The Maldives is a republic lies south-west of the Indian sub-continent. It is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them uninhabited.
None of the coral islands stand more than 1.8 metres (six feet) above sea level, making the country vulnerable to any rise in sea levels associated with global warming.
The economy revolves around tourism, and scores of islands have been developed for the top end of the tourist market.
Its political history has been unsettled since the electoral defeat of long-serving President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008.
REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES: FACTS
Area: 300 sq km
Languages: Dhivehi, English
Life expectancy: 77 years (men) 81 years (women)
President: Ibrahim Mohamed Solih
Opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the September 2018 election, ousting President Abdulla Yameen in a surprise result.
Mr Solih's Maldivian Democratic Party favours relations with India, while the authoritarian Mr Yameen had welcomed Chinese investment.
President Solih has taken the Maldives back into the Commonwealth, and his party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in 2019.
Non-state media report coming under pressure, and Reporters Without Borders says journalists operate in a climate of violence and impunity.
A 2016 law criminalised defamation, allowing the authorities to punish media for content deemed defamatory.
12th Century - Islam introduced.
1558-1573 - Portuguese occupation, which ends after expulsion by locals.
17th Century - Islands become a protectorate first of the Dutch rulers of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and later of the British, who take control of Ceylon in 1796.
1887 - Status formalised as internally self-governing British protectorate.
1965 - Full independence as a sultanate outside Commonwealth.
1968 - Sultan deposed after referendum, Ibrahim Nasir becomes president.
1978 - Nasir retires, replaced by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
1980s - Development of tourist industry fuels economic growth.
2008 - Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed defeats President Gayoom in elections.
2012 -President Mohamed Nasheed is ousted in a coup.
2018 - Opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih defeats President Abdulla Yameen in a surprise result.