While the Maldives may not be the first island destination to come to mind when you think about your travel wish list, they are certainly some of the most beautiful. The Maldives are located in the Indian Ocean, formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north to south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago. The atolls of the Maldives encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making it one of the most dispersed countries in the world in geographic terms. It features 1,192 islands, of which two hundred are inhabited and is one of the world's emerging "off the beaten path" hot spots.

Even though the Maldives are the smallest Asian country in both population and land area, they still offer visitors a culturally rich and inviting experience. Maldivians are almost entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences. Tourism is the Maldives largest industry and accounts for 20% 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, taken from the nearly 700,000 tourists who make the journey to the country each year. While the Maldives have many draws for tourists, including excellent snorkeling, museums and beaches, one of its biggest draws is probably its tropical climate.

The weather in the Maldives is perfect for those wishing to enjoy some time outdoors, with warm temperatures year round and a great deal of sunshine. The warm tropical climate results in relatively minor variations in daily temperature throughout the year and the weather is determined largely by the monsoons, the southwest monsoon from May to November and the northeast monsoon from December to April. The hottest month on average is April and the coolest month is December, but even with cooler temperatures, the nation is still beyond pleasant. February is the driest month with December to April being relatively dry as well. Another positive? The nation is in the equatorial belt and therefore severe storms are rare. However, while they escape being burdened with thunderstorms, they are not immune to tsunamis.

Photo Credit: Afu007

The tsunami in December 2004 caused extensive damage to the Maldives and of a population of only 290,000, over a third was directly affected by the tsunami and more than 29,000 people were left homeless. The economic damage alone was over 62% of the GDP or $470 million. More than a year later, there were still in excess of 11,000 people in temporary shelters across the country and it was a brutal shock to the small island state, which is so vulnerable to environmental disasters and global warming, in disarray. While the country has since recovered, natural disasters are still a real fear due to its location and climate.

The Maldives is still probably best known for its perfect holiday weather, whether you're searching for live-aboard cruises round the Maldives, or that perfect scuba diving trip deep into the Indian Ocean. As the ideal location for such holiday destinations, the Maldives weather in winter is ideal for European travelers, as that is when the weather in Europe is rather cold and unpleasant. In the traditional "summer months," the Maldives weather retains its pleasantly enjoyable temperatures, however there is the added risk of rainfall. As you would expect from the rainy season in the Maldives, strong winds and heavy rain showers occur more than often, and can last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days at a time. The rainy season in the Maldives lasts from the end of April until mid-October. The average rainfalls in the Maldives can get pretty high. The yearly average lies at around 2,540 millimeters in the North, and 3,810 millimeters in the south.

The dry season is a prime time to visit the Maldives, when the weather is ideal for simply lazing on the beach, or diving in and around the hot spots. The moist transition occurs around the end of November, which culminates in the northeast monsoon and a relaxing dry spell until the end of March. The water temperature in Maldives never drops below 77 degrees, and with the average sunshine surpassing 8 hours in a day, it is difficult not to enjoy the blissful weather conditions.