Southwest of Sri Lanka in the Laccadive Sea lies a paradise like no other, the island country of the Maldives. The Republic of the Maldives consists of twenty-six atolls in an area spanning 90,000 square kilometers (34,749 square miles). The Maldives are popular for their picture-perfect lush islands ringed by gorgeous white sand beaches. The tiny country is the smallest in Asia both in land mass and population (309,000 people). It also has the lowest high point of any country in the world at 2.3 meters (7 feet 7 inches) and because of this the rising sea level threatens its very existence. All total, the Maldives consists of roughly 1,190 coral islands, only 185 of which are inhabited. The islands were discovered as a tourist destination in the 1970s and today tourism accounts for just under 30% of the country’s GDP. A range of accommodation for any budget can be found on the Maldives, and the country’s capital city of Male is home to an international airport.