one day in male itinerary

One Day in Malé Itinerary

We’re right at the end of our time in the Maldives.  And it’s been great, but it would be wrong of us to visit this island nation without spending some time in the capital, Malé.   Not many tourists come to Malé, aside from transiting to islands, although most will fly through the international airport here.  We decided to spend one day in Malé, to explore, and see what this city of about 250,000 inhabitants is all about, before we leave the Maldives.  Here’s our one day Malé itinerary.

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED AND AFFILIATE LINKS MORE INFORMATION IN OUR DISCLAIMER

It’s unfair to say we haven’t already been here, as this has been the hub that we’ve transited through several times, but not really stopped.  The plan on our Maldives itinerary was always to visit local islands, stay on a resort island, and yes spend some time in the capital city too.  And so we made it. 

Our itinerary is based on having one day in Malé, although this is a compact capital city and if you have just a half day in Malé, then you’ll be able to easily see the highlights of Malé.  More than 30% of the population of the Maldives live here in the capital city, it’s pretty densely populated!

TOP TIP

Male Maldives

Take a Walking Tour of Male

At a pickup of your choice in Male or at the airport, your English speaking local guide will take you around the top attrations and sights of Male, the capital of the Maldives. Learn about the history, the culture and the food of this island nation.

How to Spend One Day in Malé – An Itinerary

Start your one day in Malé with a great breakfast.  The Maldivian mashuni roshi is great for setting you up for the day.  If your hotel doesn’t supply breakfast, then head to Ebb & Flow on Boduthakurufaanu Magu, right on the seafront.  It’s just a 10 minute walk from the public ferry terminal in Malé.

After breakfast, leave the café turn to your left, and walk down Boduthakurufaanu Magu away from the ferry building. Your first stop is a photo opportunity at Republic Square.  (be sure to have enough charge while you’re in the very photogenic Maldives – read our guide to Maldives power adapters here) Also known as the Jumhooree Maidhaan, where you’ll find the huge flag pole, opposite right on the waterfront is the Presidential Jetty.  From here it’s just another 50 or so meters to one of the top things to see in Malé, the fish market.

The Maldivians catch around 100,000 tonnes of tuna every year.   Tuna is the country’s biggest export, and fishing for it provides jobs for 20% of the population.   Historically fish was the only source of protein for residents of the Maldives and even now more than 70% of the population still rely on locally caught tuna.   They are the world’s largest consumer of tuna.  I have, I admit tried to beat them on this trip.  I love tuna in all forms.

I’ve digressed.  You should come to the fish market.  It’s fascinating to see the fish being prepared here.  And the boats tied up on the water across the road?  That’s where the catch came from.  Head over the road next, this is the vegetable market.  And it’s a treasure trove of exotic fruits.  And dried tuna.  (it’s delectably moreish, try it).

After you’ve explored the vegetable market keep walking towards the waterfront.  There will likely be a crowd of people.  This is the Stingray watching point.  It’s similar in a way to the pier on the island of Fulidhoo (my guide is here), and the stingrays are here because they’re being fed.  Historically it was from fish cleanings after the fishing boats came in. 

Next, you’re going to head to the interior of the island and check out the Maldives National Museum, where you’ll be able to see artifacts dating back to before the Maldives became a Muslim Nation (1153).   The next stop is right next door, the Sultan’s Park.  It’s a delightful shady park, with trees, water displays, and places to sit out the heat of the day.   Spend some time walking around the different trails here before heading back out the same way.

Sultan Park Male

Now you’re looking at the Victory Monument, it represents the 1988 invasion of the Maldives by an offshoot of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers.  The invasion was repelled, but not before 25 people were killed.

Male Victory Monument

Right next to the Victory Monument is the Friday mosque, which until 2018 was the largest mosque in the Maldives – you’ll see the current largest mosque shortly.  You are allowed to visit outside of prayer times and as long as you’re conservatively dressed.

Next, you’ll have a bit of a walk over to the Maldives Tsunami Memorial on Boduthakurufaanu Magu where you can take a few moments to pay your respects.  The 82 steel rods of the monument represent each of those known to have died in the disaster.  The spheres are representative of the atolls of the Maldives that were affected.  80% of the 1,192 islands in the Maldives are just 1 meter above sea level. Miraculously, more weren’t lost.

Head back down the island towards the public ferry, through the myriad streets, and find your way back to the City Garden restaurant.  It overlooks the seafront and has a great balcony with a super sea breeze and a good selection of lunch dishes and super juices.  Relax for a while until the heat of the day goes. 

After lunch walk back along Boduthakurufaanu Magu past the public ferry terminal and follow the road around.  First, on your left, you’ll find the King Salman Mosque.  This is now the largest mosque in the Maldives.  It was partly funded by Saudi Arabia and is named after King Salman.

King Salman Mosque Male

Next to the King Salman Mosque is Malé’s artificial beach.  It’s a great place for relaxing, (and there are some super ice cream places nearby), and if you visit Malé on a Friday, then this is a super place for people-watching.

To end your day in Malé, head back up towards the Tsunami Memorial, It’s a lovely walk in the dusk, and it’s here that you’ll find the Harbour Food Court, where a plethora of choices, from Indian to Sri Lanka to Pizza and Maldivian buffet await. 

We spent one day in Malé as part of a two week itinerary in the Maldives – you can see that itinerary here.

Things to do in Malé, Maldives

You could easily spend longer here in Malé, but it’s not the usual place that visitors to the Maldives come to.  It’s easy, however, to spend a day in Malé exploring what the capital city has to offer.  Around 250,000 people live here in a space that is around 8.28 kilometres square (3.2 miles square).  While there are schools on most of the other inhabited islands, for higher education children must come here.  Here’s what you can see and do in Malé.

Visit the Fish Market in Malé

The fish market in Malé is a must-see.  Tuna fish is the only foodstuff in which the Maldives is self-sufficient, all other food is reliant on imports from neighboring countries.  And that for me makes the fish market here a must-visit. It’s easy to find, but I’ve also marked it on the map, the fishing boats that deliver the catch?  They’re moored up along the waterfront opposite the fish market.

The fish market in Male

Visit Malé’s vegetable market

Just across the road from the fish market in Malé is the vegetable and general market.  It’s here that you’ll find all manner of local and imported vegetables. Mainly you’ll see bananas and coconuts, but there’s also smoked, cured, or dried tuna fish, it’s also known as valhomas.  It’s particularly Moorish and present in many dishes that you wouldn’t imagine.  Like dhal and lentil curries!

See the Stingrays in Malé, Maldives

At the end of the walkway past the vegetable market, you’ll find the stingray viewing point in Malé.  It’s here that they come to be fed, so if you’re not heading out to islands like Fulidhoo, where they congregate at the ferry pier, then come along here and see these magnificent creatures.

Stingray Viewing Point Male Maldives

See the Tsunami Memorial in Malé

82 Maldivians are known to have died, with an additional 24 reported missing during the Indian Ocean 2004 Tsunami and more than 66% of the city of Malé was flooded in the first few hours of the Tsunami.  All bar 9 of the 187 inhabited islands were hit by the tsunami, which caused damage estimated at 62% of GDP.    Some islands, including large resort islands, were submerged during the tsunami and a state of National Emergency was called. 

Tsunami Memorial Male Maldives

The Tsunami Memorial in Malé is made of 82 steel rods, one to represent each of those known to have died. The spheres represent the atolls affected by the Tsunami.   There are 1,192 islands in the Maldives, of which 187 are inhabited.  They are grouped into 26 natural atolls which are grouped into 20 administrative atolls.

See Malé’s Republic Square aka Jumhooree Maidhaan

Towered over by the large flag of Malé, you’ll find the Jumhooree Maidhaan or Republic Square.  This square is home to many historic events from Maldivian history and politics and that of course also means coups and uprisings too.  The Maldives became a republic in 1968, previously it had been an Islamic monarchy since 1153.

Check out Malé’s Victory Monument

Malé’s Victory Monument, located outside the Sultan Park and near the Friday Mosque is in recognition of the victory of the Maldives over the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers.

The white painted monument has a central white green and red circular feature, which represents the invasion of Malé by the Tamil Tigers, the Maldives, and the blood of the fallen heroes.  The invasion happened in 1988.  It was an attempt to overthrow the government of the Maldives.  A force of 400 men attacked, and 25 people were reported to have been killed.

Take a look at the Grand Friday Mosque

The golden dome of the Grand Friday Mosque of Malé is a symbol of the city.  It’s been open since 1984 and is the biggest mosque in the Maldives, with space for 5,000 worshippers.

Grand Friday Mosque Male Maldives

Non-Muslims can enter, but only between 09:00 and 17:00 and not at prayer times.  All visitors must wear appropriate clothing.  Men must wear long trousers, women must wear long dresses or skirts and headscarves.

Find Shade in Sultan Park in Malé

Previously part of the Sultan’s Palace, this is a glorious place to spend some time in Malé.  It’s peaceful and shady.  There are several different landscaped areas.  When open, there are treehouses that you can climb into, there’s a fish pond too. 

Relax on Malé’s Artificial Beach

On the eastern side of Malé Henveiru is where you’ll find the Artificial Beach.  It’s a great place to swim and relax and it’s really, really very close to the public ferry terminal.  It’s a popular place to visit after prayers on Fridays. 

Male Artifical Beach

There are some great ice cream shops around here too and for the plane spotters, well, it’s a great location to watch planes taking off and landing, as it’s just over from Velana International Airport.

Take a trip on the Maldives Submarine in Malé

If you don’t have time to dive while you’re in the Maldives, or you don’t want to, then you can take a ride in the Whale Submarine.   You’ll go down to around 35 meters, and with windows on both sides, everyone gets a great view.  You’re likely to see blue snapper and unicorn fish as well as lionfish and anemone fish.  Trips on the Whale Submarine from Malé last about 45 minutes and can take up to 50 people.  You can check trip departure times and prices here.

Explore the seafront of Malé

It’s best to wait until dusk, or at least until the heat of the day has gone to walk and explore the sea front.  The road that circumnavigates the island of Malé also has paths of sorts alongside it and it’s a lovely way to see the residents of Malé living their lives. 

There are boat harbors to explore, ferries, and launches heading out to other atolls.  There’s a swimming pool where you’ll see kids learning to swim.  The Maldives is 99% water, but in 2012, only 10% of 16 year olds could swim. It’s good to see that lessons are ongoing. 

Visit the National Museum in Malé

The Maldives National Museum is here in the city of Malé and is close to Sultan Park.  There are artifacts dating back to the Maldives before the nation was introduced to Islam (1153) and a marine collection donated by President Nasheed in 2009.

This building was previously (in the 16th century) the Royal Palace of Malé.  In 1952 it was re-engineered into the National Museum and the remainder of the site became Sultan Park.

See the “Official Residence of the President of the Maldives

While you can’t go inside, you can see the Official Residence of the President of the Maldives, aka the Mulee’aage from the gates.  Well, you can get a small peek anyway.  For us, it was just a peek at the photo on the gate.  It is rather pretty though.

The Mulee'aage Male

The Mulee’aage is located in the historic center of Malé and was built between 1914 to 1919 on the site of the former home of Sultans and Royalty.    It has been the official residence of all seven presidents of the Republic of the Maldives at some stage during their presidency

Although originally part of the Mulee’aage building, the “central tomb” (Medhu Ziyaaraiy) is today separate from the Presidential Residence, and houses the tomb of Abu al-Barakat Yusuf al-Barbari, the Moroccan scholar who is believed to have introduced Islam to the Maldives in 1153.

Visit the Old Friday Mosque

The Old Friday Mosque in Malé dates from 1656 and was mainly constructed of coral, which has been intricately decorated and into which Quranic script has been carved.  Officially you’re supposed to get permission from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to visit, but so long as you’re dressed conservatively and don’t try and visit during prayer times it’s possible to see inside. Inside are elaborate wood carvings – one especially ornate dates from the 13th century and details the introduction of Islam to the Maldives.  Interestingly the mosque was built on the foundations of a temple that, instead of facing toward Mecca, faced the setting sun, so worshippers need to face the corner of the mosque when praying.

Old Friday Mosque Male Maldives

The blue and white minaret next to the mosque dates from 1675 and you’ll find elaborately carved tombstones in the cemetery on the side of the mosque.  Stones that have round tops commemorate females and pointed tops represent Males.  If a top has gold-plated lettering, then it’s the grave of a former sultan.

King Salman Mosque

Originally planned to be built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Maldives (the Maldives gained independence from Britain on 26th July 1965, but some three years later the Maldives national referendum abolished the sultanate and established a republic). The mosque was scheduled to open in 2021, but wasn’t opened officially for prayers until April 2022.  It has the capacity for 10,000 worshippers.   The dome-like structure is designed to represent a Bedouin desert tent.

Map of Things to Do in Malé, Maldives

You can also see full map for things to do in Malé here.

Map of Things to see and do in Male, Maldives

How to Get Around Malé

You can walk across the whole island of Malé in just 45 minutes.  And walking is an easy, if hot and sweaty way to get around the capital of the Maldives.  There is also a decent public transport system here in Malé, buses are modern and air-conditioned.  There’s no standing on buses in Malé, everyone has a seat.  And while there’s no Uber, Lyft or Grab here in the Maldives, there are taxis.    All taxis in Malé have a taxi sign on the top. 

There’s a mix of old and new here in Malé, and the town is built on a grid pattern, so it’s hard to get lost.  There are narrow streets, high rise buildings, and it’s nice to just wander around, trying to get lost!

Where to Eat in Malé

There are plenty of places to eat in Malé, with a great mix of Maldivian, Asian, and Western Foods.  Be sure to try some Maldivian cuisine while you’re here – one of the dishes that best represents the nation is a glorious marriage of tuna and coconut (both of which you find in abundance here).  Mashuni Roshi – it’s a combination of coconut, tuna, and chili peppers, eaten with roshi (flatbread).  It’s the perfect Maldivian breakfast.

Mashuni Roshi Maldives Breakfast

Breakfast at Ebb & Flow in Malé

Head to Ebb & Flow for a great Maldives breakfast – they do an excellent buffet and also ala carte options.  The brave can try Rihaakaru, which is a fish stock-based paste.  I’ve heard it described as the Maldives version of Marmite.  I loved it.  (but then I love Marmite too!)  The juices and coffee are fabulous here.  There’s seating outside or air-conditioned comfort inside.

Lunch at the City Garden in Malé

The City Garden, located along the Boduthakurufaanu Magu, on the waterfront, is a great place to stop by for a cold drink and some lunch.  There’s a super balcony here with lovely views.

View from City Garden Restaurant Male Maldives

Have dinner at the Harbour food court in Malé

There’s no shortage of places to eat in Malé, from Western foods to traditional Maldivian foods.  However, you’re in Asia and one of the best places to eat is a food court.  The outdoor, but undercover food court at the Harbor is a GREAT place to both people watch and also get a selection of dishes.  There are many buffet restaurants and it’s a good value place to eat too.

Where to Stay in Malé

The range of places to stay in Malé goes from budget to luxury.  We recommend the good value UMET Seaview.  It’s a great price and includes a fabulous breakfast on their rooftop terrace as well as a free transfer to the airport.  You can check availability and prices here.

Tips for Traveling the Maldives

Final Words on a One Day in Malé Itinerary

Malé is a laidback capital city to spend a day in.  Whether you choose to take a tour, or simply wander around yourself, there’s some interesting history here, some glorious local color, and some fabulous shaded parks to explore.   Spending one day in Malé is a great way to start or end a trip to the Maldives.

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