I want to... explore

I’ve been to many exotic destinations, but often felt that they’d been over-hyped. The Maldives, however, are as good as in the brochures.

Traditionally known as the King’s Island, because it was the seat of the dynasties that ruled here for centuries, few tourists bother to spend time in Male, the capital of the Republic of the Maldives, and yet this tiny city, with its lively fish market, National Museum and stunning Friday mosque, is well worth a visit.

Although tourists began to visit the Maldives in 1973, travellers were only allowed to stay on the resort islands. Islanders are now allowed to open guesthouses, so avid explorers will want to visit some of these lesser-known islands.

Maafushi in the Kaafu Atol is the birthplace of Al Sultan Ghazi Mohammad Bodu Thakurufaanu, the sea captain who liberated the Maldives from Portuguese conquerors in 1573. His house is now a museum. A two-hour dhoni boat ride away, Fulidhoo in the Vaavu Atoll has powder-white, near-deserted beaches and a few cafes serving Hedhikaa or ‘short eats’, the delicious local snacks. Thinadoo island, capital of Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll and the next stop from Fulidhoo on the ferry, is a busy, happy island with mosques, schools and pristine beaches.

Guesthouses in The Maldives has 12 guesthouse on several islands (guesthouses-in-maldives.net). Happy Life Maldives, on Dhiffushi in the North Male Atoll has rooms from Dh220 for two per night.

I want to... unwind

The Maldives are famed for their luxurious island resorts where you can unwind surrounded by white sand beaches in the midst of the exotic, fish-filled Indian Ocean, and there are plenty to choose from.

A plane ride away from Male, Coco Bodhu Hithi has more than a hundred beautifully designed island and water villas with sundecks and terraces. Sea-facing island villas have sunken baths and private gardens, and the resort has seven restaurants, serving a wide range of culinary delights (three nights from Dh5,000).

For off-the-beaten-track luxury, Hideaway, close to the fish-teeming Dhonakulhi reef, and on one of the remotest islands, has over water villas with plunge pool and personalised butler service (three nights from Dh6,066).

If you’re seeking barefoot luxury for all the family, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon resort and spa is only 20 minutes ride from the airport and has a plethora of family-friendly attractions, including free watersports and a kids club (three nights from Dh3,109).

For something more spectacular, try the Conrad Maldives Rangali island resort where lovers of marine life will enjoy dining as they watch exotic fish swim by at Ithaa, the world’s first all-glass undersea restaurant (three nights from Dh4,367).

Getting there: Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Male Ibrahim Nasir International airport.