North Male Atoll
North Male Atoll houses a variety of resorts and guesthouses, being one of the most visited atolls in the Maldives. Its capital is Thulusdhoo, an island known for its bodu beru (big drums) production, and also for housing a Coca Cola factory that uses desalinated water to make the famous drink.
The atoll is also home to the island of Huraa, visited by many tourists who want to discover the authentic charm of a small Maldivian island, and Himmafushi, which is usually a day trip destination for tourists from the neighboring resorts. Tourists who get here have the opportunity to stroll along the main street where they can find plenty of shops rich in cheap souvenirs. The village of Himmafushi is quite attractive and has kept its local charm.
Dhiffushi is another island in the North Male Atoll that is worth mentioning due to its impressive greenery and tropical fruits.
South Male Atoll
Once you cross the Vaadhoo Kandu, the channel that separates the North from the South Male Atoll, you will instantly feel like you've stepped into another world. Gone are the touristic frenzy and buzz that dominate the North Male Atoll. This is a quiet and relaxing world, having only three inhabited islands and its resorts scattered around the atoll.
Maafushi is the biggest island of the atoll, a charming destination that houses many beautiful guesthouses. Considered to be the most cosmopolitan inhabited island in the Maldives, Maafushi is often the favorite holiday destination for independent travelers, especially those who love to swim in a bikini.
Guraidhoo is the largest and most populous town in the South Male Atoll, a busy port where plenty of fishing dhonis and safari boats find their shelter. If you want to discover an authentic fishing village, choose to visit the island of Gulhi, inhabited by around 750 people.
South Ari Atoll
Admired from above, the South Ari Atoll seems created from 50 fragile, scattered teardrops. Those beautiful teardrops are actually its small islands, situated to the west of Male. The atoll is absolutely breathtaking due to its white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons.
Each island takes pride in its own personality, as well as its luxurious facilities. The most glamorous are the resorts islands of Vilamendhoo Island, Vakarufalhi Island and Centara Grand, which enchant their guests with outstanding villas and sophisticated restaurants. However, the historical flair is present too, with ancient Buddhist and Hindu settlements waiting to be discovered.
The South Ari Atoll houses no less than 40 accessible dive sites, where amazing reefs and mysterious wrecks attract divers and snorkelers. If you're more into admiring the underwater world from a deck, then you will be happy to know that you will get your chance to spot hammerhead sharks and whales.
The paradise of the North Ari Atoll awaits only 40 miles north of Male. The atoll is created from 50 amazing (and deserted!) islands where all you can see are only powder-soft beaches, mangroves and hypnotic lagoons. Tourists choose to set up their luxurious base on one of the 18 inhabited islands.
What makes the North Ari Atoll different than all the other 25 atolls in the Maldives is its abundance in diving sites? This atoll is undoubtedly the best choice for divers who want to discover the underwater world of the Maldives.
The resorts that await here dazzle tourists, who often choose this destination to fulfill their dreams of being pampered while staying in a superb overwater villa. One of the most famous islands is the Veligandu, where villas come with Jacuzzis, open air-bathrooms and all the comfort you might want from your dream holiday.
Baa Atoll is known for housing one of the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and its impressive Biosphere Reserve. It consists of three natural atolls - Maalhosmadulu Atol, Fasdūtherē Atoll and Goifulhafehendhu Atoll, the first one having 9 inhabited islands. It has no less than 75 islands, with only 13 of them being inhabited.
Baa Atoll is located in the central western part of the country. One of the most visited islands is Dharavandhoo, a favorite of divers around the world who come here to discover its impressive marine life and swim with manta whale sharks.
Another beautiful inhabited island is Dhonfanu, a corner of paradise that amazes tourists with its crystalline waters and colorful reef, ideal for snorkeling and diving.
Tourists also visit Thulhaadhoo island, an inhabited island famous for its lacquer work. Initially, this merchandise was bought by the noble families of the Maldives, but today is mostly sold to visitors.
Addu Atoll is a heart-shaped atoll located in the southern extreme of the Maldives, a magical place due to its abundance of colorful corals. Known also as Addu City, the atoll is the economic and administrative center in the south of the country, so it's almost as important as Male. It is inhabited by 18,000 people who live on seven of its islands.
One of the most visited islands is Gan Island, where back in the 1970s there was a British military base, a part of the Indian Ocean defense during WWII. During their stay in the Addu Atoll, the British built an airport, industrial buildings and barracks. Due to their influence, the people here learned English and, after the British left, they went and found jobs in Male and in resorts. So, you shouldn't be surprised if many of the personnel you will encounter during your holiday in the Maldives are from Addu.
Laamu Atoll is a great destination for history aficionados. It houses numerous archaeological sites, evidence of the pre-Muslim civilizations that once lived here. The atoll has 12 inhabited islands and a population of about 14,000 people. The capital island is Fonadhoo, while Kadhoo has an airfield where daily flights land from Male.
On Isdhoo Island, situated at the northeastern tip of the atoll, tourists will discover a black dome that comes in contrast with the green palms of the island. The dome is known as a hawitta, but no one knows the reason behind its building. Due to the presence of Buddha images on the island, it is believed that it was once part of Buddhist stupas.
Visitors will also have a chance to visit a 300-year old Friday Mosque, probably built on the site of an earlier temple, since it faces west and not to the northwest, where Mecca is.
Home to 6500 people, Dhaalu Atoll has seven inhabited islands. Many tourists come here to visit a mosque built on an ancient and mysterious mound. The rear wall of the mosque has one of the most beautiful masonries in the world, as beautiful (if not even more) than the Inca wall situated in Cuzco. The mosque can be found on the Kudahuvadhoo Island, the biggest island and the capital of the atoll, and a busy fishing town.
The jewelers of the atoll are to be found in the north of the atoll. They are known as talented silversmiths and goldsmiths. You can find them mostly on Ribudhoo and Hulhudheli islands. Some say that this tradition has started when a royal jeweler was banished by a sultan hundreds of years ago, while others say that it has something to do with the silver and gold found on a shipwreck back in the 1700s.
Noonu Atoll has 13 inhabited islands and it is believed that will house the first national park in the Maldives - Edu Faru National Marine Park. The park will have as purpose the conservation of marine life and will cover the Edu Faro Archipelago, which includes 9 uninhabited islands. However, it's not clear when the park will be open, with its borders still having to be decided upon, so divers can still enjoy access to amazing dive sites on the park's territory.
The capital of the atoll is Manadhoo, but the most populous islands are Holhudhoo and Velidhoo. The island of Landhoo houses the remains of a hawitta, a 6 meter high mound known as maa badhige (great cooking place). There are only three resorts on the atoll, so this is a great destination for those who search for pristine beaches and supreme silence.
There are only three resorts on the Meemu Atoll, which makes it an inspired holiday destination for travelers who are searching to get away from touristic frenzy and enjoy the silence and the beauty of the Indian Ocean. The atoll has eight inhabited islands, with the capital island being Muli. Only 850 people live here, a traditional village very attractive to visitors.
The islands of Mulah and Kolhufushi are more populous than the capital island, having a population of 1450 and 1225 people respectively. The locals here grow yams, an important food staple in the Maldives. The rest of the islands are focused on making a living from fishing.
Meemu Atoll is home to beautiful diving sites and amazing surf breaks, especially on its eastern edge. Many adventurous surfers head to Veyvah Point, Mulee Point and Boahuraa Point to face the waves of the Indian Ocean. There aren't many guesthouses on this atoll, but it's quite a popular day trip destination by boat from the other atolls.
Haa Alifu Atoll
Haa Alifu Atoll is visited by many tourists due to its historical past. It houses the island of Utheemu, the birthplace of Sultan Mohammed Thakurufaanu who, together with his brothers, managed to put an end to the Portuguese rule in the Maldives, in 1573. Considered a national hero, the sultan has now a memorial, a small museum and library to honor his memory. Although the island has a superb beach, there are no guesthouses here for the moment, so this is usually a day trip destination for travelers who are passionate about the history of the Maldives.
The capital of the atoll is Dhidhdhoo Island that accommodates about 2500 people. The next largest island in the atoll is Hoarafushi, often visited for its music and dance events. Just like the Gan island on the Addu Atoll, the island of Kelaa was a British base during WWII. It also houses a mosque built in the 17th century. Private yachts usually get their formalities done in Uligamu, a small island where live only 270 people, including health and immigration officers.
Gaafu / Huvadhoo Atoll
The Gaafu or Huvadhoo Atoll is considered one of the largest coral atolls in the world. It is separated from the Laamu Atoll by a stretch of water called the One-and-a-Half-Degree Channel, due to its latitude, and is considered to be the safest place for ships to pass between the Maldivian atolls.
The atoll is divided into two administrative districts, with the northern district being known as Gaafu Alifu. This district includes 11 inhabited islands. The capital of the atoll is Viligili, home to about 3000 people, which makes it the most populated island in the atoll.
The south of the atoll has the island of Kudhoo, which houses fish-packing facility and an ice plant, and the island of Kondey, mostly focused on agriculture. The latter is also home to four hawittas, remains of Buddhist settlements. Dhevvadhoo is located in the center of the atoll and is known for its textile weaving and coir rope making.
The Gnaviyani Atoll has as center the island of Fuvahmulah. The island finds itself in the middle of the Equatorial Channel, and has a population of 11,000 people. It is the biggest island in the country measuring about 5 km in length and 1 km wide. It also is the most fertile of all islands, being the perfect place for many fruits trees such as mangoes, papayas, pineapples and oranges to grow.
The island of Fuvahmulah abounds in lush vegetation too and has two freshwater lakes. During the past years, an airport and a harbor were built here, which made the island less isolated than before. The island has some interesting historic tales to tell, being visited by Ibn Battuta in 1344, who stayed here for about two months, and the French, who arrived here in 1529. In 1922 the island was visited by HCP Bell who made some notes about a 7 meter hawitta and the oldest mosque on the island.
Goidhoo Atoll is the same with Baa Atoll, from what I see!
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