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Maldives, officially Republic of Maldives, also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep Islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago.

Maldives Map

It stands in the Laccadive Sea, about 700 kilometres (430 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka and 400 kilometres (250 mi) south-west of India. During the colonial era, the Dutch referred to the country as "Maldivische Eilanden" in their documentation, while "Maldive Islands" is the anglicised version of the local name used by the British, which later came to be written "Maldives".

The archipelago is located on top of the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean. Maldives also form a terrestrial ecoregion together with the Chagos and the Lakshadweep.The atolls of Maldives encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), making it one of the world's most geographically dispersed countries. Its population of 313,920 (2010) inhabits 200 of its 1,192 islands. Maldives' capital and largest city Male had a population of 103,693 in 2006. It is located at the southern edge of North Male Atoll, in the Kaafu Atoll. It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties were enthroned.

Maldives is the smallest Asian country in both population and land area. With an average ground level of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country.It is also the country with the lowest natural highest point in the world, at 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in);the Maldives' forecast inundation is a great concern for the Maldivian people.

Tourism in Maldives

Maldives was largely terra incognita for tourists until the early 1970s. Only 185 islands are home to its 300,000 population, while the other islands are used entirely for economic purposes of which tourism and agriculture are the most dominant. Tourism accounts for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes.The development of tourism fostered the overall growth of the country's economy. It created direct and indirect employment and income generation opportunities in other related industries. The first tourist resorts were opened in 1972 with Bandos island resort and Kurumba Village.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the emergence of tourism in 1972 transformed the economy, moving rapidly from dependence on fisheries to tourism. In just three and a half decades, the industry became the main source of income. Tourism was also the country's biggest foreign currency earner and the single largest contributor to the GDP. As of 2008, 89 resorts in the Maldives offered over 17,000 beds and hosted over 600,000 tourists annually.

The number of resorts increased from 2 to 92 between 1972 and 2007. As of 2007, over 8,380,000 tourists had visited Maldives.Visitors to Maldives do not need to apply for a visa pre-arrival, regardless of their country of origin, provided they have a valid passport, proof of onward travel, and the money to be self-sufficient while in the country.

Most visitors arrived at Male International Airport, on Hulhule Island, adjacent to the capital Male. The airport is served by flights to India, Sri Lanka, Doha, Dubai, Singapore and major airports in South-East Asia, as well as of charters from Europe. Gan Airport, on the southern atoll of Addu, also serves an international flight to Milan several times a week.

Outside the service industry, Male is the only location where the foreign and domestic populations are likely to interact. The tourist resorts are not on islands where the natives live, and casual contacts between the two groups are discouraged.

links: Official Tourist Information

Maldives Maps