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Dubai is a destination that mixes modern culture with history, adventure with world-class shopping and entertainment. Catch a show at the Dubai Opera, see downtown from atop the Burj Khalifa and spend an afternoon along Dubai Creek exploring the gold, textile and spice souks. If you’re looking for thrills, you can float above the desert dunes in a hot air balloon, climb aboard a high-speed ride at IMG Worlds of Adventure or skydive over the Palm Jumeirah.
Glamourous Santorini is deliciously different. Geographical newness is in part to thank. The island’s popular black volcanic Perissa and Kamari beaches are big draws, as is its arguably most famous Red Beach near Akrotiri (which is the place to go for archaeology buffs). Santorini curves round a giant lagoon in the Cyclades islands, offering stunning views from sky-high towns, eclectic cuisine, lovely galleries, thriving nightlife and excellent wines.
One of the three principal islands of the Maltese archipelago, the island of Malta is the largest of the chain. Its capital Valletta, a lively, bustling city with many buildings dating back to the 16th century, teems with cathedrals, palaces and forts. The impressive Grand Harbour offers a dramatic arrival. The top archaeological attraction is the UNESCO-designated Hypogeum temple ruins, a macabre, 5400-square-foot underground necropolis and the world's only underground prehistoric temple.
The Mediterranean's biggest island is separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina. A mountainous spot, Sicily's coast and its small islands sit at the foot of volcanoes, including Etna, Stromboli and Vulcano. The Greeks, Romans, Normans and Catalans all left their mark on the island in the form of Byzantine palaces, Gothic castles and Baroque flourishes in capital Palermo. Most larger towns offer interesting museums, but Etna and the Hellenic temples in Agrigento offer particularly unique sights.
Stretching along the southern side of Italy's Sorrentine Peninsula, the Amalfi coast dazzles with its mysterious grottos, craggy cliffs and shimmering bays. Grab a seat on the sea side of a regional bus to soak up views on the fabled route from artsy Positano to Amalfi. Ravello offers some respite from the crowds, plus the stunning Villa Cimbrone, which overlooks the Bay of Salerno. The winding streets of Sorrento's historic district are filled with craftspeople. Capri is only a hydrofoil or ferry ride away.