Maldives Main

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You have to hand it to the Maldivians. Here, on a far-flung archipelago of low coral atolls in the Indian Ocean, they have raised the notion of the private island resort to a fine art. The conservative Islamic nation encompasses nearly 1,200 islands stretched over some 35,000 square miles, but the scantily clad, beach-going overseas visitors are steered (and pretty much restricted) to about 90 small resort islands. These cater to an upscale clientele looking for a tropical getaway where the thatched huts come with fine linens and haute cuisine.

So what's paradise like, Maldives-style? In the small, crowded capital of Male, you can visit mosques and bustling street markets. But the outer isles are really a place for quiet comforts and doing less, not more. Aside from white-sand beaches and the amenities of a tropical resort, there's first-class diving, good fishing, and phenomenal surfing (a recent discovery among globe-trotting wave chasers). Whether enjoyed in slow -- or slower -- mode, these islands are a blue-lagoon getaway far from the outside world.