Floating in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are the cream of the crop when it comes to beach holidays. The waters here are their own brand of blue. The sands are blindingly white. And phalanxes of palm trees stand to attention. What’s more, if you count each island individually, you’ve got almost 2,000 reasons to visit.
Each of the 26 atolls in the Maldives has its own unique selling point. The North and South Ari Atolls offer easy access to the Maldivian capital, Male, the islands in the Ari Atoll have a reputation for their world-class dive sites, the more northern atolls, like Lhaviyani and Raa, are known as the least chartered, and the atolls in the south are becoming the focus of cutting-edge hotel designers.
For honeymooners, nothing compares to the Maldives’ just-married credentials. The archipelago’s trademark accommodation is stilted water villas, which come with four poster beds and infinity views of the sea. The islands’ restaurants, meanwhile, have turned tables for two into an art form.
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North Ari Atoll
Set 40 miles to the north of Male, the North Ari Atoll puts paradise in a nutshell. This region is made up of more than 50 deserted islands, where there’s nothing but rings of white sand and mangrove interiors. There are also 18 inhabited islands, including Rasdhoo, which is home to a traditional village where locals still make a living through fishing and crafts.
South Male Atoll
The South Male Atoll is the smaller neighbour to the busier, more developed North Male Atoll, and it’s where you’ll find some of the Maldives’ quieter and simpler resorts. You can get to most of them in around 45 minutes by speedboat from the airport at Male. Once you leave the capital, you’re immediately in Crusoe land. Strewn like droplets in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the islands here are little more than mounds of vegetation ringed by sand and topped by an attractive hotel or two.
South Ari Atoll
The South Ari Atoll is made up of 50-odd small islands, scattered like teardrops to the west of Male. The journey from the capital to the resort islands takes around 25 minutes by seaplane. Your first glimpse of the atoll from the air promises to be amazing – expect spheres of bright-white sand haloed by cyan waters.
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