The Maldives look like something you’d put on a postcard and send back home to your friends and family. The perfect white, sandy beaches are surrounded by miles of the calmest, turquoise ocean waters. The islands in this Indian Ocean retreat exude an aura of luxury and seclusion. It is not surprising that the Maldives is one of the top places for romantic getaways, destination weddings, and honeymoons!

The Maldives is an island nation in the Laccadive Sea, 300 miles away from any major body of land. The islands, about 1,200 of them altogether, form a trailing “necklace” of 26 atolls. Each island is made up of coral reef, which has been built up over the eons to create small islands. Some of these islands are only visible at low tide.

The Maldives is the smallest Asian nation, both by land area and population. Only about 300 of the 1,200 islands are inhabited, which is probably why the Maldives feels like such a remote and secluded destination.

Many travelers are persuaded to visit because of the alluring blue water. The ocean vistas are truly something other worldly. But there’s so much more to see and do in the Maldives. Don’t believe us? Here are 25 other reasons to visit the Maldives.

25 The Sea Of Stars Lights Up Vaadhoo’s Nightlife

If you have the opportunity to travel to the island of Vaadhoo or those near it, be sure to stick around after sundown to witness an amazing natural phenomenon.

At night, the stunning waters of the Indian Ocean take on an electric blue glow. On some nights, the ocean near the shore is dotted with bright spots, mirroring the star-studded sky above you. Other nights, the water may seem more like it’s lit up like a neon sign.

One thing’s for sure: this rare sight, known as the “Sea of Stars,” is absolutely beautiful.

What’s going on here? Did someone drop a string of fairy lights in the water? It’s perfectly natural! The phenomenon is caused by a species of plankton, which light up. These bioluminescent organisms, known as dinoflagellates, emit short flashes of light when they’re disturbed. The flickering is then visible in the water. You can think of them as fireflies of the sea. In most cases, the plankton are simply disturbed by the waves of the ocean or the wake of a passing boat.

While this “Sea of Stars” phenomenon does occur in other places around the world, as bioluminescent plankton species are relatively common, there’s something especially beautiful about it when witnessed in tropical paradise.

24 An Elite Resort Experience You Can Actually Afford

Most travelers head to the Maldives expecting luxury and seclusion in a pristine tropical paradise. Resort development in the country has done everything to ensure these expectations are met. Although tourism only began in 1972, you can now find most of the world’s major hotel brands operating properties around the Maldives. COMO, Club Med, and more have resort properties.

The number of resorts is limited to 1 per island, making each a semi-private retreat. Almost every resort has its own “personal reef,” along with its own beaches and more. Most use the overwater bungalow construction for at least some of their villas.

More atolls and islands are being developed. Villingili is the only resort island of the Seenu Atoll. More recently, the Noonu Atoll saw the opening of properties likely to attract both royalty and rock starts. Cheval Blanc Randheli’s 45 villas are owned by the owners of Louis Vuitton and Moet, two brands known for their exclusiveness and luxury. Velaa Private Island is in the same area and promises an elite experience.

The elite resorts may not be the most affordable, but if you’re planning a trip to the Maldives, you may decide to go all out. Don’t worry if you can’t afford to rub elbows with celebrities, however. Many of the more affordable accommodations offer a similar level of luxury.

23 Malé – The Urban Crown Jewel of the Islands

The capital city of the Maldives is Malé, which is both a city and an island.

Serving as the capital and administrative center of the country, Malé manages to pack in more than 130,000 people on less than 6 square kilometers. As such, it’s one of the world’s most densely populated cities. While not every traveler will be delighted by this news, it does offer some contrast to the seclusion of the other islands. If you love New York City’s hustle and bustle, spending at least one day in Malé is a great idea.

Most travelers begin their journey in Malé. In the past, it used to be the only international airport in the Maldives, which meant those arriving from outside the country had to land here. The airport is located on Hulhulé Island. Another island is Hulhumalé, which has been artificially constructed in order to expand the city.

Malé is home to a good many attractions. If you want to explore more of Maldivian culture and history, Malé provides more opportunity than most of the beaches and resorts. Malé was once known as the “King’s Island,” although much of its royal history has been destroyed since the 1960s, including forts and other historic buildings. Here, you’ll find the Sultan’s garden park, the old parliament buildings, Grand Friday Mosque, and more.

22 Spice Things Up By Shopping At Roadside Markets

Most of the fresh fish you’ll find comes from the catch of local fishermen. The fish is caught, then brought ashore and cleaned before it heads to the local fish markets. If you happen to be in Malé, stop by one of its many fish markets. The largest one actually ranks among the 10 largest fish markets in the world. Here, you’ll be able to watch the fishmongers at work and pick up fresh tuna for about 45 rufiyaa (a little less than $4 a kilogram).

Across from the fish market, you’ll find another Malé market. A rough-looking building houses the market for other fresh foods and goods. Here you’ll find all sorts of fresh tropical fruits, including coconuts, papayas, and swaths of green bananas. You’ll also find spices at this market.

Some must-buys include local spice mixes, recommended for heart-warming curries and other delectable dishes. If you need a pick-me-up during the midday heat, you can try a concoction of coconut and palm sugar rolled in dry leaves.

Continue exploring the colorful streets of Malé to find great shopping. There’s almost nothing mass-produced here. Instead, you’ll find authentic island products. Pick out some unique gifts to take home to friends and family, and a one-of-a-kind memento for yourself.

21 Seclusion Makes It The Perfect Romantic Getaway

The Maldives has developed its tourist industry since the early 1970s, and it quickly singled itself out as a premier romantic getaway. The tourist industry developed to meet the demand for ultra-luxury. That, coupled with the stunning scenery and relative seclusion, have long made the Maldives a popular spot for destination weddings and honeymoons.

Resort density is limited to just 1 resort per island, which helps limit the number of people on any one island at a time. With nearly 100 different resorts in operation today, you could choose to visit 1 of about 100 islands. Keep in mind that only around 300 islands are inhabited, out of a total of about 1,200 in the entire Maldivian chain. Many islands are completely deserted, giving you and your sweetheart the chance to completely escape to your own private island—at least for a little while.

Even at the resorts, the sense of seclusion is strong. Private bungalows allow you to forget anyone else exists. Candlelight dinners on the beach, moonlit strolls, and isolated swimming will give you and your partner the chance to indulge your more romantic sides. Whether it’s a proposal, a wedding, or a honeymoon trip, you won’t regret choosing the Maldives as the location.

20 A Wide Range Of Sensational Spas Help You Relax

You may not think you need much more than the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves gently lapping at the shore to completely relax. Then you’ll set foot in one of the Maldives’ many sensation spas and reach relaxation on a whole new level.

Almost every resort has a spa, and each of them offers indulgent spa treatments to patrons. Almost every one of them is constructed over the water. In most cases, you will need to talk a long, leisurely stroll over a jetty to reach the spa. A glass floor will allow you to watch marine life slowly drift by, even as you receive a Maldivian massage. In the background, you will still be able to hear those gentle waves.

There are almost too many spas to name, but they include the Spa Cenvaree, Spa Vabbinfaru, ESPA, Jiva Grande, and Six Sense Spa Laamu. If being over the water isn’t enough for you, there’s also the underwater Huvafen Fushi spa. It doesn’t matter which you choose. They all offer full-body healing techniques, most of them based in the ancient Ayurvedic tradition. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll leave the spa and the Maldives feeling both relaxed and rejuvenated.

19 Sample The Local Cuisine

If you’re a foodie, you know one of the best parts of traveling is the opportunity to try new cuisines. Seek out the traditional dishes and the locals’ favorite places for great eats. Sampling new flavors is almost never boring, and Maldivian cuisine offers up much to delight your palate.

Most Maldivian dishes revolve around 3 ingredients: seafood, coconut, and a starch like rice. The seafood is exceptionally fresh here, usually the catch of the day from local fishermen sold in local fish markets. Coconuts and other tropical fruits are also grown locally. Most dishes are spicy, reflecting Indian and Sri Lankan influences.

Sampling spicy foods is a must if you want to experience true Maldivian cuisine. A favorite dish is Maldivian curry, which some travelers describe as more appetizing than Singaporean curry. This dish often features fresh tuna, which is abundant around the islands. Another option you can try is Garudhiya, a fish soup served with rice, lime, chili, onions, and curry leaves.

Maldivians are fans of what they call “short eats”, which essentially means snacks served to get you through the hot afternoon slump. Try maas roshi (tuna and coconut patties) or kaashi bokibaa (a mixture of coconut, rosewater, and palm sugar shaped into balls).

18 The Baa Atoll – It’s Home To 26 Islands And Top-Ranked Resorts

The Baa Atoll is home to a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, one of two UNESCO-designated sites in the Maldives. The reserve is centered on the island of Hanifaru Huraa, an important feeding and breeding ground for manta rays and whale sharks. Here, you can take in all kinds of marine life, from barracudas to turtles, to rays of every variety. You’ll probably see plenty of sharks as well, as the Maldives is a shark sanctuary. Whale sharks, reef sharks, lemonsharks, and even endangered hammerhead sharks swim in the waters here.

Popular activities in Hanifaru Huraa obviously revolve around this amazing diversity of marine life. But if swimming with the fishes among brilliant corals isn’t your thing, the Baa Atoll still has plenty to offer you. Outside of the UNESCO World Bisophere Reserve, there are a number of resorts dotting the 26 islands that make up the atoll.

The Maldives is famed for its elite and luxurious resorts, but those in the Baa Atoll are some of the best the entire Indian Ocean has to offer. That’s saying something, considering the Indian Ocean is home to thousands of islands, many of them with resorts.

17 Calling All Beach Lovers: White, Sandy Beaches Come Standard

If you love the beach, you’ll love the Maldives. The equation really is that simple. The Maldives has thousands of islands, almost all of them with gorgeous white sand lining their coastlines. The generally calm waters mean most of the coastline makes for excellent beaches.

The sand here is so silky, the locals have embraced the saying “no news, no shoes”. That is, if you don’t need to run anywhere, just leave your shoes off and feel the sand between your toes. The quality of sand is because of the islands’ construction. As coral erodes over time, it becomes a fine, white, powdery sand.

We’re not complaining. The beaches of the Maldives are perfect for just about any seaside activity you can think of. They make for stunning photos, and they’re the perfect spot to launch your water-based activities, whether it’s a paddle to another nearby island or snorkeling around some coral reefs. You can also choose to simply lie back on the beach, enjoy the sun, and relax.

The Maldives’ location, the low number of inhabited islands, and the limited number of resorts per island mean there are plenty of secluded and isolated beaches to choose from. There are no crowds, and you won’t need to stake out your spot of sand either.

16 Grand Friday Mosque – A Dominating Silhouette On The Malé Skyline

The Maldives is a primarily Sunni Muslim country. The number of mosques dotting the islands attest to this. If you must pick just one to visit, you’ll want to stop by the Grand Friday Mosque in the capital city. It’s hard to miss this landmark; its gold dome dominates the Malé skyline.

Known as Hukuru Kiskiiy in the local language, this is perhaps the oldest mosque in the entire country. It was constructed in 1656. It’s definitely one of the most ornate, with elaborate Arabic script decorating the coral-stone walls. It’s an excellent example of what’s known as sea-culture architecture, which is why it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

The mosque sits opposite the Medhuziyaaraiy and Muliaage. It’s also home to the tomb, or miski, of Abu’l Barakat al-Barbari. Al-Barbari was a Moroccan who visited the Maldives and converted the ruler to Islam in the 12th century. The mosque also functions as a teaching center, as well as a place of worship with space to accommodate up to 10,000 people. If you want to learn more about the Maldives and its history, a visit to this ornate and exquisitely decorated site is most certainly in order.

15 Unique Sports Opportunities – Perfect For Adrenaline Junkies!

Some people are happy to lay on the warm sand all day. Others will find plenty of adventure awaits them in the streets of Malé. If you prefer activity and exercise to lounging, the Maldives has plenty of options for you. If you’ve never tried them before, you can have your pick of canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, or stand-up paddling. Most resorts offer multiple activities, so you may even decide to try several new sports and activities during your trip.

The diving in Maldives is world-class, including a number of sites like Banana Reef and Fish Head. You won’t even need a wetsuit in these warm waters. Surfers will also find the Maldives a paradise. Check out the Yin Yang break in Laamu Atoll. Snorkeling is also popular, and even the most remote snorkeling options are easy to reach by boat.

You might want to test out one of the stranger activity options, such as seabobbing and x-jetblades. You may have seen x-jetblades before. They’re a hydro-thrust flight system you strap under your feet. The seabob will take you under the water. A mix between a submarine and a bobsled, it’s a newer option for checking out what lies under the water’s crystalline surface.

14 You Can Experience Some Of The Most Beautiful Overwater Bungalows

The islands of the Indian Ocean, in Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia are known for their overwater bungalows. You see them all the time in photographs and on postcards from this area of the world. Bora Bora, in French Polynesia, is perhaps most famous, but they exist in many other places. The Maldives also makes extensive use of this construction.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

The Maldives is a country composed of nearly 1,200 tiny coral islands, and only 300 of those islands are even inhabited by people. As such, this island nation has relatively little land on which to build. The solution? Build out over the water.

Almost no one complains about this solution, since it makes for such a unique experience. You can step out of your accommodations for a morning paddle with the fish, or you can dive in later in the day to escape the heat. Better yet, you can fall asleep, safe and dry, listening to the soft sounds of the ocean beneath you.

The overwater bungalows in the Maldives are some of the most beautiful in the world, such as the ones at the Gili Lankanfushi resort. These accommodations may be a little pricier than some of the other land-bound rooms, but the experience is worth every penny.

13 Get Around by Ferries And Seaplanes

When you arrive, you’ll probably fly into Hulhulé, an island near the capital of Malé dedicated to the international airport. This is maybe one of the world’s most scenic airport taxi ranks. Rather than pavement lined with yellow cabs, you’ll be greeted by luxury yachts and colorful dhonis along a strip of blue water.

You’ll probably take a water taxi or a speed boat to Malé, which is about a 10-minute ride. Afterwards, you’ll likely travel by private speed boat or even seaplane. Both options can get pricey. A 10-minute ride in the speed boat can cost around $200, while a seaplane might set you back around $400. Still, this is a unique experience that allows you to see even more of the Maldives as you travel to your resort. If you can spare the cash, taking at least one seaplane trip is worth it.

If you’re going to be transferring islands or resorts quite frequently, you might want to consider another, more economical mode of transportation. Public transit between islands is usually by public ferries. You can also hail a water taxi. The ferries will get you where you need to go, and they’ll only set you back around $1.50 per trip.

12 The National Museum – Once A Sultan’s Palace!

Located in Malé is the National Museum of the Maldives. This establishment is interesting for a few reasons. Obviously, it’s a museum, so it contains many artifacts related to Maldivian history and culture. Unfortunately, some of the museum’s collections were destroyed in 2012, which means it has relatively little from the islands’ pre-Islamic era. It used to be home to several Buddha statues made from coral stone, but they have been destroyed.

The museum’s current collections still contain many artifacts dating back to the 12th century. One famous piece is an inscribed 13th-century wooden plank from the Grand Friday Mosque. Another piece is a feyli kolhi worn by a 16th century Sultan, which showcases Maldivian weaving of the period.

From its founding in 1952, the museum was housed in part of the Sultan’s palace. When the palace was destroyed by fire in 1968, the museum was spared. In the early 2010s, the museum moved to a new building. Although more modern, the interior was designed to reflect the Sultanate. Located in Sultan Park, the old building is the only remaining part of the royal palace compound.

If you decide to visit the National Museum, don’t forget to check out some of the other historic buildings and sites nearby.

11 You Can Make Like A Mermaid And Explore A Shipwreck

Most divers go looking for marine life, but fewer of them think to look for Maldivian seafaring and maritime history along the ocean floor.

If you’re interested in gazing around the ocean floor by diving, check out some of the shipwrecks in and around the islands. Many of these ships, like the fishing trawler Kuda Giri, were scuttled to create artificial reefs for sea life.

Others are actual wrecks, such as the wreck of the Maldive Victory. This cargo ship sank in 1981. Its cargo is still on board, although it’s now a haven for fish and coral.

The British Loyalty is one of the few British ships sunk in the area during World War II. This 140-meter long vessel was torpedoed by Japanese ships. Today, you can dive to its wreck.

Another British ship, the Liffey, sank many years before. Part of the British Empire’s “Flying Squadron,” the Liffey had the misfortune to run aground in 1879. Today, there’s little left of this wreck. There’s another, more recent wreck in the same area, which you can still see today. The Utheemu sank under mysterious circumstances in 1960.

If you want to combine diving, exploration, and a little bit of history, think about visiting some of the historic shipwrecks in the Maldives.

10 It’s A Disappearing Destination

The Maldives has the distinction of being the lowest country in the world. It’s highest natural point is a mere 2.4 meters above sea level. Unfortunately, these beautiful islands are actually sinking back into the ocean. Although no one can quite agree on exactly how much the islands have sunk, the general consensus seems to be that they’re being reclaimed by the sea at a rate of a few millimeters per year.

Some of the islands only exist at low tide. Other areas currently underwater were above it until very recently, a fact you can observe for yourself in many of the resorts. There are shallow waters for miles, a testament to the fact the islands are being swallowed up by the sea. Some people fear the Maldives may one day disappear altogether.

Current projections suggest that people may need to abandon the Maldives by 2100. Rising sea levels are a major concern. Another concern has been the bleaching of coral reefs. The reefs, once vibrant in color, are now pale and sick. As ocean water becomes more acidic and temperatures increase, it becomes more difficult for coral to survive. Since the Maldives are made of coral, this means no new islands will be produced, in addition to loss of habitat for marine life.

If you can, you should make a trip to these gorgeous islands while they’re still here to enjoy.

9 A Unique Culture – Maldivians Mix Many Traditions

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This is great advice for travelers, no matter where in the world you’re heading. You’ll want to be sure to sample the local culture of each and every place you visit. The Maldives is no exception, especially because the culture here is so unique.

Maldivians mix many different cultural traditions together. They draw on Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic traditions, alongside Sinhalese, Arab, and South Indian influences. In fact, the native language seems like an eclectic mix of Indian, Sinhalese, Arabic, and other languages. It’s called Dhivehi, and you may find it useful to pick up a few helpful phrases before you go. Almost everyone is taught English in school, however, so don’t worry if your pronunciation is a little off. You’ll find a way to communicate.

While you’re in the Maldives, be sure to take in some of this warm and welcoming island culture. Be sure to take a ride in a dhoni, a traditional sailboat. You may even see some as you arrive at the airport. Malé is full of cultural attractions. Take the time to visit a traditional village or head out on a deep-sea fishing expedition with local fishermen. You might even see a performance of bodu behru, a popular folk dance.

8 Amazing Dining Experiences Offer Delights For All Your Senses

While smaller local restaurants offer up authentic Maldivian cuisine, the Maldives also has its share of elite restaurants with amazing dining experiences. You can find everything from the casual to exclusive gourmet, from island-inspired flavors to your global favorites.

One of the top-rated restaurants in the whole country is Ufaa, which is located on Cocoa Island. Reethi Rah is another top pick. The Maldives is also home to a Michelin-starred restaurant. If you want something a little more intimate or romantic, you can opt to dine on the beach under the stars or take a picnic on the designated picnic island.

Perhaps the most unique dining experience to be had here is underwater dining. Ithaa is the world’s very first underwater restaurant. It features a glass dome and is located 5 meters under the ocean. The wine cellar is located a further 2 meters under the sea, ensuring wine is kept at the perfect temperature.

The Kihavah Anantara resort also offers an under-the-sea experience with its 4-level restaurant, Sea.Fire.Salt.Sky. The Sky level is a rooftop bar, while Sea is located under the water. If you’ve ever wanted to dine inside an aquarium, with fish swimming by overhead, these unique restaurants offer you the chance to do it.

The Maldives has a reputation for being secluded and luxurious. For many people, this indicates it will cost a lot to vacation here. While the Maldives does often cater to the ultra-rich and celebrities, it can also be a fairly affordable vacation destination.

It used to be that the only airlines were very expensive options. While you’ll still need to get to a larger hub like Singapore first, newer discount airlines will fly you to and from the islands for as little as 249 Singapore dollars (or about $200 US). That’s less expensive than flights to Hong Kong and Taiwan. The opening of a second airport on Gan, an island and district in Addu City, has also created new options for those hoping to travel to the Maldives. It’s becoming easier to make it to this island paradise.

What about accommodation? Hotels and resorts in the Maldives aren’t always the most affordable, that much is true. If you’re looking for lavish, upscale options, you’re in the right place. By comparison to other, similar destinations, the Maldives’ brand of luxury is great value. The resorts specialize in luxury, and they’re often all-inclusive, which means you won’t need to spend another penny once you arrive.

Less expensive options do exist, particularly near the capital city of Malé. Here, you can find well-kept inns and guest houses. The accommodations, while less luxurious, are far more affordable. You can often find them for as little as $50 a night.

6 Enjoy The Epic Sunsets

A sunset may not seem like much to travel for. After all, the sun sets every single day, no matter where you are in the world. But the sunsets in the Maldives are something of a spectacle, which is another reason to consider visiting this amazing island nation.

Since most of the country is comprised of ocean, the sun will set over the water from almost any vantage point. The picturesque blues and greens of this tropical island paradise begin to fade as the sky turns a medley of vibrant, fiery hues: reds, oranges, and pinks. Grab your camera and snap a few pics for your friends on Instagram. They probably won’t believe it’s real!

The sunrises aren’t half-bad either, if you’re up early enough to take them in. You’ll probably want to spend a lot of time photographing the tropical paradise, since it’s so beautiful at any time of day. Just be sure to put your phone down long enough to truly drink it all in.

Some people will want to know what the best way to view the sunset is. If we tell the truth, there is no wrong way to take in a sunset in the Maldives. Some people will opt to head out on a sunset dolphin-watching cruise around the islands. For others, laying back on the beach and watching nature’s lightshow might be the perfect choice.