Republic since 1965. Gained independence from the UK in 1965. Democracy established in 2008.
Head of state:
President Mohammed Waheed Hassan (since 2012).
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round-pin plugs are used, although square-pin plugs are now becoming more common.
The Maldives is a by-word for luxury, romance and tropical bliss; a beautiful string of low-lying coral islands in the Indian Ocean, and a paradise for diving enthusiasts and sun seekers alike.
The country's 26 natural atolls and over 1000 islands have uniformly perfect white sand beaches lapped by turquoise lagoons the temperature of bath water. Tourism only began in the 1970s, but it is now the Maldives’ most important industry. Tourism in the Maldives concentrates on the luxury market, meaning that the country is home to some of the world’s best hotels.
Yet even in paradise trouble can bubble beneath the surface. It is precisely because the Maldives is so low-lying (80% of the territory is less than 1m/3.3ft above sea level) that their very existence is threatened by global warming. As such, since the 2008 election of young reformer Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives have worked hard to become one of the most environmentally friendly countries on earth, and continue to do so under new president Mohammed Waheed Hassan.