The Maldives has a reputation for its glorious beaches and secluded resorts, which you can find across the bulk of its beautiful islands. But that doesn't mean that everywhere you go is exactly the same, and one place that's a little bit different - and that I think is well worth exploring - is Malé.
All about Malé
The capital of the Maldives, Malé is an island city that provides a real contrast to the rest of the archipelago. Plus, as it's home to the nation's airport, chances are it's here that you'll first arrive for your holiday. While it's easy to hop on a boat or seaplane and make a beeline for your resort (presuming it's not on Malé), I'd recommend either sticking around for a while to see the city's main attractions, or planning to come back for a day or two later in your break. As a quick tip, you can find out more about hotels and such on the Hayes and Jarvis website.
Unlike the rest of the Maldives, there's a lot of hubbub here. Another key contrast is that, while it's not totally beach-free, Malé is not somewhere you generally go to stretch out on the sand. Instead, you come here to check out historical buildings, museums and brilliant restaurants. So, let's take a look at what you really shouldn't miss.
One of the island's - and indeed the archipelago's - most historical sites is Hukuru Miskiyy. Also known as Friday Mosque, this is the oldest mosque in the Maldives and has some pretty impressive features. You need to head inside to appreciate these, though, as the outside tends to be covered in corrugated iron (a protective measure), which means that at first glance the place doesn't look like anything special.
This does have one advantage, though, in that you're likely to be even more impressed by the interior! Look out in particular for the woodcarvings, which are especially intricate, while the black coral walls are stunning.
National Museum and Sultan's Park
Technically, my next suggestion comprises two attractions, but as they are situated together I thought I'd roll them into one. The National Museum is perched in a corner of Sultan's Park and is home to a wide collection of artefacts, including armour and clothing that belonged to various sultans. Coming here is a great way to learn more about the nation's heritage.
What I think is particularly interesting about the National Museum, though, is the fact that it's the only remaining original section of the Sultan's Palace. Moving on to the park, this was once part of the palace grounds and today is one of the loveliest spots in the city to sit and relax.
I know I said that Malé isn't really the place to hit the beach, but that doesn't mean it's totally devoid of bathing spots. Raalhugandu is an artificial beach and top surfing destination - and it's also a rather scenic area.
So, if you do fancy spending some time on the sand while you're here or checking out the skills of the local surfers, this is the place to come to. It's worth remembering that when late afternoon/evening arrives it gets particularly lively, as lots of people come here to socialise.
A note on food
The Maldives is a great place for foodies, and the capital is brimming with excellent restaurants. These vary a lot in terms of the type of cuisine they offer, with many places serving up Italian and Thai fare. I'd really recommend trying some Maldivian fish, though, since this is an amazing place to sample deliciously fresh seafood.
If you're after a quick bite, meanwhile, head to one of the many sai-hotaas or tearooms. These are where the locals go for snacks (often deep-fried) and are a great place to try some tasty local fare, as well as meet people.