Malta Travel Guide
Once the private property of the Knights Templar and somewhat of an oddity stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean, the archipelago of Malta comprises five tiny islands in the middle of the Mediterranean. The year-round good weather ensures most leave with a good tan, although some with just a red glow. For culture vultures, you’ll find some of the oldest structures in the world, which put our meagre existence into perspective. If however ancient churches don’t do it for you, adrenaline junkies will find underwater caves to explore, limestone cliffs to climb up, or fall down, and an abundance of sea life to gawp at.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Exploring ancient temples and Baroque churches; crystal clear sea, golden sandy beaches, ancient history and culture, Comino, underwater caves and limestone cliffs.
What’s Not: Crowded resort beaches during the peak seasons, limited flights from the US and Asia, high prices during peak season and limited nightlife.
When to Go
Malta is warm for most of the year. There are four seasons, with winter being the coolest and often the most appealing time of year to visit. Winter also sees the most rainfall, but showers are short and usually welcomed. The hottest months of the year are between June and September, but the sea breezes help to make the heat bearable. July and August are the peak months for tourists, and resort can often get busy and beaches crowded. For a quieter alternative, spring (March to May) and autumn (October and November) are still warm, but there is not the crush of tourists seen in the summer.
Getting There & Away
Mainland Europe, Cairo and Tunis offer the only direct air connections to Malta. There are year-round ferry links with Sicily, Catania and Genoa, although there is a departure tax if you are leaving by sea. Buses, taxis and rental cars are available for ground-transfers to your holiday destination. The public bus service on Malta and Gozo is a convenient way of getting around, although renting a car is also a good option. A regular ferry service links Malta and Gozo, taking about 20 minutes.
Health & Safety
A visit to Malta is usually trouble-free; however, there are the habitual chancers found in all tourist destinations. Be wise and always keep one eye on your valuables and the other on the scenery. If you find yourself feeling under the weather, there are pharmacies and hospitals which provide good service, although be sure to take your phrase book with you to avoid any communication faux pas, which could end up with you receiving unwanted and unnecessary treatment. While this could be amusing to many, you could find that the treatment burns a large whole in your wallet and who knows where else!
Food & Hospitality
Malta boasts an excellent range of eateries, from the fast-food joints that are impossible to escape to quaint cafés and traditional restaurants. You can fill yourself up on burgers, chips, continental and oriental cuisine. For lovers of seafood, there are beachside restaurants across the islands offering freshly prepared fish. If you’ve overindulged on junk food, detox on some of Malta’s finest fruit offerings which include melons, grapes, pomegranates and figs. Some top-class hotels can be found in the country, offering good facilities and excellent Maltese service.
Two weeks is the average length of time that most tourists stay.
One week on the island of Malta exploring the numerous towns and their surroundings as well as enjoying some time on the beach
Three to four days on Gonzo enjoying the pristine beaches as well as the diving opportunities.
Three or four days on the island of Comino relaxing on secluded beaches and touring the tiny fishing villages.
Two to three days in the capital Valletta retracing St Paul’s footsteps and visiting the historical attractions such as the Palace of the Grand Masters.
Two days exploring the Blue Grotto and its nearby caves.
Valetta: perfect for Baroque lovers as it boasts the most examples of Maltese-style Baroque architecture in the country. If looking at buildings aren’t you’re thing, head for the beach and build your very own Baroque sand castle.
Rabat: houses Baroque churches, St Paul’s and St Agatha’s Catacombs, and an impressive Roman villa. Four caves boast spectacular beauty and mystic atmospheres.
Hagar Qim: can be found on the south of the main island and features a Neolithic temple which dates back 3,000 years. Perfect if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Fred or Wilma Flintstone. If you’re more of a Bam Bam, leave your clubs at the entrance!
Marsaxlokk: visit and see the recently discovered Temple of Juno, which was used by the ancient Greeks to worship the goddess of fertility. This is great if you want children, although be very careful of what you wish for if you’ve already got enough little ones running about at your feet.
Tarxien and Hypogeum: are archaeological sites boasting ancient temples, burial chambers, caves and fossils. Be careful though, burial chambers and underground caves aren’t the best place to get lost in – you don’t want to end up becoming one of the fossils yourself.
Water sports: such as swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling and windsurfing have all become increasingly popular and are available year-round.
Shopping: shopaholics will be in their element here. Handicrafts abound. Buy a statue and liven up your house, although be aware that many are in fact fertility gods which should be avoided if don’t want babies.
Attend a festival: put your glad rags on, let your hair down and dance the night away with the locals.
Exploring: the tiny yet fascinating island of Comino will show you a thing or two about being isolated. The entire island is inhabited by just a dozen farmers, taking the phrase ‘village life’ to extremes.
Dining on fresh fish: in family-run taverns of the fishing communities in Marsaxlokk, Birzebbugia and Marsacala will leave your mouth watering for more.
Festivals & Events
Festivals in Malta are guaranteed to be fun-filled and see many people taking to the streets, mainly because most festivals mean a day off work. The following are some of Malta’s best:
February/March: Carnival is one of the main cultural events of the Maltese calendar. The main activities are held in the streets of Valletta and Floriana.
April: Malta International Fireworks Festival boasts spectacular displays and plenty of refreshments.
July: Malta Jazz Festival offers jazz lovers the chance to ‘get down’ with the latest sounds in this music genre.
October: Historic Cities festival sees 11 days of cultural entertainment in Malta’s main historic towns of Valletta, Mdina and Vittoriosa.
November: Festival Mediterranea is a celebration of Gozo’s history and culture.