International Kite Festival held in Gozo

In this digital age, many children miss out on the simple joys of flying a kite. It’s like having a little bit of happiness on the end of a string, perhaps the ultimate carefree pastime…

Gozo’s skies were set alight with stunning colours thanks to a spectacular edition of the international kite festival in the San Dimitri area in Għarb.

The fourth edition of the festival, which took place over the weekend, was the perfect occasion bringing families, residents and tourists together to see different coloured kites decorate the sky.

The festival was filled with kites far from the normal traditional diamond shape and it included various types of kites, ranging from the shape of a horse, clown, rose, witches to even small cute shaped fish.

Some kites were simple, with single strings, while others were a bit more complicated to fly, with two strings.

Tourists from Austria, Italy, Switzerland and other countries were quick to express how inclusive they felt the festival was.

The festival came to a close Sunday night with a huge magnificent bonfire and fireworks, the perfect way to end festivities.

18 Top Places To Visit In Malta

1.) Dive to see the fallen Azure Window, Gozo
Sadly, one of Gozo’s most famous natural sites, the Azure Window collapsed in 2017, when a storm on the island, causing the huge arch to drop into the sea. If you’re an avid diver, you can visit the magnificent Azure window arch that crashed into the ocean. It’s one of the best places in Malta to go for this. Make sure to only go on an organised dive and listen to local advice, this underwater landscape is new and still forming.

2.) St Joseph’s Church, Msida, Malta
Not too far from the centre of Valletta, St Joseph’s Church is a gorgeous Roman Catholic church to visit in the small harbour town of Msida. If you’re visiting in July, make sure to coincide it with the town’s feast of St. Joseph. It’s one of the best places in Malta to see during the feast.

3.) Popeye Village, Malta
You can’t visit Malta without seeing the original Popeye Village. It’s a quirky and a tiny bit tacky little village that was built for Popeye the film and has stayed on the island ever since.

4.) Hike across Malta or Gozo
Now, this sounds more strenuous than it actually is. Near Popeye Village is Għadira Natural Reserve (this is where the island of Malta actually narrows to about 500 metres in width and) where you can walk from one side of the island to the other, in literally 30 minutes!
However if you want a proper hike, the Girgenti Walk is beautiful and takes in lots of historical sites. It really is one of the best places in Malta if you love a good ramble.

5.) See Ta’ Pinu Basilica, Gozo
Located a good 35-minute walk from Għarb on Gozo, Ta’ Pinu Basilica is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and national shrine. The church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu. The basilica is located in open countryside which allows visitors to enjoy beautiful views of the area and is of great national importance to Gozitans everywhere.

6.) The Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Valletta
Probably the most iconic Basilica’s in the country, The Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a Roman Catholic church in the capital Valletta. It is one of the most famous churches and main tourist attractions of Valletta, and it forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site which includes the entire city.
It’s perfect to explore on your day in the capital. Keep your eyes peeled for the painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that’s inside, too.

7.) See the sunset at Senglea harbour, Malta
Take a bus or watertaxi to Senglea centre and walk north to the fort at the penn’s tip from where there is a great view of the Grand Harbour and Valletta. Make sure to visit the Senglea Harbour area around sunset, when the sun lights up the cobbled buildings with its beautiful orange glow.

8.) Visit the Upper & Lower Barrakka Gardens, Malta
The Upper Barrakka Gardens are one of the best places in Malta to get a view across the Grand Natural Harbour. As the highest point of the historic walls, you’ll get to peek out across the harbour from a completely different perspective. The Lower Barrakka Gardens house a picturesque monument to Sir Alexander Ball, which is a prominent feature in the form of a neoclassical temple located at the centre of the garden.

9.) Visit the Blue Grotto, Malta
The Blue Grotto is perched on the southern end of Malta and easily reached by boat or seen from above. It’s quite easy to arrange a boat from most hotels and from Valletta itself. The Blue Grotto actually refers to a number of sea caverns on the south east coast of Malta, a short distance off the fishermen’s harbour of Wied iż-Żurrieq limits of Qrendi, Malta. The location of the caves, combined with the rays of sunlight, lead to the seawater mirroring and showing numerous shades of blue on the cave walls and ceilings. Due to the caves location and the morning light, this time of day (morning) showcases a unique mix of incredible blues and underwater scenery that’s transformed with the morning sunlight. After about 1 pm the effect is not quite the same, so make sure to plan your time well.

10.) Go inside the Rotunda of Mosta, Malta
If you haven’t made it to Rome, you should definitely visit the Rotunda of Mosta as it was designed and modelled after the Pantheon itself. What most people don’t know is that the Rotunda is actually the third largest unsupported dome in the whole world and well worth seeing in person.

11.) Explore Valletta, Malta
The whole city of Valletta has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status and it’s easy to see why.
Valletta’s 16th-century buildings were constructed by the Knights Hospitaller. The city was named after Jean Parisot de Valette, who succeeded in defending the island from an Ottoman invasion during the Great Siege of Malta. The city is noted for its fortifications, consisting of bastions, curtains and cavaliers, along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches. Take a walk around the cobbled streets and wander through this architecturally stunning capital that looks like it’s out of a movie set.

12.) Find Ħaġar Qim, Malta
The Megalithic temples of Ħaġar Qim are one of the oldest and most precious historical sites on earth, dating as far back as 3,600BC. That’s well over 5,000 years old! Make sure to visit the Northern Temple, the Women’s Temple and the Main Temple itself. Although the site isn’t Machu Picchu with its awe-inspiring vistas, it really does have a history that dates back much further than most other pre-historic temples and is a great UNESCO site to experience.

13.) Go inside The Grandmaster’s Palace, Malta
When wandering the streets of Valletta head inside The Grandmaster’s Palace. This gorgeous palace has been at the centre of governing Malta for well over 300 years. Best of all, you can head inside and explore the State Apartments and the Islamic and Ottoman histories they house here.

14.) Gardjola Gardens, Malta
Located at the tip of Isla, the Gardjola Gardens have unobstructed views of the harbour and Valletta and are a must-visit instragram photo spot! Make sure to keep a lookout for the sculpted ears and eyes that are carved on the tower that watch over the island.

15.) Hike the shores of Dingli Cliffs, Malta
One of the highest points in Malta with over 250 metres above sea level, the Dingli Cliffs are well worth the stroll, especially around sunset. Get ready to enjoy scenic, towering cliffs featuring panoramic views and a chapel, which marks the area’s highest point.

16.) Explore Rabat and Mdina, Malta
With well over 4,000 years of history, head to the sleepy streets of Mdina and Rabat for a wander around one of the oldest settlements on the island. Mdina is in fact, one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city and extraordinary in its mix of medieval and baroque architecture.

17.) Swim in the Blue Hole, Gozo
The Blue Hole is right next to the fallen Azure Window in Gozo and well worth taking a dip in whilst in the area. If you’re a keen diver, you can book yourself on a tour underwater, deep down this amazing geological formation. It’s totally stunning to see from both above and below, so choose whatever takes your fancy.

18.) Go inside Fort Manoel, Malta
Built in the 1800s, Fort Manoel is one of the best places in Malta to see the fortified history of the country. Perched overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this historic place was also one of the filming sites for Game of Thrones. Once you enter, don’t forget to visit the piazza and chapel inside the fort, too.

 

The best beaches in Gozo and their pros & cons

It’s no secret that Gozo offers some of the best beaches to visit. Unlike main island Malta, where beaches can get crowded pretty quickly in summer, beaches in Gozo rarely get too busy at this time of the year.

If you’re considering staying in Gozo or planning a day trip to Malta’s sister island, here are a few personal suggestions for the best beaches around. Quiet, few man-built structures and clean.

Ramla l-Hamra
Ramla l-Hamra is the largest and most popular (sandy) beach in Gozo, and for good reason. With an almost red-coloured sand, and surrounded by mostly undeveloped countryside it’s an obvious favourite for both locals and tourists alike. It’s clean, there’s plenty of space for sunbathers and its shallow waters and easy access makes for a very family-friendly beach.

If you plan to visit Gozo, this beach should be at the top of your list.

San Blas Bay

San Blas Bay is a beautiful little beach on the North coast of Gozo, which isn’t particularly difficult to reach but which discourages people who aren’t in very good shape to head down there. It’s not necessarily getting there that requires being in shape physically, it’s the steep hill climb that forms the biggest challenge.

Pluck up some courage and make your way down, it’s well worth it. Clean, clear waters, secluded and only blemished by the small structure of a kiosk selling some drinks and snacks. Public transport (buses 304 – quickest – or 302) will take you to the top of the hill at San Blas, at the limits of the nearby village of Nadur. You’ll need a 15 min walk down to the beach.

11 local beaches awarded Blue Flag for 2021

11 beaches in Malta and Gozo have been awarded the Blue Flag for 2021. This year the International Jury took into consideration the COVID-19 restrictions imposed on beaches all over the world and noted that the beaches in Malta and Gozo followed these restrictions in a good manner, keeping in mind the safety of beach users in mind.

The Blue Flag Beaches in Malta and Gozo are:

Il-Karnival

The Maltese really let their hair down in the revelry of Carnival few days before the beginning of Lent. Malta’ traditional Carnival is a treat alike for the Island’s inhabitants and for the ever increasing number of tourists. This three day festivity was introduced in Malta 1535 under Grand Master Pietro del Ponte, five years after the Knights took over the Island. The main celebration takes place in the capital, Valletta, but in every town and village children dress up in colourful clothes to camouflage their identity. The Valletta parata (parade) is very spectacular, including King Carnival followed by many floats of a high professional standard. Until some years ago, Carnival was also the event of the year for dances and masked balls. This type of entertainment during Carnival had an old tradition behind it. Under the Knights the Auberges remained open and were delightfully decorated. The burning of King Carnival on the last day of the festivities also survived, up to some years ago.

Malta’s Top Hidden Beaches

The Maltese Islands are home to some beautiful beaches such as Golden Bay, Ramla Bay in Gozo, Mellieha and Paradise Bay to mention a few, however it’s also home to some fascinating hidden gems, and what better time to explore them than now? If you’re not lucky enough to own a boat (or be friends with someone who does), be prepared to go for an adventurous trek – but it will be worth it! Just remember to pack food and water because none of these beauties will have a snack bar.

Here’s a list of our favourite secret beaches:

Fomm Ir-Riħ
Unless you can access it by boat, getting to this beautiful beach is an adventure in and of itself – featuring a fifteen-minute trek through Malta’s wildlife. Practically untouched by man, this is one of Malta’s few beaches which is covered in pebbles. Featuring steep cliffs on either side – it’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Fomm Ir-Riħ is found towards the limits of Mġarr.

Slug’s Bay
We all know the popular beaches of Għadira Bay and Armier Bay – but nestled in between these two iconic beaches lays one of Malta’s hidden gems: Slug’s Bay. This small bay accommodates ten people, at the very most so it can get very crowded – but the views are absolutely stunning, and well worth it!

Il-Majjistral
Did you know that Malta has a vast expanse of open land, known as the Majjistral Nature Park? A short trek down the steep cliffs brings you to an expanse of gorgeous, untouched sea – the perfect site to spend a day sunbathing or snorkeling. For the less adventurous – it is highly advised to visit the beach at Il-Majjistral by boat, as the 45-minute trek can be quite exhausting!

Mġarr Ix-Xini
Found in our sister island of Gozo, this small beach is the perfect get away from more populous beaches like Ramla bay.

Wied L-Għasri
Another hidden gem in our sister island – you can’t get here by boat, and you’ll have to walk a fair bit AND climb a lot of stairs – but this valley, found just off the Gozitan town of Għasri is most definitely worth the hassle!

Coral Lagoon
Have you ever wanted to jump into open waters and swim out through a cave? You can do just that at Coral Lagoon – found just off Little Armier bay. You may not be able to get here on your boats though – the passageway is very narrow and can only be accessed by kayak. Coral Lagoon is a short, 30-minute kayak ride away from Little Armier – ensuring you get your cardio fix AND get to swim in one of Malta’s most hidden gems.

Mġiebaħ
If you’re looking for a nice sandy beach to hang out with your four-legged friend, Mġiebaħ is definitely one of the beaches you should visit. Drive up to Selmun palace, take a left and follow the winding road and you’re there.

Santa Maria & St. Nicholas – Comino
Comino is synonymous with the Blue Lagoon, but there are other, less crowded beaches on the island too! A short walk along Comino’s main road will take you to either Santa Maria bay or the bay of St. Nicholas – both gorgeous. Both worth visiting.

Qarraba Bay, Mġarr
Have you ever taken a walk through the clay slopes near Għajn Tuffieħa? Once you reach the plateau, you’ll notice another sandy beach paralleling the more accessible Għajn Tuffieħa, that looks impossible to get to – but it isn’t! It’s the lesser visited Qarraba Bay – which can be reached either by hiking down through the wilderness behind the plateau, by climbing down the clay slopes – or by visiting with your boat.

However you choose to visit this idyllic beach, be prepared for an afternoon of peace and quiet since very few people try to get there!

 

 

A weekend on the island of Gozo

Gozo, known locally as Għawdex is the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago. The island is rural in character and less developed than Malta. It is known for its historic locations such as the Ġgantija temples which are among the world’s oldest free-standing structures, its scenic hills, which are featured on its coat of arms and The Azure Window, a natural limestone arch, which was a remarkable geological feature until its collapse on March 8, 2017. The island has other notable natural features, including Dwejra’s Inland Sea and Wied il-Mielaħ Window. There are many beaches on the island, as well as seaside resorts that are popular with both locals and tourists, the most popular being Marsalforn and Xlendi. Gozo is considered one of the top diving destinations in the Mediterranean and a centre for water sports. Here are the top sites to visit on a weekend trip to Malta’s sister island, Gozo.

Wied il-Mielaħ & Wied il-Għasri
Two of the most beautiful Gozitan sites are Wied il-Mielaħ and Wied il-Għasri. The former is an incredible natural rock formation that arches out over the sea – it’s possible to cycle and walk over it, and there are bolts in place for rock climbing on its near-vertical face. Further east, the narrow inlet of Wied il-Għasri is a great place to swim or snorkel, and you can lounge on its pebble beach when the sea is calm. Hiking between the gorges is also a great option.

Ċittadella
The Citadel, known locally as Ċittadella is the oldest fortified site in Gozo. It is an ancient fortress situated on a hill in the centre of the island and stands tall over the island’s capital Victoria (known locally as Rabat). The fortress we see today was mostly built by the Knights in the beginning of the 18th century and it took the place of a small castle dating back from medieval times. Incredibly, it was still normal practice for all the islanders to take nightly refuge in the fortress until well into the 17th century.

Ġgantija Temples
Officially recognised by UNESCO as the oldest freestanding buildings in the world, the imposing Ġgantija Neolithic temples, just outside Xagħra in Gozo, are over 5,500 years old–that’s 1,000 years older than Stonehenge or the pyramids in Egypt. Thanks to an extensive preservation effort, the temples are among the best preserved historical sites in the Maltese Islands.

Excavated in 1826, archaeologists believe that like other Neolithic sites on the islands, Ġgantija was a temple complex dedicated to a fertility deity, a theory supported both by the layout of the temple (which resembles the shape of a fat woman) and also by artefacts found on site such as numerous female figurines and statues.

The real technique used to erect these magnificent structures remains unknown. Studies have unearthed a number of spherical stones which led to the supposition that the temple builders rolled the impressive blocks of stone on these spheres to get them into place. However, it is uncertain how they managed to place them together.

Dwejra
Dwejra, with its dramatic coastal formations and sea spilling over the rocks, is a magical attraction. Here you can swim in the spectacular deep sea of the bay, in the calm shallows of the inland sea or in the foamy waters around the Blue Hole – one of Gozo’s top dive-sites.

Dwejra is also home of the Fungus Rock or, as it is locally known, “Il-Ġebla tal-Ġeneral”, General’s Rock. It is so called in remembrance of the Italian General who centuries ago fell to his death while supervising quarrying in the area. History tells us that a special plant believed to have medicinal and healing properties used to grow on Fungus Rock and because of this the Rock used to be heavily guarded during the era of the Knights of Malta. Anyone caught stealing the crop was sentenced to death or to a life rowing the Knights’ galleys. The crop was picked and brought to the mainland using a primitive system of baskets and pulleys.

 

Eleven beaches gain Blue Flag status

The Malta Tourism Authority welcomes with satisfaction the announcement by the Foundation for Environmental Education in which eleven beaches in Malta and Gozo were awarded the coveted Blue Flag status for this year. For the beaches to qualify for this prestigious award, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria must be met and maintained.

The beaches that have obtained the eco-certificate this year are Buġibba Perched Beach, Fond Għadir (Sliema), Golden Sands Beach, Għajn Tuffieħa Bay, Mellieħa Beach, Qawra Point Beach, St George’s Bay (St Julian’s) and Westin Dragonara Beach Club St Julian’s (managed by Westin Dragonara Resort) in Malta, and Ħondoq ir-Rummien Bay, Marsalforn Bay and Ramla Bay in Gozo.

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 Offers Travelers Virtual Visits

With a global pandemic going on, a collaboration between Heritage Malta and tech giant Google is now giving internet users the unique opportunity to virtually visit several of the agency’s national museums and sites through the online platform Google Arts & Culture.

This collaboration brings Malta’s cultural sites at par with other major international institutions, including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Van Gogh Museum in Netherlands, the National Gallery of Arts in Washington, Museo Frida Kahlo in Mexico, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and many more. Virtual tours will immerse the viewer into the solemn grounds of the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, walk you along the unique artifacts exhibited at the National Museums of Archaeology in Malta and Gozo, impress you with the exquisite colorful mosaic floors at the Domvs Romana, or accompany you through the turbulent times of World War II, at the National War Museum in Fort St. Elmo.

Heritage Malta invites the public to open these virtual doors to amazing discoveries, and to strive to visit them personally once the pandemic is over.

And if you’re a lover of opera, you’re in for another treat. Maltese Tenor Joseph Calleja will be taking viewers request to sing arias on his Facebook page, since there has been a stop to all travel.

And, once people globally aren’t quarantined anymore, there are great reasons to visit Malta.

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