Male, the capital of the Maldives, provides an opportunity to meet Maldivians on their home turf. Malé is one of the smallest national capitals in the world with an area of less than six square kilometers and a population of approximately 200,000. It’s also the largest city in the Maldives by far.
To go a bit further to discover the the actual essence of the Maldives through its historical sites, culture, traditions and local cuisine, the ideal place is the lively capital of Male.
To be honest, we don’t usually recommend taking time of our trip to the Maldives to visit it, as it isn’t what can be called a “beautiful city”, and besides that, it doesn’t have many atractive tourist points of interest. In fact, the local Maldivian culture is usually better observed on other smaller local islands.
With all that, it can be a curious visit especially for those who have a few extra hours at the airport before or after their international flight.
Male, the center of Maldives
The capital is located in North Male Atoll, and the city is next to the international airport. It greets visitors and local residents at Republic Square with a huge Maldivian flag.
How to get to Male in Maldives
Velana International Airport is located on the island of Hulhumalé, two kilometers away from the capital, the mentioned Malé. In theory, all international flights arrive in the Maldives at this airport with different airlines such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, British Airways, Alitalia, Air France, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Sri Lankan Airlines, although it also receives charter flights.
Hotels and resorts in the Maldives welcome their guests at the airport and take them to their islands by boat or seaplane. A good idea to lead off your vacation in the Maldives is to visit Male before transferring to the resort.
Since 2018, the city of Male has been connected to the island of Hulhumale (new Male), the island of the airport, by a bridge over the sea, a masterpiece of engineering.
History of Male
Since the 12th century, Male has been the center of the Maldives’ Government. The first trading houses in the island appeared in the 17th century, along with a ring of defensive bastions, although Male didn’t become a city until the mid-20th century. In fact, in the 1920s the population was estimated at just 5,000, and much of the island was covered by vegetation.
Growth began with the modernization of the 1930s and the construction of the first banks, hospitals, high schools, and government offices. In the 1970s, with the advent of tourism and an expanding economy, the city really flourished and growth emerged as a problem due to a lack of space within the island.
Despite extending the area of the city through land reclamation on the island reef, Male isn’t able to be extended further, so expansion towards Hulhumale island has been the policy of successive governments since the decade from 1990.
How to move around Male
Majeedee Magu, Bodu Thakurufaanu Magu and Chandhanee Magu are the main roads through the city. The best way to fully immerse yourself in Maldivian culture in Malé is to walk along its streets, visiting the shops and attractions along the way.
The bicycle is the transport option for locals. There are no buses; although there are taxis, which charge extra for luggage. These taxis offer a 24-hour service and provide an alternative way to explore the capital. Rates increase after midnight to six in the morning. There are even cheaper motorcycle taxis that are very useful for a single person without luggage.
For those interested, our agency provides a private vehicle to visit the city of Male.
Visit Male (Maldives) – What to see in Male?
Although the goal of a trip to the Maldives Islands is always to rest and enjoy its paradise beaches and sea, the city of Malé offers a local side glance.
Male visit video
We take a long tour of Malé in a long filming walk, the best way to get an idea of what Malé is like:
Male Republic Square
The heart of the Maldivian capital is Republic Square, located in the north of Male. When approaching the place, a massive Maldivian flag greets all visitors. The Islamic Center is located next to the square.
The Medhuziyaaraiy Temple is the Shrine of Abu-al Barakaat, the person who carried out the conversion of the Maldives to a Muslim country in 1153.
Hukuru Miskiiy (The Friday Mosque)
This mosque was built same year Abu-al Barakaat converted the archipelago to Islam. In 1657, during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, it was rebuilt to add some improvements. One characteristic is that its walls are made with finely carved blocks of coral. Inside the mosque we can see wood engravings and lacquer works.
Kalhu Vakaru Miski
The Kalhu Vakaru Miski Mosque in the Sultan Park is a must-see of Male. It is one of the oldest mosques in the whole country. It was built by Sultan Shamsudeen II in the 18th century. Every single piece of the mosque is designed in such a way that all they fit together like a puzzle. This fascinating structure was built with coral stones and lacquered woodwork without using any type of mortar.
The Sultan Park and the National Museum
The Sultan’s Park and the National Museum are part of the area occupied by the former Sultan’s Palace built in the islands’ monarchical era. The museum opened in 1952 and contains a wide variety of artifacts from Maldivian history. You can see relics from pre-Islamic times to antiquities that have belonged to different monarchs. Among the most outstanding objects we can find the rifle that Mohamed Thakurufaanu used in his fight against the Portuguese in the 16th century, ceremonial costumes, helmets used by the sultans, statues and other figures from the 11th century that have been discovered in ancient temples.
Located very close to the Hukuru Miskiyy mosque we can find the Mulee-Aaage; a palace built in 1906 by order of Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddeen III. During World War II the Palace garden was used to grow vegetables due to the scarcity of food resources during those years. Until the construction of the new presidential palace one year after, when the Maldives became a Republic in 1953 the Palace was the official residence of the president.
The end of the island, where the locals go to enjoy the always charming sunset. It’s a recommended place to finish the day with a nice walk by the sea.
Shopping in Male
No visit to Male is complete without some shopping at the traditional local markets. In Male it’s possible to find perfumes, cosmetics, jewellery, watches or electronics, canned fish and souvenirs such as the “thudu kuna”, the Maldivian mat woven with local natural fibers, and the miniature wooden ‘dhonis’. Of course, it isn’t the cheapest place to shop, and it can’t be compared with other Asian countries in this regard. The northern end of Chaandhanee Magu is the perfect place for souvenir shopping. The area was formerly known as the Singapore Bazaar for the many imports from that country. On the west coast of Male there’re many street vendors that also open at night. Visitors can stop to taste sweet or savory local foods with Indian spices and fresh coconut.
Malé Fish Market
The fish market is one of the most attractive places during a visit to Male. The afternoon, when the Dhonis, or local fishing boats, start arriving with their catches is the high point of this market. It is striking to see the great variety of fish that are unloaded and the skill of the fishermen descaling and cleaning them for sale to the public. All these fish and sellfish are captured using sustainable techniques.
We can find Local Market to the west of Fish Market. There we will find several stalls with the most characteristic products and foods of the entire Maldives. It is the right place to buy some souvenirs or typical and characteristic foods of the Maldives.
Stay in Malé, Hotels in Male
Male has a good variety of hotels, but almost all of them have little space inside, which is understandable when you consider that the island is very compact and overcrowded.
We recommend some options:
Basic 3* hotel. A good option for slightly cheaper rooms in the capital.
The Hotel Jen is the most prestigious in the Maldivian capital, it belongs to the prestigious oriental chain Shangri-La.
Stands out for its southern infinity pool on the roof overlooking the Indian Ocean, its spa and its 24-hour bar/cafeteria.
A classic in Male, a 4* hotel with a good breakfast and transfers included. The Somerset Hotel offers small rooms (as usual in Male) but practical and comfortable.
The most original and the cheapest on our list. The Nap Corner Male is a capsule hotel, where you sleep in a futuristic capsule on the wall. The bathrooms are shared but it’s a clean accommodation and perfect for backpackers and independent travelers.
For more info about Maldives
More information, videos, pics and curiosities about Maldives: