Score: 86.897 History aficionados have long-loved this Mediterranean nation, evidence that you don’t need palm trees or daiquiris to be one of the world’s most tantalizing islands. Malta has been overrun by every major empire in the region, from the Phoenicians to the Byzantines, the British to the 1.5 million tourists who flock to the island’s colorful shores. Limestone cliffs are dotted with baroque churches, crumbling castle walls, and fortresses. The capital, Valletta, squeezes half a millennium of history into half a square mile, with forts and stairways that crest in unparalleled harbor views. With the debut of a new Renzo Piano-designed open-air theater, visitors can now marvel at the contrast of 21st and 16th-century architecture. Head to the Gozo for a reprieve from Valletta’s frenetic energy—it’s here that Odysseus is rumored to have spent seven years after the Trojan War. Take one look at this handsome Bronze Age island, set between Sicily and the North African coast, and you won’t blame him.