Malé – the capital city of The Maldives has the distinction of being the world’s smallest capital. Spread across 6.8 square kilometres, this tiny island is also one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Size is not a stopper for this city though. For travellers, there are plenty of things to do in Malé city. Here’s a roundup of some popular activities and also a few offbeat experiences on the isle.
#1 Explore Rasrani Bageecha
Previously known as Sultan Park, Rasrani Bageecha is a public garden in Malé with a whopping 18,000 trees in its premises. While the park is free for the local Maldivians, foreigners and expats must pay an entry fee of USD 5 per person.
It is possible to visit Rasrani Bageecha as part of one of Maldives’ full day tours. However, if you would like to spend more time exploring the park’s attractions, you can pop in by yourself. There are plenty of things inside to hold your interest such as an elevated wooden deck to get a panoramic view of the garden, a glass treehouse, a mariyaadhuge (traditional Maldivian pavilion which acts as a casual meeting place).
Rasrani Bageecha is suitable for all ages – from kids to senior citizens. There are sufficient benches for the aged, hammocks for the youngsters and play corners for the children. If you are wondering what to do in Maldives with family, look no further! Head to this park which also boasts of a green tunnel, a multi-storey fountain and a vertical garden.
#2 Opt Day Tours in & around Malé
4 Hour Villimalé Eco Walking TourFrom: $80.00
Full Day South Malé Local Island Hopping TripFrom: $225.00
Maldives Sunset Dolphin CruiseFrom: $95.00
Full Day North Malé Local Island Hopping TripFrom: $175.00
Snorkeling, Sandbank & Sunset Cruise TripFrom: $135.00
3 Point Snorkeling Tour in MaldivesFrom: $99.00
Full Day Malé City Walking TourFrom: $80.00
Half Day Malé City Walking TourFrom: $40.00
#3 Visit the Local Fish Market
Whether you are a fish-eater or not, Malé Fish Market will entertain you with its strong smells, vibrant sights and indistinguishable sounds. This busy open marketplace is where the local fishermen bring their fresh catch of the day. The catch, which is mostly tuna, is laid out on the tiled floor and then sorted, cleaned and cut.
Visitors can watch the chaos and listen to the cacophony that ensues. Fish lovers can also buy fishes other than tuna, such as sailfish, reef fish, wahoo, and even other seafood. While Malé Fish Market is smelly, it is quite hygienic. Different species of fish are displayed on tiled tables with separators, with the fisherman or the seller available to negotiate the sale price.
#4 Admire Hukuru Miskiiy
Best identified as the Old Friday Mosque, Hukuru Miskiiy was built in 1658. This Islamic shrine flaunts traditional Maldivian architecture, with a minaret that closely resembles the one at the entrance of Mecca. If you are interested in getting a glimpse into Maldives’ history and culture, a tour of Hukuru Miskiiy is highly recommended.
Often called the Malé Friday Mosque, this structure is mainly built of coral. One can observe specimens of woodcarving inside this mosque which contain Quranic inscriptions. Hukuru Miskiiy is incidentally the oldest mosque in The Maldives, and can accommodate a maximum of 10,700 (standing) Muslim worshippers for the Friday prayer held every week.
#5 Discover the Secrets Preserved in the National Museum
One of the most interesting activities to do in Maldives for history lovers is a stroll through the National Museum. Sitting inside the Sultan Park, this museum has been in existence since 1952. Spanning three storeys, the old building of this museum happens to be a part of the now demolished Maldivian Royal Palace complex.
The museum collection includes arms and armoury, thrones, ornaments, royal furniture, coins and costumes. One should not miss the Quran engravings on the walls which are handwritten. The museum is open on all the days of the week except Fridays. Entry is between 10 AM and 4 PM.
#6 Take a Culinary Tour
Maldives vacation packages that offer culinary tours show one of the best ways to relish the country – through its cuisine. This Asian archipelago is notable for its spicy curries and fragrant seafood preparations. Food tours can either be at local establishments or in the home of a Maldivian family.
The most valuable Maldives half day tours include a visit to a Maldivian local’s place in Malé and interaction over lunch or dinner. Savour the strong taste of Asian condiments and the distinct flavour of coconut that is used for garnish or in curries or dry preparations.
During the month of Ramadan, some culinary tours also give you a chance to see how a Muslim family breaks their fast, goes through the prayer routine and digs into a heavy meal of spiced rice (biryani), mutton and dessert (usually bis haluvaa – sliced custard).
#7 Shop for Souvenirs Along Majeedhee Magu
Everyone knows that the most pocket-friendly shopping is done at street markets! Bring out the shopaholic in you at Majeedhee Magu – a shopping street that slices Malé City into two. Not many Maldives day tours offer a sight of this lane, but a couple of hours of window shopping are only what you need to get your fill of endorphins.
Majeedhee Magu should be visited for its colourful textiles, assorted fashion accessories such as bangles, necklaces and bracelets, cosmetic products and even electronics. The local Maldivian attire of libaas (a long dress with the traditional headgear) can also be bought here.
#8 Stop by the Grand Friday Mosque
Almost all Maldives walking tours halt at the Grand Friday Mosque. Located inside the Islamic Centre in Malé, this mosque is officially called as Masjid Al-Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al-Arzam, honouring a Maldivian hero. The Grand Friday Mosque is the largest one in The Maldives, and is prominent through its simplicity. Built of white marble, the plainness of the structure digresses only in its dome and top of the minaret which are gold in colour.
Tourists can enter the mosque only between 9 AM and 5 PM when prayers are not in progress. Dressing must be modest and conservative, which means full-length trousers for men and long skirts or dresses for women. Ornate chandeliers and carved wood panels decorate the interiors of this Islamic shrine that has a capacity to seat 5,000 worshippers.
#9 Cross the Sinamalé Bridge
Often referred to as the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, the Sinamalé Bridge is a 1.39 kilometre long bridge that connects Malé City to Hulhumalé and Hulhulé – the adjacent islands that form the larger Malé Metropolitan Area.
Open since 2018, this bridge is 20.3 metres wide and has dedicated lanes for pedestrians, apart from lanes for cars and motorbikes. A walk across this bridge is a great way to get some workout packed into your vacation. Be sure to stop at various points of the bridge to take pictures of the shimmering Indian Ocean and the cityscape of the islands! A stroll after sunset is even better as the Sinamalé Bridge is lit up, making it appear as a jewel in the ocean.
#10 Relax at the Artificial Beach
If you thought beaches could only be natural, think again! The Artificial Beach in Malé City is a manmade crescent-shaped seashore filled with white sand. The water in this part of the city is quite safe for swimming, so bring on your swimming goggles and bathing suit. Be sure to be conservatively clothed, as it is a public beach on a local island where bikinis and shirtless wandering are prohibited.
Apart from chilling at the Artificial Beach, one can also indulge in some photography as this spot has beautiful views of the Maldivian horizon. Maldives’ weather proved to be quite pleasant throughout the year, making the beach a popular zone for locals.
#11 Go on a Walking Tour
As far as Maldives walking tours are concerned, a full day Malé City walking tour is a fantastic use of your time. Most walks include a couple of stops at local cafés for snacks and tea, and even a beachside restaurant for traditional lunch.
Most of the famous sightseeing spots are covered in the walking tours. Visit the harbour area and understand its history and importance, tour the prominent mosques, see the Tsunami Monument, and watch the Mulee Aage, which is the Presidential Palace – a striking building with bright red roof, housing the current President of The Maldives.
The walking route generally also includes a sight of Medhu Ziyaaraiy – the tomb of Abdul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary, the man who converted the island nation of The Maldives into Islam. Another tomb, of Mohammed Thakurufaanu, is notable as that of the hero who freed Maldivians from Portuguese rule.
#12 Sample Traditional Delicacies at Local Cafés
Sometimes included as part of the half day Malé City walking tour, trips to local cafés are interesting additions to your Maldives itinerary. One is not only able to taste Maldivian food here but also observe the locals unwind and interact as they speak Dhivehi – local language of The Maldives.
Sip on some freshly brewed black tea which is the traditional beverage that is often taken before sunset. The accompanying platter of hedika goes very well with the tea. Hedika is a type of teatime snack that is deep-fried and served hot. The stuffing underneath the batter is often savoury, but can also be sweet (banana fritters, for instance).
#13 Sign up for Water Sports Activities
Unlike at the private resort islands in the Maldives, water sports in Malé City are much more affordable. Private islands tend to charge more for their premium branding and luxurious frills thrown in. Malé lets you enjoy the thrill of zipping away on your jetski, watching the myriad types of corals on a scuba diving or snorkelling trip, and enjoying some dolphin sighting during sunset at much lower rates.
It is quite possible for cheaper quotations to be available at remote local village islands in The Maldives, but the cost of getting there outweighs any benefits unless you plan to stay there for a few days.
#14 Learn to Cook Maldivian Fare
Foodies must not forget a cooking class when looking to book activities in Maldives. Some bespoke tour providers such as Samudra Maldives offer unique experiences like learning the art of cooking a full Maldivian meal. These tours can last from anywhere between a couple of hours to over four hours, especially if your program also includes a visit to the local vegetable and fruit market in Malé to buy the ingredients of the dishes you will be preparing.
If you have never cooked before, you can simply watch the Maldivian ladies in the kitchen make all the preps. You might be given tasks such as grating coconut, rolling the roshi (flatbread) or mixing the spices into the tuna curry. You can also learn how to shape the sweets which often form part of the dessert in an elaborate Maldivian meal.
#15 Experience the Undersea World in a Submarine
A top choice in the list of what to do in Maldives for non-swimmers, submarine ride is an exciting activity both for children and adults. Maldives’ marine biodiversity cannot be overstated. From different types of hard and soft corals to reef fishes, sharks, undersea plants, rays, shoals, and other creatures, the country has a dazzling new world down there!
The 45-minute submarine ride takes you down to the seabed, at almost 40 metres below the sea level and also halts at another depth of 25 metres to offer a view of diverse life forms at different levels of depth. Explore a submerged reef, get inside an underwater cave and look at turtles, schools of snappers, lion-fish and more.
There are many more things to do in Malé City if you are on a holiday that is slated to last longer. From getting a certification that lets your dive without an instructor to one that allows you to teach others, dive centers and diving schools in Malé can turn you into a professional.
Arriving into The Maldives is possible by air and sea. Flights to the country generally land at the Velana International Airport in Hulhulé. If you are stopping by Malé City on a cruise, the capital has ample docking stations. For those who further plan to visit a private island or a different local isle, speedboats, ferries, internal flights and seaplanes are available.