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#67 Malta

Malta, only slightly more than a speck in the Mediterranean Sea, turns out to pack a lot into one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. Its capital Valletta alone is one of the great remaining walled cities of Europe – radiant in the sunset, and easy to get lost in while exploring the ancient stonework architecture and statues hidden in the back streets.

Outside of the capital, Malta is dotted with UNESCO World Heritage sites,a dn sleep fishing towns glowing in Technicolor thanks to the boats bobbing up and down in the bays, and rainbow painted houses. Perhaps the most picturesque is Marsaxlokk,located in the south-east. The population is just over 3,000, and comes alive for the weekday market. Locals, mostly fisherman, are called Xlukkajri and have their own dialect.

Malta’s smaller cousin is the island of Gozo in the northwest, a region where time has seemingly stood still while busy Malta develops as part of the EU, loaded with tourists seeking summer sun. The rural island is hilly, with winding cobblestone streets in tiny church-topped towns.

The gem of Gozo is the Azure Window, a natural archway in limestone created by a fallen cave, and fronted by a pit in which fierce waters crash in front of the gateway. Surrounded by naturally work rock and numerous water pools, it makes for perhaps Malta’s most iconic and picturesque spot.