In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea lies a small country made up of three inhabited islands and irresistible allure. A cookie-like tan is the dominant color here, thanks to its centuries-old buildings; the water is the bluest of blue, the cuisine is a feast, ancient traditions are still celebrated, and the people are proud but extremely friendly. Welcome to Malta.
Across its three inhabited islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino – you’ll find every sun-soaked aspect of the perfect vacation. There’ll be marveling at prehistoric temples, strolling around spectacular old towns, cooling off in the clear waters of beautiful beaches, and partying the nights away at endless beach bars and clubs. From the capital Valletta to bucolic Gozo, here’s where to get your fill.
Malta itself is the biggest island in the Maltese archipelago, and many visitors see no need to leave it. No wonder – the 95-square-mile (246-square-kilometer) island ticks all the boxes for history, culture, beaches and even nightlife.
Start at Valletta, the Maltese capital since 1571. It’s a city intrinsically linked with the Knights of Malta – a powerful military Catholic order thought to date back to the 11th century (still in existence today, it’s currently headquartered in Rome). Founded upon the orders of Jean de Valette, a grand master who was the Knights’ leader during the victorious Great Siege of 1565 when the Ottoman Empire failed to capture the island after nearly four months of battle, Valletta is an epic-looking city fortress.
Baroque palaces swagger beside quaint restaurant terraces, and lively coffee shops with knockout views occupy the stairs leading from the port to the Old Town. Red telephone booths – a reminder of 150 years of British rule from 1814 to 1964 – stand under Valletta’s trademark carved wooden balconies, painted all colors of the rainbow.
What to see? There are fantastic views of the Grand Harbour and its forts from Upper Barrakka Gardens. St. John’s Co-Cathedral is a mesmerizing monument to the wealth of Knights of Malta with two works by Caravaggio inside: a pensive “St. Jerome” and the “Beheading of St. John the Baptist,” his largest work of art. The National War Museum in Fort St. Elmo recounts Malta’s military history.
Culture here isn’t just ancient, though. The Floriana Granaries – once a storage space for grain, and now Malta’s largest public square – makes for a magical outdoor venue that regularly hosts festivals and concerts of world-famous artists.
To try some local specialties, head to the cozy Cafe Jubilee, which serves mouthwatering stuffat tal-fenek (slow-cooked rabbit, a Maltese favorite), superb ravioli with traditional Gozo cheese, and imqaret: date-filled pastry, often served with ice cream.
Squaring off against Valletta on two peninsulas straddling the Grand Harbour are the so-called Three Cities: Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, neighboring fortified towns. It was here that, in 1565, the Great Siege of Malta was won, leading to the founding of Valletta – and in fact all three have two names, both pre- and post-siege.
Start with Vittoriosa (also known as Birgu, its pre-siege name), a small fortified town with some of the prettiest streets and churches on the island. Get lost among the winding pathways of the historic core with its colored doors and balconies, and statuettes of the Virgin Mary gracing the facades, windows, and street corners.
Proceed to equally gorgeous Cospicua (AKA Bormia) to admire the docks – overhauled by the Brits in the 19th century – and city gates. Finally, cross the harbor to Senglea (l’Isla) for a coffee overlooking the water and Valletta on the other side. DATE Art Café is an ideal choice.
When you leave Senglea, take the traditional dgħajsa boat – a shared wooden water taxi – back to Valletta.
The colorful boats are swaying lazily on gentle waves but the main street is far from calm. It’s Sunday and Marsaxlokk’s fish market is in full swing, gathering the restaurateurs, locals, and tourists from all over the island to buy the fresh catch brought by the local fishermen. This has always been a quiet fishing village on Malta’s southern coast.
Come here for its pretty waterfront (perfect for sunset walks), and a wide array of seafood restaurants whose terraces perch beside the water. As well as Sunday’s fish market, there’s an all-week market for souvenirs and local produce.
You’re here to eat seafood, of course. Choose between klamari mimlija (stuffed squid), grilled lampuki (mahi-mahi), and stuffat tal-qarnit, a delicious octopus stew. Afterwards, have a rest on the rocks – flat and made for sunbathing – at nearby St. Peter’s Pool, a cove with crystal-clear waters.
As you’d expect, Malta has natural sights aplenty. Perhaps the most famous is the Blue Grotto, on the island’s southern coast. From a viewpoint above you’ll get panoramic views of this spectacular system of sea caverns with their almost unreal blue waters. Boat trips – leaving from a nearby pier – take you inside.
While the grotto is one of the most popular (and touristy) spots on Malta, the translucent waters – allowing views of up to 16 feet down – make up for the crowds. The boat is also the best way to admire the majestic white cliffs of the surrounding coastline.
If you’re interested in archaeology and ancient history, you need to make a beeline for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ħaġar Qim, a megalithic temple complex with sweeping views over the sea – just a few minutes’ drive from the Blue Grotto. Dating back as far as 3,600 BCE, it’s several thousand years older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, and one of the oldest religious buildings on the planet. The main temple – which you can walk through, as they did all those years ago – is surrounded by three other megalithic structures. A five minute walk away is another temple, that of Mnajdra – another of the seven temples protected under that UNESCO listing.
So you want to see the real Malta, but you’re also partial to resort towns. The solution: Marsaskala, towards the southeastern tip of Malta island. Its harbor is among the most scenic on the island, the seafront promenade is ideal for contemplative walks or scenic runs, and the center is dotted with pubs, bars, restaurants and takeaways.
The real beauty of Marsaskala, however, is that it’s more affordable and less glamorous than the better known resort towns of St. Julian’s or Sliema. Just south of the town is the beautiful St. Thomas Bay, where you can have a swim. It’s extremely family-friendly, with a children’s playground, picnic tables and shower. It even caters for both sand and rocky beach lovers, with limestone rocks on one part, and a sandy beach the other.
Time stands still in Mdina. The medieval capital of Malta, it wears its former status with grace, mesmerizing with a kaleidoscope of palazzos, shaded little squares, elegant fortifications and bougainvillea-covered facades. Today, its strategic position in the center of the island is less crucial for defense possibilities – it’s more about those photogenic 360-degree views.
Today Mdina resembles an open-air museum rather than a full city – only 300 people live inside the ancient walls. But it’s one of Malta’s most evocative places, and an essential stop to get a history fix.
See the fantastic baroque interior of St Paul’s Cathedral, get to Bastion Square for the observation tower on top of a bastion on the city walls – it offers fantastic views of the island. Don’t miss the 18th-century Palazzo Vilhena, home to Malta’s National Museum of Natural History.
Just outside the city walls is a small bar named Crystal Palace serving pastizz, a classic Maltese street snack in the shape of savory pastry with various fillings. Try the ones with ricotta cheese or mushy peas. Or, better, try both.
The Romans also left their mark in Malta and Mdina bears signs of their presence. St. Paul’s and St. Agata’s catacombs give Rome’s catacombs a run for their money. Meanwhile, Domvs Romana is a museum on the site of an ancient villa, displaying items from the home, including mosaics.
Once a popular residence for wealthy Maltese and the British, who built many Victorian and Art Nouveau villas here, today Sliema – just north of Valletta – is the commercial heart of Malta with international offices, shopping malls, never-ending restaurants and bars, and high residential complexes. For the Maltese, it’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of place with controversy surrounding its rapid development. For tourists, it’s a good place to base yourselves if you want to be close to everything but hyper-connected.
The promenade is home to beach bars, plenty of spots to take a dip, and knockout views of Valletta, while “party boats” leave nightly from the harbor.
You may have heard about Malta as an island of wild nightlife. Well, that’s Paceville, located in St Julian’s, the next harbor town after Sliema, heading north from Valletta. Less glamorous than Ibiza or Mykonos, it’s a loud and rowdy party area, reaching its bombastic crescendo in the triangle formed by Paceville Piazza, Santa Rita, and St. George’s Road. There’s lots of booze, screaming crowds, noisy pumping music, and late-night snacks and hookah bars. Be prepared to stand in long lines at nightclub entrances – and be prepared to find not much space inside.
Mellieħa Bay and St. Paul’s Bay
If exploring from the comfort of a resort is something you’re looking forward to, then Mellieħa Bay and St. Paul’s Bay fit the bill. At the northern tip of Malta, closer to Comino than to Valletta, they both have a wide selection of hotels big and small, affordable and upscale, with swimming pools and without.
Għadira Bay in Mellieħa is a long and shallow sandy beach that’s perfect for families. Mellieħa village, located above the bay, has a more remote, more local feel to it thanks to its hilltop location.
Over in St. Paul’s Bay, Bugibba is a classic seaside resort town with fast food chains, a kaleidoscope of bars and restaurants, a promenade and even an aquarium. Qawra Point Beach on the northeastern tip of Bugibba, allows you to take a plunge with views of Malta’s rocky northern coast.
Before being a filming location for “Game of Thrones,” “Troy,” “Assassin’s Creed” and the most recent “Jurassic World Dominion,” Malta stood as a background to the 1980 Robin Williams-led musical “Popeye.” While the movie itself didn’t fare that well, either at the box office or with critics, its set remained near Mellieħa and was turned into an entertaining family theme park.
Gozo and Victoria
The second-biggest island of the Maltese archipelago, laidback Gozo fills in the blanks that Malta left. Getting there is straightforward – regular ferries go from Ċirkewwa on Malta’s northern tip to Gozo where life is slower, nature is wilder, and the atmosphere is more relaxing.
Victoria, the capital, gives Mdina and the Three Cities a run for their money. Start your visit with the magnificent, high-up Cittadella – an ancient walled city with a well-preserved historic core and mindblowing views of the island. Descend to charming Victoria – it’s buzzing with life, with restaurant terraces spilling out onto shaded piazzas and traditional Maltese buff-colored streets. Choose a cafe, order gelato, and forget about the hassle of city life. Gozo is great for that.
It’s even better for going diving, with several world-class locations around the island. The Blue Hole, on the west coast, is a 50-foot deep tube-like rock formation filled by the sea, with an archway and cave at its bottom – pass under the arch and you’ll be in the open sea. It’s a truly mesmerizing dive.
Dwejra Bay, where it’s located, is part of an epic coastline dominated by high cliffs, with the stunning Fungus Rock rising up from the sea. The scenery may ring a bell for “Game of Thrones” fans. Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s Dothraki wedding was filmed here, in front of the Azure Window – a fragile limestone arch straddling the sea. Sadly, the arch collapsed in 2017. Now, you can only see the remains of it by diving.
Imagine a building that is 5,500 years old. In the quiet Ix-Xagħra village in the heart of Gozo you’ll find Ġgantija, a spellbinding complex of two prehistoric megalithic temples, and another site given World Heritage Status by UNESCO. Believed to be important ceremonial sites for Neolithic people, they sprawl over a whopping 77,000 square feet. There’s also an interactive museum to give you more information about their usage and ancient appearance.
Despite the passing of all the centuries, it’s still a calm, meditative place. Archaeologists have spent decades researching them, and have yet to discover exactly how they were used. Animal remains found on site point towards sacrifices, while the abundance of exaggeratedly voluptuous feminine figurines suggests a fertility cult.
If Malta is the urban island and Gozo its lowkey sibling, Comino is the wild cousin. The population is a modest two people, there are no cars, and no signs of globalization – just the untouched Mediterranean. Most visitors come for the Blue Lagoon – a shimmering, shallow bay whose water is an almost unreal azure color.
But while other visitors go straight back to the main islands, you should stay on Comino. Just a mile away is the 17th-century St. Mary’s Tower, one of the defensive structures erected by the Knights of Malta to signal the enemy’s approach with cannon fire – the Comino Channel was a strategic waterway between Malta and Gozo.
For beaches, you need Santa Marija Bay and San Niklaw Bay, both within a mile of both Blue Lagoon and St. Mary’s Tower. Thoroughly rested, hike up Ġebel Comino, the highest point on the island – although at around 275 feet, it’s not exactly high, it has beautiful views of all the islands. For snorkeling, try Cominotto, a tiny island right next to Comino.
Article credits: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/malta-gozo-comino-sights/index.htmlHosts Global Destination Spotlight: Malta
Today’s Hosts Global Destination Spotlight features one-of kind destination Malta, and Hosts Global Affiliate, and local experts Colours of Malta. Whether you’re a history buff, a night owl, an adrenaline junkie, or simply a rambler wishing to be bowled over by natural splendour, the list of things to do in Malta is endless.
Megaliths, Medieval dungeons and Calypso’s Cave – The Maltese Islands are positively mythic. The narrow meandering streets of their towns and villages, always leading to a huge Baroque church, are a sight to behold. Their Fortress Cities are architectural marvels and the countryside is dotted with medieval towers, wayside chapels and the oldest known human structures in the world. The Islands have been described as an open-air museum.
Read the full article: https://hosts-global.com/hosts-global-destination-spotlight-malta/Ten reasons to visit Malta
1. Luxury for Less: Malta delivers the ultimate recipe for luxury with 15 five-star hotels and new luxury boutique hotels. It provides visitors the opportunity to experience the finer things for less as luxury accommodations in Malta are increasingly less expensive than similar hotels in Europe itself. So why not enjoy the champagne things in life — at sparkling-cider prices?
2. Valletta: The European Capital of Culture in 2018, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in Valletta, travelers will find themselves engulfed in the rich history and religious attractions that make up this Maltese Capital. Built by the Knights of St. John, the city that is bustling by day and now by night, will transport you back in time with its historic architecture and Old World atmosphere. The narrow streets will lead you to historical landmarks, quaint coffee shops and elaborate churches.
3. Gozo and Comino: A trip to Malta isn’t complete without a visit to Malta’s two sister islands, Gozo and Comino. The more rural island, Gozo, is a perfect change-of-pace for those looking for a more relaxed and quaint stay. The island also comes complete with historical sites, forts and amazing panoramas, as well as one of the archipelago’s best-preserved prehistoric temples, Ġgantija. Situated between Malta and Gozo is a water lover’s paradise, Blue Lagoon. Home to the most spectacular diving, snorkeling and boating experiences, the car-less island Comino is home to the magnificent Blue Lagoon and the one single hotel on the island offers guests the most tranquil getaway.
4. The Dive Trail: Coming in as the third best diving destination in Europe two years in a row, all three Maltese islands offer unique diving experiences with an abundance of reefs, caves and wrecks, for a momentous experience. For the ultimate diving adventure, take on the Dive Trail.
5. Religion: With more than 360 churches and chapels scattered across Malta and Gozo, these religious sites form an integral part of the country’s history, landscape and skyline – they are at the heart of Maltese social and cultural life. St. Paul brought the Christian faith to Malta when he shipwrecked in A.D. 60, as his steps can be retraced through the shrines, grottos, catacombs, and more. Malta is home to religious experiences far beyond the ordinary and is a must-see religious destination. Malta has also developed a Jewish Heritage program.
6. Diverse Culinary Experiences: Malta offers travelers diverse culinary experiences, from the traditional plate of eclectic Mediterranean food curated by a relationship between the Maltese and the countless civilizations that occupied the island, to the never-ending vineyards delivering the finest wine. Don’t forget: Malta boasts three Michelin one-star restaurants.
7. Year-Long Events/Festivals Calendar: The year-long calendar of events and festivals provide a diverse option of unique, culturally immersive experiences for all. With events such as the Malta Arts Festival to Classic Car Races and the Rolex Middle Sea Sailing Race, there’s a niche for everyone.
8. Health and Wellness: The Maltese Islands are the perfect place to take time for your health and wellness. The fresh island air gives travelers the energy to walk or cycle through the beautiful scenery, or embrace some more adventurous activities like rock climbing or paragliding. There are many spas in Malta, especially at the luxury hotels.
9. Nightlife: Typical of the Mediterranean lifestyle, locals’ approach to life is to enjoy it as much as possible, giving Malta a lively and cheerful nightlife constantly. From clubbing and DJ’s, to classical orchestras, to traditional band music, nights on the Maltese coast are never dull.
10. Blockbuster Movie Locations: In recent years, Malta has become one of Europe’s most popular film and television locations – dubbed “the Mediterranean’s mini-Hollywood” by the London Times. The Maltese Islands are home to countless blockbusters like Gladiator, Popeye, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Most famously, the city of Mdina was home to the filming of HBO’s Game of Thrones, as the fictional city of King’s Landing.Malta is famous for…
1. A Stunning Coastline
When asking the question, ‘what is Malta famous for?’, the most generic answer we can provide is: sun, sea, and beautiful beaches. There’s so much more to Malta than golden sands and blue waves, but it’s undeniable that Malta’s beautiful coast is one of the Mediterranean’s most stunning landscapes.
2. Malta has a Reputation as a Diving Hotspot
Malta is famous for its incredible coastline, but you don’t have to be lying on the beach to appreciate the Mediterranean’s unique charm. The archipelago’s famous, crystal clear waters especially make for great diving!
Frequently voted one of the world’s best diving locations, Malta is home to hundreds of reefs, caves, and ancient wrecks.
The warmth of Malta’s waters means that marine life is colourful and abundant, but a comfortable temperature also means that you can happily spend hours wallowing in the Med. This is convenient because there’s plenty to see once you get in the water.
Malta is well known for the shipwrecks lying just off its coast, including several shipwrecked HMS submarines. The archipelago is also home to some impressive, underwater geological features. Recently, Malta’s celebrated Azure Window sea arch collpased in a severe storm. Although this event caused grief across the island of Gozo, the arch’s submersion still provides a stunning spectacle for thousands of eager divers.
3. Malta has some of the Oldest Structures in the World
But Malta’s ancient wonders aren’t all under water. Despite being so isolated, civilizations have flourished on Malta for thousands of years.
Malta’s most historic claim to fame is the 5,00 year old Hagar Qim. This limestone beauty is one of Malta’s celebrated Megalithic temples , many of which predate the pyramids and even Stonehenge.
These temples are all designated UNESCO Word Heritage sites, but they’re not alone on the prestigious UN list – Malta’s capital city of Valletta and the prehistoric Hypogeum are also UNESCO World Heritage sites.
4. The Capital City, Valletta, is a real gem!
The capital city of Malta really deserves a paragraph of its own. According to UNESCO, the city is ‘one of the most concentrated Historic areas in the world.
Valletta was the first ever planned city in Europe, with the designs being drawn out by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1565. The original building plans resulted in a pretty spectacular city, but Valletta has only grown more beautiful with age.
Taking turns under the rule of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginian, Romans, Byzantine, and Arabs, Valletta boasts an eclectic range of architecture and a unique medieval charm that any visitor to Malta needs to experience.
5. Maltese Cuisine is Divine
Malta is also famous for its food, and rightly so. If you’re in need of a snack whilst touring Valletta, be sure to try a ricotta filled filo-pastry Pastizzi. Ideally, this should be washed down with a can of Kinnie, which is a local soft drink made with chinotto bitter oranges and a special blend of herbs and spices.
For dinner, you should try the rabbit, which is a Maltese specialty, especially when slowly cooked with onions and wine. If you still have room, Imqaret, or fig cakes, are a delicious sweet snack that you can find on every street corner.
6. Malta is a Walker’s Paradise
After all that eating, some exercise is definitely in order, especially if you’re looking for an active holiday. Luckily, Malta is a walker’s paradise, and you’ll find plenty of delightful hikes and pleasant strolls to take around the islands.
Touring Malta by foot will provide you with some stunning views, from dramatic cliff edge views of the Mediterranean sea, to lush, green valleys nestled with prehistoric ruins and ancient cave chapels.
The best time to hike in Malta is just after the first long rain following summer, when the wildflowers meadows spring to life.
7. The Famous Maltese Festas
But unless you are heading to Malta on a hiking holiday, it’s best to come before the summer ends. That’s because summer is peak time for Malta’s colourful village festivals , or festas.
These feasts are an unmissable part of Maltese life. Every village in Malta has its own patron saint and its own individual festival, which may last up to a week , with fireworks and food stands livening up the summer nights.
8. Movies Shot in Malta
As well as being famous for its diving, architectural sites, and festivals, Malta is also a popular film location in its own right.
Malta’s dramatic cliffs, stunning landscapes, and ancient buildings make it the perfect backdrop for many feature films and TV shows, particularly those aiming for an antiquated feel. The films ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Troy’ both take advantage of Malta’s classical charm, while the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise passed off a few Maltese landscapes as Caribbean beaches.
‘Game of Thrones’ also contains several scenes filmed around the intensely photogenic capital of Valletta. Game of Thrones fans will also be keen to know that Gozo’s famous, but sadly collapsed, Azure Window provided the backdrop for Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding with Kahl Drogo.
9. Comino Island & The Blue Lagoon
Comino provides another of Malta’s photogenic landscapes. Famous for its isolation and tranquility, the beautiful Cominois one of Malta’s tiniest islands, measuring only 3.5 km in area.
Home to only three residents, who commute to Gozo, Comino is better known for its bird population, and the area is a celebrated nature reserve. Comino’s rugged coastline and sheer cliffs were once the refuge of pirates and smugglers, but now they provide breathtaking views for tourists.
No trip to Malta is complete without at least a day spent admiring Comino’s crystal clear lagoons, and enjoying the island’s peaceful isolation.
10. Malta’s British Connection
From the perspective of the many British tourists that flock to the islands, Malta is famous for its British connection.
One little known fact about Malta is that the Maltese still drive on the left-hand side of the road, making Malta one of only four European countries, including Britain, that still drive on the left.
This left handed quirk is due to 160 years of British rule, which lasted until 1964 when the islands gained their independence. Across Malta, you can still find plenty of picturesque evidence of the British empire’s presence in Malta, from coastal fortifications, to beautiful buildings like the Malta Stock Exchange