With its azure waters, picturesque water villas, and white sandy beaches — the Maldives is ever-present in our wanderlust-inducing fantasies, and with good reason. If you are planning to tick this dream destination off your bucket-list, we highly recommend checking into the Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa. Because if you’re splashing out to visit the Maldives, then it might as well be at this dream destination’s most luxurious resort.

Located amidst the sheltered waters of the southernmost atoll in the at Addu Atoll, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa is simply a cut above the rest. So much so, that it operates on its own timezone.(It’s one hour behind Male – which means that you gain an extra hour of sunshine!) Once you dock at the Shangri-La Villingili Resort & Spa, you are immediately transported into an otherworldly landscape of tropical villas, ocean-facing swings, and the soothing sounds of the sea. Soon, it becomes exceedingly clear that you have entered a paradise in a world of its own.

The Water Villas of our dreams

After the cursory welcome coconut, and a quick buggy ride through Maldive’s iconic timber walkways, we entered our luxury water villa. Build on stilts on the resort’s breathtaking azure waters, these 166 sqm. villas are the very definition of secluded luxury.. If you’ve ever had an imagined image of the Maldives in your head, it was probably exactly this; but at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, the reality is even better. Think natural wood interiors, a seductively comfortable king-sized bed, and a bathroom that’s bigger than a Victorian semi-detcahed. The Water Villas are exactly what our travel dreams are made of. Glass partitions allow of unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean, where you can jump in for a quick swim straight out from your own private deck. Enjoy some in-room dining on your veranda, and lounge on a hammock-directly suspended from the sea. Have a soak in your oversized oval bath tub, or better yet shower outdoors. Trust us, there is nothing more liberating than showering completely uninhibited, underneath the Maldivian sunshine.

A Culinary Journey of the Maldives and beyond

At Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, every experience is tailor made to each guest. The resort has three restaurants, and each one has its own distinct personality. Dr.Ali’s Restaurant and Bar, was named after Maldive’s most legendary doctor. Dr.Ali was a treasure trove of tales taken from his adventures across East Asia and the Middle East, and Dr.Ali’s Restaurant and Bar pays homage to the many authentic flavours and recipes he encountered on his journeys. Javvu Restaurant is the hotel’s main restaurant and is located right beside the pool. This is where we enjoyed plenty of casual sun-soaked lunches during our stay, as well as a fruity cocktail (or five) at M Lounge during sunset. Named after the Dhivehi word meaning “the edge”, Fashala Restaurant and lounge is located at the northern edge of the island, and features breathtaking views of the ocean. The Mediterranean inspired menu is made up of only the freshest local produce both from land-and sea.

A Bespoke gastronomic experience with Dine by Design

If you’re looking for a truly bespoke culinary experience — try the Shangri-La’s Dine by Design. Fancy having lunch on the equator? A barbecue in your villa? Or maybe even a dinner in the Chef’s garden? Then let the Shangri-La’s expert chefs create an unforgettable dining experience just for you. We tried their new farm-to-table dining experience, which began with picking our choice of island grown ingredients from the chef’s garden, followed by a visit to the neighbouring town of Meedhu. After a warm welcome from the villagers, the local farmers took us around to their own farms, and picked some fresh and showed us the many different educational, cultural, and environmental clean up that Nalafehi Meedhu, a local NGO, implemented to transform the life of the villagers.

A Traditional take on Wellness

If you’re looking for some pampering during your stay — explore the resort’s secured spa sanctuary. Hidden amidst large banyan trees and tropical shrubbery, CHI has eleven spacious treatment villas, two meditation pavilions, and a yoga pavilion overlooking the ocean. Waking up before the crack of dawn, we cycled to the Spa for some sunrise yoga followed by a Kandu Boli Ritual massage. This traditional treatment is a soothing body and face massage, where coconut oil is rubbed on you with a hot cowrie shell, which was once considered a treasure during ancient marine trading times.

Discovering the Island’s unique biodiversity

We’re all about travelling consciously, and is with everything else in this excellent resort, Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa puts in every effort to protect the island’s own unique biodiversity. At the Eco-Centre, marine biologists take guests on nature trails, while dive-masters guide diving enthusiasts across the Addu Attol’s best kept snorkel gardens. After doing our part for the environment and planting some coral in the resort’s coral farm; We went on a snorkelling excursion just a 30 minute boat ride away from the island, and swam amongst incredible aquatic wildlife and coral — even spotting some sea turtles along the way.

An Unforgettable Sailing Expedition

From jungle treks and golf to coral planting and sea-bobbing, here’s plenty to do at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa. While it may seem counter-intuitive, we highly recommend venturing away from the resort’s many luxuries — and jumping onboard a Yacht for a sunset cruise like no other. After popping a few bottles of champagne, climb atop the roof and take in the stunning candy coloured skies, as your captain sails you around the wonderfully biodiverse waters of the Addu Atoll. During our brief expedition out to sea — we were greeted by large and friendly groups of flipper dolphins, racing with our boat’s bow, and showing off with some pretty impressive flips. It was absolutely incredible — a once in a lifetime moment that can only be found at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa.

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