Ask people to define their idea of paradise and most will probably describe the Maldives – an archipelago of 26 ring-shaped atolls, boasting ivory-white beaches, turquoise-blue lagoons and tropical coral reefs. Malé, the vibrant capital, draws influences from Indian, Thai and Middle Eastern culture – something perhaps best appreciated in the local food. Take a walk along Majeedhee Magu (the main road) and choose from the range of seafood restaurants on offer. Malé also serves as a base from where you can arrange trips to the quieter spots like Baa Atoll, which lies further north. Regarded as one of the world’s best diving sites, this UNESCO-protected reserve boasts over 250 species of coral, 1,000 species of tropical fish, hammerhead sharks, turtles and manta rays. Book a dive for the chance to swim in this pristine, underwater environment, and if you’re lucky, you may even see a whale shark drifting through. Budget permitting, you can even charter a plane for the day, hopping on and off at various atolls. Some islands remain uninhabited, and while an overnight stay might be out of the question, a day trip from Malé allows plenty of time to go snorkelling in these dazzling coral reefs. The most common accommodation options are luxury spa resorts and the classic overwater bungalows on wooden stilts. These are found on most atolls, including Ari Atoll and North Male Atoll, but there are also some guesthouses in the busier towns.