Nestled in the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and the North African coast, Malta is a vibrant and historic archipelago. A holiday to Malta is like stepping back into history while enjoying contemporary comforts, fine gastronomy, and breathtaking natural beauty. This guide will provide an extensive look at the fascinating island, its interesting places, intriguing facts, travel tips, local foods, and fun activities to do.
A Brief Background
Malta is a small, island country in the Mediterranean Sea that consists of seven islands, the largest three of which are Malta, Gozo, and Comino. The country is one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated. Its strategic location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean has made it a significant location throughout history. Malta has been inhabited since around 5900 BC, and its rich historical past is visible in its architecture, ranging from prehistoric temples to baroque palaces and churches.
Getting There and Getting Around
There are various ways to get to Malta. Malta International Airport (MLA) in Luqa is the only airport in Malta, and it services flights from major cities in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. You can also get to Malta by ferry from Sicily.
When it comes to getting around, Malta has a well-organized public transport system, and taxis are widely available. Alternatively, you can rent a car, bike, or even a boat for a more flexible experience. English is widely spoken, which makes navigation relatively easy.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Malta depends on what you want from your trip. For beach and water sports enthusiasts, the summer months from June to August are ideal, when temperatures average around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). However, the spring and autumn months, with cooler temperatures, are perfect for sightseeing and outdoor activities such as hiking or biking.
Valletta, the capital city of Malta, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world. The city is known for landmarks like St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the Grand Master’s Palace, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens with its spectacular views of the Grand Harbour.
Mdina, the ancient capital known as the “Silent City,” is a must-visit. Here, you can walk through narrow, winding streets flanked by honey-colored limestone buildings, visit the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral, and enjoy panoramic views from the city walls.
Gozo, Malta’s sister island, is renowned for its rural character, stunning landscapes, and the iconic Azure Window, even if it collapsed in 2017. Visit the Ggantija Temples, one of the oldest free-standing structures in the world, and explore the Citadella in Victoria, a historic fortified city.
For nature lovers, the tiny island of Comino is a must-visit. Famous for the crystal-clear waters of the Blue Lagoon, Comino is perfect for snorkeling and diving, or simply for lazing on the beach.
Malta is home to eleven prehistoric monuments that have been collectively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These include the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground necropolis dating back to 4000 B.C., and the megalithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra.
Maltese Festas are community celebrations held in honor of the patron saint of each local parish. These events typically include processions, fireworks, music, and food, providing a real feel of the local culture. Some of the most famous Festas include the Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck in Valletta and the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, known as L-Imnarja, celebrated in Buskett Gardens.
The Maltese Carnival, celebrated in February, is a week-long festivity filled with parades, costume balls, and street parties. The most extravagant celebrations happen in Valletta and Floriana, while Nadur in Gozo is known for its more spontaneous and eccentric celebration.
Gastronomy: Taste of Malta
Maltese cuisine is a flavorful blend of Mediterranean cooking with Sicilian, Middle Eastern, and British influences. Seafood is abundant, and local specialities include ‘lampuki pie’ (fish pie), ‘rabbit stew,’ ‘bragioli’ (beef olives), and ‘pastizzi’ (pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas).
Pair these dishes with excellent local wines from Meridiana, Marsovin, and Emmanuel Delicata wineries. For a sweet ending, try ‘honey rings’ (qagħaq tal-għasel), a traditional dessert especially popular during Christmas.
Malta is a paradise for water sport enthusiasts. The warm, clear waters are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, and sailing. Dive sites such as the Blue Hole in Gozo and the wreck of the HMS Maori in Valletta are particularly popular.
Hiking and Cycling
The Maltese Islands offer beautiful landscapes for hiking and cycling. The Dingli Cliffs on Malta and the Ta’ Cenc Cliffs on Gozo offer stunning views, especially at sunset.
The nightlife in Malta is lively and varied, from the bustling bars in St. Julian’s to the stylish wine bars in Valletta and the summer beach clubs on the islands’ coastlines. Paceville is the hub of nightlife with clubs, bars and restaurants.
Tips for Visiting Malta
- Currency: Malta is a member of the Eurozone, and the currency used is the Euro (€). Credit cards are widely accepted, but it’s always handy to have some cash.
- Power Plug: Malta uses Type G power plugs, the same as in the UK, so you might need a travel adapter.
- Dress Code: While Malta is quite liberal, it’s important to respect the dress code when visiting religious sites – shoulders and knees should be covered.
- Stay Hydrated: The Maltese sun can be quite strong, especially in the summer months. Always carry water with you and protect your skin with sun cream.
- Respect the Environment: Malta’s beautiful natural and cultural sites are precious. Be a responsible traveler and avoid leaving any trace of your visit.
Whether you’re a history buff, a sun-seeker, a foodie, or an adventurer, Malta has something for everyone. The islands’ rich history, unique culture, beautiful landscapes, and warm hospitality make it a destination that you’ll never forget. So pack your bags and let the enchanting Maltese Islands take your breath away!