With its impossibly pristine powder-white sands, crystalline lagoons and exotic marine life, a visit to the Maldives can feel like a departure from reality – even more so at Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, which operates on its own island time, one hour ahead to optimise those balmy evenings.

Comprised of 26 natural atolls and verdant, jewel-like islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a true bucket-list destination for those in search of a once-in-a-lifetime holiday experience. Increasingly impressive resorts continue to raise the bar when it comes to unadulterated luxury, meaning travellers are spoilt for choice when it comes to five-star indulgence.

Ultimately selection comes down to the quality of the facilities, the accommodation, the surrounding reef and the location. Whilst some may select their resort based on proximity to Malé, others elect to commit themselves fully to the Maldives experience and cast further away from the well-trodden mainland for a true taste of that exquisite, marooned beauty.

One such resort, located further south than most, on an island encrusted with 17,000 fringed coconut palms and cocooned by coral reef, is Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa. The only Maldivian resort to be located south of the equator, it enjoys a more untouched and raw brand of beauty, complete with verdant tropical jungle, 2km of white, sandy beaches and more than 6km of scenic coastline to explore.

Aside from the location, it’s fair to say that this is a resort that dances to the beat of its own drum: it sets its clocks one hour ahead to allow its guests to make the most of each day on the island. After days sunbathing with a book in hand beneath the palms and snorkelling in the aquamarine waters of the lagoon, that precious extra hour of daylight is spent most wisely with a torch-lit dinner under the shadow of the banyan trees, or with a frosty sundowner cocktail in hand at the beachfront M-Lounge. With nowhere to be, no commitments to meet and enveloped by the tranquility and seclusion of island life, time simply melts away in this alternate universe.

Golfers will surely agree that time lapses at an unearthly pace when in the throes of their beloved game, and will be interested to learn that the resort is home to the first and only nine-hole golf course in the Maldives. Suitable for both seasoned golfers and beginners, the seven-and-a-half-hectare course, nestled on the south of the island, features par three and par four holes with a side serving of spectacular vistas. As golfers work their way around the holes (charmingly named after local marine life, starting with Manta Ray and finishing with Dolphin), the views range from swaying coconut palms to beach sands and crashing Indian Ocean swells.

When it comes to that all-important accommodation, the jewel in the resort’s crown is the dreamy Villa Laalu, offering 957 sqm of luxury. An open-air terrace leads to a glittering infinity pool granting views over the Indian Ocean, while a private spa pavilion beckons for in-villa massages. Honeymooners can keep themselves holed up for the entirety of their stay should they choose, with round-the-clock in-villa dining on hand and a two-person sauna bath to wallow in. For those looking for more accessible luxury, the resort’s alternate villas, dotted around the island in the lagoon, on the beach, in the jungle and in the treetops, are all exemplary of Shangri-La’s internationally-renowned brand of five-star comfort.

Aside from its celebrated beauty, visitors may be surprised to learn that the Maldives has a rich and fascinating history. Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa is one of the only resorts in the Maldives to offer an authentic cultural experience, with a programme of tours and activities designed to give an insight into local life. Visitors can embark on a guided tour of Meedhoo local farms – seeing first-hand where the locally sourced fare used in the resort’s cuisine comes from or go on a cycling tour of local villages on the surrounding atoll, offering an insight into local life through the ages.

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