The island hideaway that was named one of the top five hotels in the world has opened its doors once more to guests after a multi-million dollar makeover

Who doesn’t dream of having their own private island? A castaway experience that’s less Tom Hanks and more Robinson Crusoe, if he had won the lottery. Gili Lankanfushi is just that. A private island hideaway that’s just a short speedboat ride from Male.

This palm-fringed oasis surrounded by a cerulean lagoon gives you the perfect chance to getaway from it all. After closing its doors for a multi-million dollar makeover, the resort that was once named one of the best in the world, is now welcoming guests once more to its island retreat that has the same carefree vibe but looks a little sparklier.

Each one of its 45 rustic-chic thatch villas are set overwater, which makes you feel as if you really do have the island to yourself. The only sight that may block your uninterrupted view of the ocean is a manta ray cruising past or a school of jackfish winding their way through the seagrass.

The first thing that you need to do is kick off your heels – it is a barefoot luxury retreat after all. But what happens next is up to you. You might want to relax on your overwater terrace, take a dip in your free-standing tub with a view of the ocean, or enjoy a swim in your private underwater walled garden, which you reach when you descend the steps of your two-storey villa. Where to sleep also comes with multiple options, as you can relax in your airconditioned bedroom or you can take the stairs to your rooftop terrace and sleep under the stars. Bliss…

But this is all the thinking you will need to do as your villa butlers - Mr or Ms Friday, will take care of everything else for you. From booking your spa treatment to as with the case of one guest, hiding an engagement ring for a bride to find among the coral reef.

It’s hard to tear yourself away from your villa, but you must for there is so much to explore. Sports fans can join the Tropicsurf team to catch a wave or practise their backhand on the island’s tennis court, while nature lovers can go scuba diving, whale watching or see dolphins on a cruise at sunset.

Then there’s the food. Given the fact that you are set on a private sun-soaked island, you would be forgiven if you would have thought dining might just be a barbecue on the beach. And it can be if you wish, but with a butler to serve you of course. The newly created Kashiveli restaurant with its walk-in cold room serves a cornucopia of dishes each night of the week, and whether you are enjoying Middle Eastern flavors or discovering a pop-up Southeast Asia street food market that they create on the beach, your tastebuds will constantly be tempted.

Then there are the fine dining options – the sushi and teppanyaki restaurant By The Sea that sits high in the jungle canopy and the Underground Wine Cellar, where the chef and sommelier pair mouthwatering dishes with some of the world’s most famous wines. Both are worth pencilling into your diary. By The Sea for its deep couches, sea views and melt-in-the-mouth sushi. And the Underground Wine Cellar for its pure decadence and intimacy. Then there is the Gili Wine and Dine Experience where you can dine at pop-up venues around the island, from a treetop restaurant in the organic garden to a dinner a deux under the palm trees.

Gili Lankanfushi knows that it is set in a special part of the world and it wants it to stay that way. Whilst spoiling its guests tries to make sure that it leaves a light footprint, which is why the inhouse marine biologists invite you to join them in help replant coral on the reef, each villa comes with its own set of bicycles that you can use to get around and the designer for this rustic-chic makeover has turned to driftwood to create the villa furniture. Even the table that you dine upon in the Underground Wine Cellar is a tree trunk that was washed up onto the shore of a neighbouring island. The whole approach as you would expect of a luxury hotel is thoughtfully done, from the soft covers on the bicycle pedals to protect your barefeet to the cotton bag that they leave in your suite, which invites you to take those empty sunscreen bottles away with you.

But the biggest surprise is how this resort will make you feel. Whether you have stayed for three days for three weeks, you will feel as if you’ve left all your cares with the baggage collection at Male Airport. And one of Gili Lankanfushi’s most enchanting qualities is how it makes you feel welcome, which is why you will see that this island becomes a second home for some, and guests will return again and again.

Suggested Itineraries

Classic Thailand

Bangkok Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai & the Golden Triangle Phuket & Khao Lak Thailand Asia

  • Explore Bangkok’s beautiful temples and vibrant streets
  • Learn how to create local Thai dishes in Chiang Mai with a private cookery class
  • Laze on some of Phuket's best white sandy beaches
  • Sample various local foods, old-style Thai coffee and Thai sweet desserts
  • Visit the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre and watch these wonderful animals in their natural habitat

When to go:

ideal length 9 nights

Culture in Manila and Boracay Beach

Philippines Asia

  • Explore the bustling side streets of Manila, Philippines
  • Enjoy sailing around Manila Bay at sunset
  • Visit an authentic ancestral home, filled with art and memorabilia
  • Go on a tricycle ride to White Beach, checking out shops and cafes as you go
  • Island hop around Boracay, and experience some of the clearest seas in the world

When to go:

ideal length 5 nights

Island Hopping in the Philippines

Palawan Philippines Asia

  • Stay on three beautiful and remote Filipino islands

  • Island hop around Guyam Island, Daku Island and Naked Island

  • Relax in the hanging day-beds at luxurious Nay Palad

  • Snorkel, hike, visit waterfalls and discover secret beaches

  • Take a private sunset cruise around the islands of El Nido

When to go:

ideal length 10 nights
Destinations Featured in the Article
scene of luxury resort in the maldives. aerial view


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