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:
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.
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!
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!
Found in our sister island of Gozo, this small beach is the perfect get away from more populous beaches like Ramla bay.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.One of Gozo’s most instagrammable spots
L-Għar tal-Mixta sits overlooking the beautiful red sands of Ramla l-Ħamra, on the opposite side of the iconic Calypso Cave on the island of Gozo.
This cave, secluded and far off the beaten track can be reached by trekking north of the ancient town of Nadur. By following a small rock-covered path and negotiating a few steps, one can access the beautiful cavern which is typical of many caves around the island. Alternatively, you can visit Ramla Bay and take an up-hill path from the shore, which will take you around 40 minutes. What makes this cave particularly interesting is its name – a cave with a similar name, also on the island of Gozo, was inhabited by troglodytes and the word “mixta” is said to derive from the word ‘mxett’ meaning ‘wintering’. Over the years, lots of Bronze Age pottery has been discovered in and around the cave which have confirmed the fact that they were homes for ancient inhabitants. It is supposed that the cave was created by humans as a way of providing shelter and protection from invaders’ vessels, whilst also serving as a vantage point for Gozitans looking to secure their shoreline.
Another thing that makes the trek to Għar Mixta worth it, is the stunning view from the entrance to the cave. The view of Ramla Bay and the surrounding countryside is one of the location’s best features and has led to it being known as one of the most beautiful and picturesque places on the island.