero Mohammed Thakurufaanu, who, alongside with his brothers, overthrew Portuguese rule in 1573. Visitors are escorted around the complex of buildings by a member of staff from the museum and are able to see the fascinating 500-year-old wooden interiors, including swing beds (used to keep cool in the heat), lamps that burn coco palm oil, elaborate wooden carvings and a large palm-thatch shed used as a sleeping room for guests.

Newport, Malé

This cool spot on Malé’s busy seafront road is a godsend to anyone travelling through the city. Sleek and minimalist, Newport feels very different to Malé’s other restaurants, and the food is excellent. The iPad menus are enormous and run from good breakfasts to falafel, seared tuna cubes, sandwiches, giant prawns and burgers. There’s also good coffee to enjoy.

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Muleeaage & Medhu Ziyaarath, Malé

Muleeaage was built as a palace for the sultan of Maldives in the early 20th century, he was deposed though, before he could move in and the building was used for government offices for about 40 years. Muleeaage became the presidential residence for the second time in 2009, and remains so today. At the eastern end of the building’s compound, behind an elaborate blue-and-white gatehouse, the Medhu Ziyaarath is the tomb of Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary, who brought Islam to Malé in 1153.

Artificial Beach, Malé

The eastern seafront of Malé is the city’s recreational centre. Here a sweet little beach has been crafted from the breakwater tetrapods and there’s a whole range of fast food cafes next to it, as well as open fields for ad hoc games of soccer and cricket. Further up towards the airport ferry there are fairground attractions at the Majeediyya Carnival, including a bowling alley and more eateries.

Nilandhoo, Faafu

On the southern edge of the atoll, Nilandhoo has the second-oldest mosque in the country, Aasaari Miskiiy, built during the reign of Sultan Mohammed Ibn Abdullah (r 1153–66). It is made of dressed stone and the interior is decorated with carved woodwork. It’s possible that the stones were recycled from the ruins of earlier, pre-Islamic structures.