The Capital of the Maldives
The Maldives, or more officially, the Republic of the Maldives, is known as a luxury travellers dream destination with swoon-worthy white sandy beaches, exclusive hotels spread across their own private islands, tropical palm trees that sway in the breeze and of course the unbelievably blue crystal-clear lagoons that lap the shores. The pinnacle of luxury travel destinations, this gorgeous South Asian country is home to a truly fascinating capital which deserves a trip in its own right.
The capital of the Maldives, Malé, spans over a mere 5.8km2 and is deemed to be one of the smallest and most densely populated capitals in the world. Found in the southern part of the North Malé Atoll, or, more specifically, in the Kaafu Atoll, this unusual city has a population of around 133 412 people (which is almost a third of the island’s population) and is famous for its stunning mosques (such as the Islamic Centre with its characteristic gold dome), colourful buildings and its bustling fish produce markets.
The capital of the Maldives itself is technically spread over multiple islands; the central island of Malé, an airport island (Hulhulé Island) and two additional islands that are run by the Malé City Council. It’s also divided into six parts; four are on the central island (Henveiru, Galolhu, Maafannu and Machangolhi), the fifth division is the neighbouring island of Vilingili and the sixth is the artificial island of Hulhumalé.
The buzzing harbour found on the central island serves as the lifeforce of all commercial activities in the country. Unlike many of the picture-perfect islands in the Maldives, Malé, the heart of commercial, economic, bureaucratic and administrative activities, is entirely built up, with little to no open spaces and an impressive infrastructure for an island of its size. Interestingly, the name “Maldives” is derived from the capital’s name; “the Maldives” technically means “the islands of Malé”.
This capital city has a fascinating past; it once was home to the royal dynasties that ruled over the Maldives and was where the Royal Palace was located. During this time, the capital in the Maldives was surrounded by gates and forts—it was deemed a walled city—and it was called Mahal. Sadly, when the city was remodelled by President Ibrahim Nasir after the monarchy was dissolved in 1968, the Royal Palace along with the city’s impressive forts and bastions were demolished. The only very impressive remains from this time are those of the Malé Friday Mosque.
The climate in the capital of the Maldives is much like it is in the rest of the country. The Maldives boasts a tropical monsoon climate with a wet season and a dry season. Overall, it enjoys fairly consistent temperatures year-round, making it an excellent holiday destination at any time of the year.
Unsurprisingly, given the countries incredible natural beauty and island holiday appeal, the tourism industry is the largest industry in the Maldives, making up approximately 28% of the GDP. The capital city of the Maldives itself has a number of tourist attractions and holiday accommodation options as well as a few fascinating religious and historical sites (such as the Old Friday Mosque, the Grand Friday Mosque and the National Museum). When it comes to places to go in the Maldives, the capital city is a must visit, where a trip to the local fish and produce markets, the historical sites and incredible local restaurants that serve authentic meals will give you a better understanding of the wonderful people and interesting culture of this gorgeous country.
Transport in and around the capital of the Maldives is generally by car (there are no railways). Malé is linked to Hulhulé Island via the Sinamalé Bridge making it easier than it has ever been to get to the international airport. Transport to resort islands further out will generally be by seaplane or ferry.
If you are in search of exceptional places to go in the Maldives, Malé should definitely be on your list. A day or two spent here serves as one of the best ways to interact with the local people and culture, ensuring you have a holistic view of this exceptional holiday paradise.