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  • Coastline 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.

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.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes The main international airport is at Malé (+960 325511; www.airports.com.mv) central to both the North and South atolls: fly in from the US or the UK via Dubai with Emirates Airlines or connect from an Etihad flight into Abu Dhabi. There are also numerous direct charter flights into Malé from the UK. Alternatively you can fly in via Sri Lanka or India. You may then have to make a short hop by seaplane to your resort if it's not accessible by speedboat take a domestic flight to one of the airports at the northern- or southern-most atolls of the Maldives.
  • Boats If you're an international sea-farer, you can arrive by yacht, but you'll need to check in with the authorities at Malé. Most resorts will arrange a speedboat transfer to get you from Malé to your personal paradise island when you book your stay.
  • Automobiles A car will be about as much use to you here as a baking tray made of butter; if you want to explore, ask your hotel about chartering a wooden dhoni catamaran or speedboat for the day.
  • Taxis 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.