[HOTEL REVIEW] Gili Lankanfushi, you blew my mind. From the moment we were collected from Velana International Airport and whisked across the lagoon on your private speedboat, it was as if we had been transported to a different world. We set our watches to Island Time and allowed this slice of paradise in Kaafu Atoll to take control of our schedule. Whether it was a meal under the stars, or a tasting journey through the resort; snorkeling on the drop off at the edge of the resort or cycling around on eco-friendly Bamboo bikes; or simply relaxing in the beautifully laid out over water villa – with our every whim tended to by our own Mr Friday – nothing could have been more perfect. But enough with the intro, scroll down now to read my full review of Gili Lankanfushi – and hopefully provide you with enough inspiration to book your own perfect getaway to the top rated hotel in the Maldives.
***Please note, due to a fire at the resort In January 2019, they are closed for renovations until further notice – but I am sure will be back as luxurious as ever and worthy of their ‘#1 Luxury Hotel in the Maldives’ mantle***
Disclaimer: I was generously hosted by Gili Lankanfushi on a full board basis during my stay, but all opinions, relaxation had, and cocktails drank were entirely my own. Read my full disclaimer here.
How To Get To Gili Lankanfushi from Male
Gili Lankafushi is in a really convenient spot and just a short 20 minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport. After you have cleared customs and collected your luggage you will make your way to arrivals hall where there at almost 100 booths representing all the different hotels in the country (and there are a lot!) – simply locate the Gili Lankanfushi booth and the helpful staff will take you out to the waiting speedboat. You’ll be welcomed on board with a bottle of refreshing juice at which point you’ll also be given a cloth bag to put your shoes in. Gili Lankanfushi has a “No News, No Shoes” policy across the Island (although you can wear them if you want) and to be honest, from the moment we stepped foot on the island, we didn’t actually look for – or at – any shoes (including the ones we took off on the boat! Which we realized we hadn’t seen about an hour before packing to go home, only to find they had been delivered to our room the day we checked in!).
And you may have heard about island time in various different countries around the world, where life is slower and time is not something that too much attention is paid to. But on Gili Lankanfushi Island Time here is a real thing, and not just for the laid back vibes. Gili Lankanfushi observes Maldavian time +1. Because they can, and because it’s cool (and is actually due to the historic travel time via a traditional Dhoni boat, but because they can is good enough for me.)
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About Gili Lankanfushi
Gili Lankanfushi Resort Map
The accommodation at Gili Lankafushi is made up exclusively of over water villas ranging in size from 210m² Villa Suites through to 250m² Crusoe Residences. (Plus the huge 1700m² Private Reserve, but that is so special it deserves a section entirely to itself, below). All of the accommodations are beautifully presented, combining rustic yet sustainably-sourced building materials with luxury white linens, with flashes of burnt orange and turquoise accent colors. Each have a direct access to the crystal clear waters of the lagoon, with some benefiting from a hammock in the water outside the deck, perfect for relaxing away the afternoon.
In-room facilities include air-conditioned bedrooms, partly open air bathrooms with bathtub overlooking the lagoon and outdoor shower, open living area complete with mini-bar and a selection of glasswear, Nespresso coffee machine and sound system wired throughout the villa (which can be used with the provided CDs or by plugging in your own phone (or Ipod – does anyone use those anymore?!). There is a sun deck at the front of the villa with sun loungers, day beds and 2 catamarn hammocks leading to the lagoon and a roof terrace complete with daybed which can be converted to a luxurious hideaway for a night under the stars should you so desire.
Each villa also has the services of their own dedicated Mr or Mrs Friday, a personal butler who is there to make sure your every need is taken care of. From resort, spa, scuba or restaurant bookings to arranging any of the incredible island experiences all the way through to drawing one of the specialty aromatherapy baths in your villa. Your Mr or Mrs Friday will be there as and when you need: discrete and friendly yet personal and professional, you’ll wonder what you did all your life without them!
Quick Info about each villa type (excluding the Private Reserve):
- There are 24 210m² 1 bedroom Villa Suites with open air living room and bathroom facilities, sundeck and roof terrace complete with sunbeds/daybeds + 5 Gili Lagoon Villas who also have the benefit of a lagoon hammock at the front of the villa.
- There are 7 250m² Residences which are located at the end of the jetties thus offering further seclusion. Slightly different to the Villa Suites, the living area can be converted to a second bedroom for families or groups of guests. There is 1 additional Gili Lagoon Residence that has a a lagoon hammock.
- The 350m² Family Villa is the only over-water villa in the Maldives that has access to it’s own private island along with dedicated living area, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms plus a luxurious outdoor bath and a deep soak tub on the roof terrace.
- 7 250m² Crusoe Residences offer complete privacy looking out from a secluded spot in the lagoon. They can only be reached by boat (either provided to guests who feel confident driving, or with the assistance of their Mr/Mrs Friday at a moments notice) and offer a flexible living space which can be used as one or two bedrooms plus the usual open air bathroom, sun deck and roof terrace.
The Private Reserve
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The Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi is simply ‘word’s can’t describe’ incredible (although I am going to try). At 1700m²(!!) it is the largest over-water villa in the world. Located 500m from the main resort and 300m from the nearest other residence, it can only be reached by boat and offers complete privacy and seclusion for up to 8-10 people across 4 bedrooms each with their own outdoor bathrooms. The huge complex is the only villa at the resort to have its own infinity swimming pool looking out over the lagoon, plus it’s own gym, couples spa complex with sauna and steam room, open air cinema, water slide and multiple living and diving areas. And because of it’s size, it has two dedicated Mr/Mrs Fridays to tend to guests needs. It is the epitome of luxury (and that is reflected in the nightly rate) but for a bucket list style trip or special event, I don’t believe there are many places in the world that would be more magical, and I truly loved the time I spent there.
Gili Lankanfushi operates on a cashless system. This means that whilst in resort you will sign for anything you order at the bars or restaurants (apart from breakfast) and any experiences (snorkeling, scuba diving, watersports etc) will be added to your room bill automatically. Payment can be made by credit or debit card at the end of your stay prior to be collected from your villa for departure. I would also advise carrying/having notes that you can use to tip at the end of your stay, although this is not mandatory.
A stay at the resort starts at $1440USD per night room only on a double occupancy basic, with Bed and Breakfast the only other available dining package. All meals, room service and drinks etc are supplementary and are signed for on receipt on an ongoing basis.
Dining on Gili Lankanfushi
There are 3 official restaurants on Gili Lankanfushi in addition to a wealth of specialty dining experiences for guest to pick from.
- Kashiveli is the beachfront restaurant where breakfast and dinner is available each day. Kashiveli means ‘Coral Sands’ in local Dhiveli language and in the morning is where guests will find a selection of tropical fruits, seasonal menu of cooked-to-order dishes (both international and Madavian) along with smoothies, juices and Ayurvedic decoctions (if your are interested in find more out Ayurveda click here). In the evening the beach and overwater bar area is transformed to different themed dining sets ups featuring a Seafood Grill night, Asian Spice Market Night, Passage to India Night and Mediterranean Spice Souk night.
- The Over Water Bar – so called for it’s enviable location above the lagoon and whose terrace faces the sunset (perfect for sundowners or simply watching the world go by) – features a salad bar and rotating trio of cooked to order dishes at lunchtime and an extensive buffet each the evening. There is a fully stocked bar along with extensive wine and cocktail list available throughout the day in addition to an a la carte menu should you wish to dine outside the prescribed lunch and dinner times.
- By The Sea – is the on-site specialty Japanese restaurant that is open 5 nights a week offering sushi, sashimi and teppanyaki alongside delicious Japanese fusion dishes using locally sourced seafood showcasing the unimitiable flavors of Japan. In this intimate restaurant overlooking the northern shores of Gili Lankanfushi you’ll dine in sunken seats, drink delicious sake inspired cocktails (which were beautiful even as someone that typically isn’t a fan of Sake!) as you are served some of the most incredible seafood dishes you would ever be lucky to eat – and as such, bookings are essential. (But that isn’t too much of a concern as your Mr/s Friday can arrange that for you).
Specialty Dining Experiences on Gili Lankanfushi
- The Gili Tasting Journey: one of my favorite dining experiences on the island. It is essential a tour of the island with a specialty drink and small course in each location to reflect the surroundings. You have premium sake and sushi in By the Sea; Champagne and Sorbet on the beach; red or white wine and canapes in the underground wine seller; premium spirits and locally caught smoked fish at Dine360 in the Organic Garden & their signature cocktail and dessert in the Over Water Bar. Its a wonderful evening and a great way to start your stay and get a taste of the different dining options.
- Sommelier Inspired Dinner in the under ground wine cellar: Another of my favorite dining experiences on Gili Lankanfushi – in the morning you make your selections from a chef designed menu, and by the evening the Sommelier will have picked out some delicious wines to perfectly complement your choice and meal overall.
- Seafood Under The Stars at the Over Water Bar – dine on locally caught sustainable seafood as the sun sets and find your meal under the stars.
- Destination Dining: From one palm island, the lantern lit beaches, if there is a romantic looking destination, you can guarantee that you will be able to dine there if you so wish.
- Private Sunset Cruise in a traditional sailing Dhoni: sail away from the shores of Gili Lankanfushi in a traditional Maldivian fishing boat and watch the sunset from a whole different viewpoint.
- Cheese and Chocolate Tasting in the under ground wine cellar: Indulge in two of my favorite things as chocolates made on site are paired with wines from the extensive wine cellar.
- Sunset Champagne and canapes at the castaway platform: on a pontoon out at sea, enjoy the solitude of being alone in the ocean with a bottle of champers. Castaway-esque at its best.
- Cooking classes with the chef: Learn a little about Maldivian culture as you learn from a master how to cook (and the eat) local and international dishes.
- Private sandbank picnic: What it says on the tin! Head out to the sandbank to enjoy a perfect picnic among the clear blue waters of the Maldives.
- In Villa BBQ Dining: Have your own BBQ feast cooked up in the comfort of your own villa.
Entertainment & Activities on & Around Gili Lankanfushi
If just lounging by the lagoon isn’t quite your thing, there are plenty of other activities on the island to keep you busy. From grabbing a bamboo bike and exploring the island, to a range of more involved/organised activities, I have included a selection of that are available below.
- Scuba Diving
- Guided Snorkeling
- SUP & Kayaking
- Watch a movie under the stars in the Jungle cinema
- Sunset Dolphin Cruise
- Tour of Gili Veshi with the resident Marine Biologist
- Plant a coral as part of the Coral Line Project
- Snorkel with Manta Rays
- Sleep Under the Stars on your Villa’s rooftop terrace
- Aromatherapy bath menu
- Lounge By the lagoon side pool (for those who want a break from the ocean – or just to be nearly the Gelato shop, as it is right next to the pool!)
- Sunrise or Sunset Yoga and Meditation
- Organic Diving and Eco Tour
- Learn to surf
- Play tennis with the Island Tennis Pro.
The Meeru Spa at Gili Lankanfushi is inspired by the natural wonders of the ocean (Meeru means ‘ocean’ in ancient Sanskrit) and is a haven of relaxation and wellness. Built on stilts above the clear blue waters of the reef, guests can choose from various treatments including massage, reiki, meditation, cupping, facials and nail bar etc along with traditional Ayurvedic practices; and all using the worlds finest skincare products.
For those wanting a few days of bliss and pampering, there are also spa packages combining a variety of treatments over the course of 1-5 days depending on your selection. And there is complimentary sunrise Yoga each day (except Sundays) to help you ease into each day.
Overall Verdict of Gili Lankanfushi
If you are looking for rustic luxury, personalized service, incredible dining, great on island activities – and all within easy reach of the international airport, Gili Lankanfushi should absolutely be your first choice in the Maldives. Whether you are a couple looking for romance, friends looking for the perfect luxury girlie escape or even a solo traveler wanting to enjoy a little luxury and reconnect with themselves (at discount prices with their special solo packages), you will not be dissapointed with your stay at one of the top resorts in the Maldives (and possibly even the world!)
And that’s a warp folks, if you have any questions that I haven’t addressed in the post, just let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to find the answers for you.
And if you like this review or know someone that needs a little prompt to take you here, or if you want to organise a luxurious girls getaway at Gili Lankanfushi, please tweet, pin, flip or share on Facebook. I would really appreciate it :-)
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