The Upper North Province of the Maldives is composed of the Haa Alif, Haa Dhaalu and Shaviyani Atolls.
The Haa Alif Atoll also known as the Northern Thiladhunmathi Atoll or Thiladhunmathi Uthuruburi is the northernmost of the administrative atolls of the Maldives. Geographically, this atoll consists of Ihavandhippolhu, and the northern section of Thiladhunmathi atoll. The Haa Alif Atoll is the third largest atoll in the archipelago in terms of population and land surface. The Haa Alif Atoll is made up of 43 islands, 14 of which are inhabited and include: Baarah, Dhiddhoo – the capital of the Atoll, Filladhoo, Hoarafushi, Ihavandhoo, Kelaa, Maarandhoo, Mulhadhoo, Muraidhoo, Thakandhoo, Thuraakunu, Uligamu, Utheemu, and Vashafaru.
The Haa Dhaalu Atoll is also known as the Southern Thiladhunmathi Atoll or Thiladhunmathi Dhekunuburi is an administrative division of the Maldives that is composed of the southern section of Thiladhunmathi Atoll, a natural atoll of the Maldives. Its inhabited islands are: Hanimaadhoo, Finey, Naivaadhoo, Nolhivaranfaru, Nellaidhoo, Nolhivaram, Kurinbi, Kulhudhuffushi – the capital of the Atoll, Kumundhoo, Neykurendhoo, Vaikaradhoo, Makunudhoo, and Hirimaradhoo. There is a domestic airport on the island of Hanimaadhoo about 15 kilometres from the Atoll’s capital, Kulhudhuffushi.
The Shaviyani Atoll, also known as the Northern Miladhunmadulu Atoll or Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi is an administrative division of the Maldives that corresponds to the northern section of the natural Miladhunmadulu Atoll. The Atoll comprises 51 islands of which 16 are inhabited. The inhabited islands are: Bileffahi, Feevah, Feydhoo, Foakaidhoo, Funadhoo – the capital of the Atoll, Goidhoo, Kanditheemu, Komandoo, Lhaimagu, Maaungoodhoo, Maroshi, Milandhoo, Narudhoo, and Noomaraa. The islands of this atoll are particularly small, with half composed of less than 20 hectares of land making them more vulnerable to environmental impacts. The Atoll is also known for the craftsmanship of the islanders, such as mat and rope weaving.
Dhidhdhoo is the capital of the Haa Alif Atoll, an island that was originally 52 hectares large, but following a land reclamation project in 2010 has been expanded to approximately 85 hectares. The island is the economic trade hub of the Haa Alif Atoll.
Baarah is an island in the Haa Alif Atoll. Baarah is of historical importance as it was where the ship, Kalhuohfummi was built in the latter half of the 16th century, and this vessel played a key role in the war against the Portuguese invasion of the Maldives.
Interestingly, the island is shaped like the letter 'C', and a large part of its shores are covered by mangroves. The soil of this land is rich in hydrogen sulphide and is often avoided by islanders. Unfortunately the ecosystem is under threat as a result of logging, garbage dumping and mismanagement.
Utheemu is one of the islands of the Haa Alif Atoll that is famed as the birthplace of Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu, who along with his brothers and his companions fought the war against the Portuguese invaders who occupied the Maldives from 1558 to 1573. Travellers to the island can visit Utheemu Ganduvaru, the wooden palace where Sultan Mohamed Thakurufaanu lived and grew up. It is well preserved and evokes the lifestyle of the rich, centuries ago. Guided tours are available, allowing visitors to glimpse the fascinating 500-year-old wooden interiors, including swing beds that were used to keep cool in the heat, coco palm oil lamps, intricate wooden carvings and a large palm-thatch shed used to accommodate guests.
Hoarafushi is an island of the Haa Alif Atoll, known for its natural beauty. Accommodation is available through the guest house Annamaa Lodge, with more planned to open soon. Various watersports are available here including diving, with an abundant variety of undersea life to explore.
Molhadhoo is one of the islands of the Haa Alif Atoll that was famous for their nesting green sea turtles, with over 20,000 nesting on its beaches every year. Unfortunately numbers dwindled and fewer than 400 females now come ashore.
Uligan also known as Uligamu is one of the inhabited islands of the Haa Alif Atoll. The island is an outpost in the north-west Indian Ocean and serves as the final stop on the route from Thailand before entering the Gulf of Aden or sail directly up the Red Sea. Islanders make the most of this passing traffic by selling souvenirs and ship provisions for passing yachtsmen. An airport is planned here to serve the Haa Alif Atoll.
Vashafaru is an island of the Haa Alif Atoll. The island is renowned for its long white sand spit referred to as the Vashafaru-thundi. The islanders are skilled carpenters and boat-builders famous throughout the Maldives.
Hanimaadhoo is one of the islands of the Haa Dhaalu Atoll. The Hanimaadhoo Airport is located here, one of the few domestic airports of the Maldives. The Hanomaadhoo Meteorological Observatory is based on the island, and scientific research studies are often carried out in Hanimaadhoo. Islanders from Hathifushi and Hondaidhoo have recently been relocated to Hanimaadhoo and a new developmental centre is planned here. Various interesting sites that attract visitors include the beaches of the West Coast, the old houses made of coral bricks, and Banana plant alley.
Nolhivaram is one of the islands of the Haa Dhaalu Atoll and is believed to be one of the oldest inhabited islands in the Maldives and ethnographically diverse when compared to the rest of the islands. This is indicated by the name ending in varam. A different indigenous group separate from the first Maldivian settlers are said to have arrived from South India and named their islands Varam.
Kulhudhuffushi is the capital of the Haa Dhaalu Atoll and is one of the largest in the northern Maldives. The culture of the island is considered unique and its people are known for shark fishing, blacksmith works, producing rope, building boats and working in cargo vessels. The local Saturday market held at "bandaara road" is where local farmers display their products and hundreds of neighbouring islanders visit for shopping.
Kumundhoo is an island of the Haa Dhaalu Atoll. Archaeological sites from the pre-Islamic Buddhist era have been found here in the form of a stone circle known locally as Us-Kunna, which are likely the remains of an ancient Buddhist stupa. Maamiskiyy Tharaagandu, is believed to be the second oldest mosque in the Maldives, evidence suggesting it was built between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Hirimaradhoo is one of the islands of the Haa Dhaalu Atoll. Diving is popular here as the reefs surrounding the island are home to manta rays, reef sharks, sea turtles and an impressive quantity and variety of fish. Hirimaradhoo Thila is considered the best spot for observing Rhinobatids or guitar sharks.
Makunudhoo is the westernmost inhabited island in the Maldives in the Haa Dhaalu Atoll. Historically, numerous ships have been wrecked on the treacherous reefs that surround the island. The most famous of these was the English spice ship Hayston in July 1891.
The island of Maroshi is found on the western rim of the Shaviyani atoll. The island features a large lagoon that makes harbouring easy. This island is of historical importance as wood from the huge Kaani tree that grows here was used to create the post for the sails of the Kalhuohfunmi, the sailing boat used by the heroic character, Mohamed Thakurufaanu in his efforts to free the country from the Portuguese. It is also the largest tree of its kind in the country, and most likely the oldest as well.
Milandhoo is the capital of the Shaviyani Atoll. Uninhabited prior to 1997, the government relocated residents from neighboring island Maakandoodhoo when its water became contaminated and it is now the most populated as well as the largest island of the atoll, covering an area of 126 hectares.
Milandhoo is known for its lakes that are popular picnic destinations. Sikundi Kulhi or "Prawn Lake" in the north-west of the island, is so called due to the abundance of prawns and shrimp there, which are transparent and up to 1.5 inches long. Barracudas and some other fish species are also found here, while crabs and hermit crabs live around its shore.