Malta is a stone heart set in a shimmering sea; a perfect tension between rocky form and aqueous expanse. Colonizing powers from the Phoenicians to the British have exploited its strategic position and left their mark––in the rich and complex language, the eclectic cuisine and the whitewashed architecture. To stroll around its capital, Valletta, is to absorb a blast of the Baroque––from 400-year-old townhouses to century-old palaces. Fly, or take the ferry across to Gozo, and you arrive in Malta’s rural cousin, all golden stone and a carpet of wild flowers in the spring, as illuminated in Thomas Pynchon’s V and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Here, megalithic temples rise amid the ancient rubble, and precipices tumble into the sea. Between Malta and Gozo, the tiny island of Comino boasts the Blue Lagoon, a dazzling pool of pure cyan. It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic place to get wet, or to snorkel in crystal-clear waters, as illustrated in this series by photographer Palida Boonyarungsrit. Come the next day, the bodies beautiful gather in the garden-fringed Mellieħa Bay, or along the sandy stretches of Għajn Tuffieħa and Golden Bay. Ramla, over on Gozo, may be as near a perfect strip of coast as you could wish for, its red-hued sand gently arcing across the water.