The Maldives is a collection of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls. Of these atolls, 10 are open to tourism, and about 90 of the individual islands are exclusive tourist resorts. Although the islands of the Maldives were badly damaged by the tsunami of December 2004, they are once again emerging as prime holiday spots for tourists seeking supreme relaxation and unforgettable diving and snorkelling experiences.
The Maldives is in some ways a strange place. Most of its inhabited islands are staunchly Muslim in character, yet the resort islands are allowed to exist in a kind of bubble where more typically western behaviour is tolerated. The overwhelming majority of visitors to the Maldives book all-inclusive holiday packages, and spend all their time on their resort island of choice, soaking up the sun on the pristine beaches, learning to surf, or exploring the impressive coral reefs with a dive instructor. The best resorts in the Maldives are Kuramathi (for family-friendliness), Banyan Tree (for elegance), and Baros (for luxury), although there are plenty to choose from and none are likely to disappoint.
For independent travellers to the Maldives, the capital city of Malé is a worthwhile sight: a bustling, bazaar-filled modern Islamic city which entices some of the resort guests with its colourful markets.