World's Best Islands

Begin Slideshow
© Jack Malipan Travel Photography / Alamy

There are hundreds of thousands of islands dotting our oceans and lakes—as many as 180,000 in Finland alone—but only 10 of these enticing, secluded spots get to crown Travel + Leisure’s annual World’s Best Islands list. 

No. 10 Malta

1 of 11

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.   

Malta

World's Best Islands

No. 10 Malta

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.   

© Jack Malipan Travel Photography / Alamy

World's Best Islands

Discerning readers have ranked their favorite island oases in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, and this year’s results prove that no destination is too remote when pristine, white-sand beaches and exotic fauna await.

For the third time in the World’s Best Awards two-decade history, the wild islands of the Galápagos secured the No. 1 spot. Despite being 600 miles west of South America, this primordial sanctuary continues to lure travelers with the promise of encounters with playful sea lions and flamboyant blue-footed boobies.

With untamed Tasmania, the jagged mountains peaks of Moorea, and Australia’s vibrant Great Barrier Reef islands rounding out the list, this year’s selection is a clear departure from 2014, which reflected a certain national pride (Hawaiian islands filled four of the top 10 overall spots). Now, distant and unusual shores are back on travelers’ minds.

Not that there’s anything wrong with fulfilling fantasies of coconut palms and luaus. And for that reason, Maui and Kauai are back again, marking 20 consecutive years on the Top 10 Overall list.

Plot your next getaway to one of these incredible islands, where being encircled by water is only part of the appeal.  

Did you enjoy this article?

Share it.

Explore More