Capital | Malé
Population | 394,999 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 300 SQ KM
Official Language | Divehi
Holidays | Independence Day, 26 July (1965)
Currency | Rufiyaa (MVR)
Time Zone | UTC +5
Best Time to Visit | December to April (the dry season)
Connecting with the Culture | Swimming in a clear-blue lagoon, strolling on soft white sand and sitting under a coconut tree. Scuba diving to see turtles, mantas and morays, whale sharks, nurse sharks, hammerheads and rays. Exploring the underwater, shipwreck Maldive Victory, alive with corals and home to trevally, snapper, squirrelfish and cod. Taking a flight over the atolls and watching the free-form patterns of sea, sandbank, reef and island.
Read | Mysticism in the Maldives, which documents Maldivian myths and stories.
Listen | to popular local bands Mezzo and Zero Degree.
Eat | garudia (soup made from dried and smoked fish, often eaten with rice, lime and chilli) for a main meal and finish off with an arecanut (an oval nut chewed with betel leaf, cloves and lime), which is the equivalent of an after-dinner mint.
Drink | raa (a sweet and delicious toddy tapped from the crown of the palm trunk)
In a Word | A-salam alekum (hello)
Characteristics | Pristine tropical islands; swaying palm trees; pure white-sand beaches; brilliant aquamarine water; abundant marine life; gloriously coloured coral; peerless diving.
Surprises | Ancient beliefs survive: the islands fear jinnis- evil spirits that come from the sea, land and sky; the full name of the country is Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa.