Malé is the capital of the Maldives, a chain of almost 1,200 islands that dot the Laccadive Sea some 220 kilometres southwest of India. Among these islands are some of the most sought after luxury holiday destinations, with over 100 resorts on individual islands offering luxurious white sand, shimmering blue water and nothing but the most opulent service.
As it is home to the region’s airport and harbour, Malé is the first stop for many tourists seeking a tropical getaway. There is a frenetic hive of activity throughout the city streets, multi-storey buildings and markets. While the island is only 1.7 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide, there are over 700,000 people living and working on it, making it one of the most densely populated destinations in the word.
Malé has always been the hub for business, political and financial power in the region. It was known as the King’s Island in ancient times, where the sultans ruled the island nation from the exotic palace hidden behind the high walls and picturesque forts. Unfortunately, this exquisite architecture was completely destroyed when the monarchy was abolished in 1968.
Understandably, many tourists do not spend much time in Malé, preferring to find their personal water taxi and skim across the waves to the their personal island paradises.
Cruise ships dock at the harbour at the north end of the island. As this not a deep-water harbour, most cruise ships anchor offshore and their guests are transferred to the harbour via ferry.
While the facilities at the Malé harbour are fairly simple, this will have limited impact on the traveller’s experience. Everything a cruise passenager could need while on shore – ATMs, restaurants, souvenir stalls, banks, post office, internet cafes – is a short walk from the harbour.
Accommodation is available on the island; however, many tourists prefer to transfer to a resort on one of the more exotic islands.
How to Get Around
Travel on Malé is simple and affordable. It’s a small island, so walking between all destinations on the island is achievable. It’s a 20-minute walk from north to south and a 26-minute walk from east to west. Many of the popular tourist sites are situated on the north shore.
To avoid the heat, there are a number of taxis on the island that charge a flat MRf20 per trip plus MRf5 per bag. There is also a bus system that runs along the major roads on the island.The international airport is located on the adjacent Hulhumalé Island and is accessible by water taxi.
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 2 minute journey to the National Museum
- It is a 6 minute journey to the Airport Ferry
- It is a 4 minute journey to the National Football Stadium.
- It is a 6 minute journey to the National Museum
- It is a 13 minute journey to the Airport Ferry
- It is a 14 minute journey to the National Football Stadium.
By water taxi:
- It is a 15 minute journey to Male International Airport (services depart every 15 minutes).
- Currency - The local currency in Malé is the Maldivian Rufiya (MRf). Notes are available in 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 MRf denominations. Coins are available in 1 and 2 MRf and 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 and 50 laari denominations (where 100 laari equals one MRf1).
- Time Zone - Malé uses Maldives Standard Time, which is five hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
- Weather - Malé experiences a hot, humid tropical monsoon climate with a wet season lasting from May to December and a dry season from January to April. The temperate is consistently hot throughout the year with an average high of 30 degrees Celsius and an average low of 26 degrees Celsius.
- Malé Hukuru Miskiy - Also known as Friday Mosque, Malé Hukuru Miskiy is the oldest and most intricately decorated mosque on the island. Constructed in 1658 out of local coral stone, the mosque features a number of intricate carvings of religious symbols and an impressive coral stone minaret. Visitors to the mosque should be aware that the main building is still used by locals for daily prayers.
- Whale Submarine - This submarine excursion is a hugely popular introduction to the incredible sea life off the coast. The vessel descends to about 35 metres, allowing tourists to experience the exotic surgeonfish, unicornfish, lionfish and anemone fish that dart between the bright, beautiful coral. Don’t be fooled by the tour’s name – the term ‘whale’ is in reference to the submarine’s shape, not what tourists will see on their underwater adventure.
- Tomb of Mohammed Thakurufaanu - Hidden in the backstreets of Malé is the tomb of Mohammed Thakurufaanu, a man who became a national hero after freeing the Maldives from oppressive Portuguese rule in 1573. While not immense or showy, this small tomb is impressive for its elegant design and flawless construction. Many locals visit the tomb regularly to contemplate Thakurufaanu’s daring efforts to free his people.