- Breezy seaside retreat
- Blissful Baa Atoll
- Lagoon luxe
- Azure waters of North Malé Atoll
- Faraway island fantasy
- The bluest lagoon
- Maxi-minimal dream come true
- Ocean colour scene
- Romantic beach retreat
- Reef-fringed Veligandu Huraa
- Barefoot bliss
- Deserted Dhaalu Atoll
- Water, water everywhere
- Coast life
- Snorkelling, snoozing and sunbathing
Spread over 26 silk-sanded coral atolls lost in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are the textbook desert-island paradise.
Take all the golden-sun, white-sand, azure-water clichés you care to think of, shake well, sprinkle over the equatorial ocean, and season to taste with luxury – well done: you’ve made yourself the Maldives. Its two groups of atolls (North and South) make up the world’s lowest-lying (and most strikingly beautiful) country, rarely reaching more than a few metres above sea level. The archetypal honeymoon destination, these far-flung palm-tree hideaways tick all the tropical-island boxes, offering balmy adults-only seclusion above water, and a spectacular undersea landscape below. Shoals of scuba-lovers come to explore the life aquatic, while loved-up couples and jet-set veterans come for the exclusive resorts. Connected only by speedboat and sea-plane, the Maldives – all 1,192 of them – were made for romantic sun-soaking, beach-based star-gazing, and turquoise-ocean toe-dipping.
The Maldives has a topographical profile unlike any other country on earth. An archipelago republic consisting of more than 1,000 sand and coral islets, scattered over a 1,000km area like so many stars across the night sky, its beauty is in its remoteness and fragility. The gentlest hummocks of land peek out above a warm, clear sea teeming with aquatic life, making this one of earth's most amazing dive sites.
- Every hotel has its own speedboats or fleet of ocean-going vessels – it's the only practical way to get around. They can arrange charter by the hour or by the day if you want to go anywhere further than you can swim.
- Tipping culture
- Most resorts will include service on your bills for everything from transfers and room service to spa treatments, so you shouldn't worry too much; however, small extra tips for a great massage or for outstanding butler service are at your discretion.
- Siesta and fiesta
- On the Maldives, everything revolves around you: eat, sleep and play as and when you like. In general, you'll want to rise early to make the most of the sunshine, and you'll be so relaxed you'll struggle to stay up beyond midnight anyway.
- Packing tips
- Leave snorkelling kit at home, as you'll be able to borrow some wherever you are; but don't forget your diving log book and certification (and check whether your resorts requires a medical certificate to let you dive). Underwater camera (although at Huvafen Fushi there'll be a disposable one in your minibar); flip-flops.
- Recommended reads
- In Daniel Defoe's Robinsoe Crusoe, the paradise may have been Pacific but the tale is still a castaway classic. Contemporary travel writer Thurston Clarke goes island-hopping round the world in Islomania: A Journey Among the Last Real Islands. Get up close and personal with the Indian Ocean itself with A Photo Guide to Fishes of the Maldives by Rudie H Kuiter.
- Maldivian cuisine draws heavily on the aromatically spiced and coconut-softened curries of southern India and Sri Lanka – and of course makes use of the plentiful supply of fresh, fresh fish. Particular delights are the creamy fish curries, tuna steaks, marinaded Maldivian lobster and grilled fresh snapper, served with lentil-based dishes such as dhal or steamed rice and chargrilled vegetables. As the Maldives is a muslim republic, pork dishes are understandably a bit of a rarity – but we think you can cope without bangers for breakfast for a few weeks (and if you can't, there are beef sausages, instead). The Maldives is also a big producer of watermelons: try fat juicy slices of this most refreshing of fruits chilled, juiced or cubed in salads – it's also thankfully low on airmiles, unlike much of the food imported to these remote islands.
- The Maldivian Rufiya (MDR) – although US dollar are the more commonly used currency in resorts.
- Time zone
- GMT +6.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Maldives: +960.
- Do go/don't go
- There's never really a 'bad' time to go to the Maldives, which has a wonderful year-round climate – even in the Monsoon season (mid-May–November), you'd be very unlucky to get more than a few days' rain on the trot. Christmas is very popular, as is anytime up to Easter, although you might be lucky and find deals for late January getaways.
Don't go home without...
… taking plenty of photos – underwater and overwater. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, in the Maldives you’re invariably the centre of a perfect picture opportunity. All your snaps will look travel-brochure dreamy, and your friends will be aqua with envy…