You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Maldives is simply a paradise archipelago full of luxurious resorts and pristine beaches, but it’s also a bustling cultural hub, complete with a complex history, ancient monuments, and incredibly friendly islanders. Whilst it’s very easy to skip past the real-life version of the Maldives on the way to a private resort, there’s a whole other way of life to be discovered if you take a slightly less popular route when exploring these idyllic islands.
From tasting authentic street food to joining in with dancing locals, to being invited to dine with a family or even learning a few pro-surfing tips from your new friends, the Maldives offers a fantastic experience for those seeking a more immersive holiday experience.
Discover how with our short guide to exploring the cultural delights of the Maldives.
Downgrade your island transfer
Most holiday packages will offer you a short ride via a seaplane from the main airport on Malé to your resort, but there is another option. If you want to ride alongside the residents of the Maldives, opt for a ferry on one of the many traditional dhoni boats. These run to most of the surrounding atolls, and you may even spot dolphins along the way.
Better yet, spend some time exploring the main island of Malé before you head off to one of the more secluded islands. Malé is teeming with history, and the Grand Friday Mosque is a must-see – the exquisite architecture of this place of worship is beautiful, built-in solid white marble with a majestic golden dome. Be sure to also walk through the bustling markets and enjoy a walk through the Rasrani Bageecha, a lush park in the middle of the city complete with fountains and lily ponds.
Dine like a local
Rather than sticking to the menu on your resort island, hop onto a ferry and enjoy a dinner in true Maldivian style on any of the inhabited islands. Between 3 – 5 p.m., you can expect a feast of mouthwatering hedhikaa (short eats) in every street. These small plates are a mix of savory and sweet treats featuring fish, egg, spices, vegetables, and a variety of cakes.
The friendliness of the Maldivian people is world-renowned, and they love to interact with tourists. It’s not uncommon for travelers to be invited into the family home to share a meal, so be sure to make the effort to befriend the locals to have a shot at experiencing this amazing opportunity.
Enjoy the Boduberu
A fun and mesmerizing tradition of the Maldives is a dance that dates back to the 11th Century AD – the Boduberu. The music is performed with three bodu (big) beru (drums) made from coconut wood and animal skins, and everyone is invited to dance along to the tribal and powerful rhythms of the songs. It’s a magnificent event that draws out locals and tourists alike to dance and lose themselves in the beat of the drums.
As well as being an unforgettable experience, dancing with or watching the Boduberu performers is a great way to make some authentic cultural connections while visiting the islands.
Explore the waters
Of course, one of the main reasons for visiting the Maldives is to soak up the sun on the ethereal white-sand beaches, so be sure to leave some time to relax under a palm tree during your trip. The surrounding waters of these islands are a haven for tropical marine life, and the crystalline ocean offers some of the best diving experiences in the world. Maldivian culture relies heavily on the lure of their wondrous oceans, so be sure to take advantage of it on your holiday.
However you choose to explore the cultural delights of the Maldives, you’re sure to leave with a burning desire to visit again and a whole lot of wonderful memories.