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Officially the Republic of Maldives is a small island nation in South Asia, situated in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 700 kilometers (430 mi) from the Asian continent’s mainland. The chain of 26 atolls stretches from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to Addu Atoll in the south to the equator. Comprising a territory spanning roughly 298 square kilometers (115 sq mi), the Maldives is one of the world’s most geographically dispersed sovereign states as well as the smallest Asian country by land area and population, with around 515,696 inhabitants. Malé is the capital and the most populated city, traditionally called the “King’s Island” where the ancient royal dynasties ruled for its central location.