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The Maldives an archipelago of 26 major coral atolls, situated SW of Sri Lanka. A small percentage of the islands are inhabited and 87 are exclusively resorts, boasting tropical landscapes hugged by picture-perfect beaches and palm trees. The picture perfect islands are surrounded by coral reefs enclosing shallow lagoons.

The accommodation varies from large international-standard 5-star complexes to small holiday villages built of coral-stone, wood and thatch. Many islands now have spas offering massages, beauty treatments, aromatherapy and even Ayurvedic treatments. A destination mainly for couples and particularly honeymooners. All resorts now have hot water and air-conditioned guest rooms. A local innovation is the "garden bathroom": usually just a walled, roofless shower section. Another local speciality is the "water bungalow". Built on stilts over the lagoon these usually provide high-quality accommodation but increase the ratio of guests to island size.

Time, weather and constant use take their toll and older properties can get run-down if not well maintained and regularly refurbished. As with most things, you generally get what you pay for ? it's just that the prices here start high and go higher.

The beaches area generally good but varying from tiny narrow strips to huge expanses of fine white sand and crushed coral. Most islands suffer from erosion so many have to protect beaches with sea walls or groynes. These can greatly affect the visual impact of the island. Lagoons around the islands are tidal and can vary from huge to tiny, too shallow to steeply shelving.