Thanks to Thomson.co.uk for guest posting.
When most people conjure up a vision of deserted islands, deep blue seas and secluded beach huts, they might very well be imagining the Maldives. The quintessential ocean getaway, life on the atolls moves at an unhurried pace, palm fronds rustle in the breeze and the sun beats down on the white sand for much of the year. If you’re looking to combine the ultimate relaxation with a little retail therapy, here’s how you’ll the best handicraft stores, souvenirs and fresh market goodies to get you started.
Both the economic and geographic centre of Maldives, Malé is a modest-sized island bursting with lively streets, a city-on-the-beach vibe and much of the Maldivian population. It’s also where to head for the best shopping. Though many visitors skip Malé for the chilled-out pace of the southern atolls, some of the main attractions here are not to be missed, not least the markets.
Individual island resorts have their boutiques, but if you have time to shop around for souvenirs at Malé’s Chandani Bazaar, you’ll almost certainly be able to get them cheaper. The area around Chandani Magu is where you can pick up a miniature version of the famous Maldivian dhoni boats, silver jewellery from Sri Lanka and India and reed mats from Huvadhu Atoll. Just be careful about buying things made from coral, oyster shell or turtle neck, as these are banned from export.
The star of the show has to be the distinctive island lacquerware, much of it originating in the Baa Atoll, with many examples found in the city’s National Museum. The carved and decorated boxes, walking canes and ornaments all make beautiful keepsakes for your trip. The textile markets are also a highlight here, as are the hand-painted t-shirts, with some stalls offering made-to-order options.
Even if you’re not buying, make time to visit the renowned fish and produce markets on the north side of the island. Head for the fish market in the late afternoon to see the fishermen bring in the catch, or wander round the vibrant hanging fruits, vegetables and spices of the agricultural stalls.
Dedicated shoppers should really make a stop on Malé to find the best deals and most variety, but you can shop resorts like Kuramathi on Rasdhoo Atoll and Kuredu on Lhaviyani with your credit card and still get your share of ethnic accessories and gifts. Combined with the perfect postcard views and facilities to cater for every kind of holiday-maker, the shopping experience in Maldives is a pleasure worth traveling for.