A tropical paradise, an elite retreat, 1,200 islands of pure heaven, Asia's most upmarket holiday destination - the superlatives come thick and fast when talking about the Maldives. Cheap flights to the Maldives may not be top of the A-listers' agenda when they are considering a holiday there, but for the rest of us saving money on flights will leave us with more money to splurge on luxuries once we're there.
The archipelago in the Indian Ocean is brochure-beautiful. Lush, green islands with palm-fringed, white-sand beaches that edge into aqaumarine waters. The Maldives are all about the water; some of the islands are just a couple of metres above sea level. There is a dazzling array of activities - diving and snorkelling among the delicate corals and colourful tropical fish, windsurfing, surfing, parasailing and sailing, game fishing - on top of what's probably the main reason for visiting the Maldives, lazing on the beach.
Male is the capital and home to about a third of the population of the Maldives. It's one of the smallest capitals in the world, a bustling, busy city of government buildings, offices, shops, markets (Male Market and Fish Market) and historic sights such as the Friday Mosque (built in 1656), the Islamic Centre and the Maldivian National Museum (in the grounds of the Sultan's palace).
No matter which island you visit, the cuisine will be memorable. Fresh seafood, spicy dishes and exotic salads feature whether you are enjoying a romantic meal at sundown in one of the resorts or a short-eat in a busy tea shop in Male.