When you arrive in Malta you don’t know exactly where to position yourself, in Europe or in Northern Africa. Because of its location in the Mediterranean Sea, close to the Arab countries Tunisia and Libya, but even closer to Sicily, Malta has influences from both cultures from their language (the Maltese language sounds both Italian and Arab, I know, a weird combination – due to the fact that it descends from an Arabic dialect spoken in Sicily between the end of the ninth century and the end of the twelfth century) until their way of living, architecture and food.
The island is rather small – 316 km2 – but has a lot of things to offer – history, lovely cities, smaller islands, clear blue waters – just enough to fill to the maximum one week of staying here or two weeks of blended relaxation and wandering around places filled with history.
I have visited Malta in early September of 2014 and the weather was just perfect from my point of view, warm enough to get a lovely tan, but chilly enough in the evening to get a proper night’s sleep (it depends on your personal preference, but from June to August, temperatures can get pretty high).
The island can be suitable for people looking to have fun and enjoy shopping (opt for St. Julian if you tick this box), families looking to relax and enjoy the lovely Mediterranean Sea (Mellieha or Qawra are quiet villages where you can find hotels ranging from 2* to 4*, perfect for relaxation) to couples in search for a blend of the two (Valletta or St. Julian offer 5* hotels in the middle of the city, close to touristic sites or to buses/boats that can get you to the right place).
One thing to add is that Malta is not the right place to be if you are looking to enjoy the sea to the maximum, and that is because there are few places where you actually have sandy beaches (we have been only to one on the main island – you can choose to stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel next to the Goldens Sands as the name sais it – and to the Blue Lagoon on the Comino island), but each hotel has a swimming pool and most of them have rooftop pools. Also good to know is that the island does not have any water since it is very rocky, but use bottled water from the desalination center where they modify seawater in order to be drinkable.
Top things to do in Malta
Since we have always tried to mix the relaxation part with visiting, we have managed to see most of the local attractions, both in an organized manner (with the travel agency) or by ourselves (it is very easy to travel in the whole island, there are buses linking all villages and you can find the timetable in the bus stop).
1. Get lost on the streets of Valletta
There are a lot of small, Italian-style streets in the fortress of Valletta and you can choose to walk up and down, steal a little bit of architectural inspiration, take a lot of beautiful pictures and stumble upon history at each step. Valletta is Malta’s capital and also the border between West and East, being part of the UNESCO’s Word Heritage Sites.
You can walk around the city’s fortifications, visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the Magisterial Palace (where the President of Malta has its office) and the Barrakka Gardens. And in the end, you have a lot of Mediterranean-style restaurants from which to choose, where to sit and enjoy seafood and a nice glass of wine.
2. Take a walk through Mdina and Rabat
I liked Mdina very much, maybe because we have visited the old fortress village in a quiet day, hence we had the chance to enjoy it to the fullest, or maybe because no cars are allowed inside, making it very peaceful. Mdina was the capital of Malta until 1530 and owes its architecture to its Arab period. We strolled around the city’s narrow streets and sat down for a coffee and an ice cream at a restaurant on the city walls, from where you could see Rabat in the distance.
3. Visit Popeye’s Village
And spend a wonderful day at the waterpark. The village has been built in 1980 for a musical movie and it is now used as a touristic attraction (they organize even weddings if you are interested :)) ) . We haven’t stayed here, only stopped for a few pictures (the view is really wonderful), but I think it can be great fun especially for kids.
4. Take a ferry to Comino Island and to the Blue Lagoon
The lagoon is breathtaking and it is no surprise that scenes of Troy (yes the Brad Pitt movie) and The Count of Monte Cristo have been filmed here. The 2-hour boat ride is worth it, even if you catch a stormy day like we did, and risk to be hit by a wave in the face and maybe puke over the board. But once you get to the destination and have a few hours to enjoy the clear blue water, it will all be worth it. We have also taken a small boat and went through the grottoes around Comino, where we have seen pink corals and people jumping off of cliffs in the crystal waters.
5. Take the trip to the Blue Grotto
And swim in the very salty azure water. Of course, you must know that there is no beach and the cliffs are very slippery and steep, therefore maybe think twice if you are not very confident with your swimming skills. As an option, and for a fee, you can take a boat that will take you inside of the Blue Grotto.
6.Take a walk on the streets of any town of Malta during the summer time
Here you will see all sorts of colorful flags on display everywhere. Yes, I like the narrow streets as they are, but these flags offer them a more colorful touch. Moreover, you can go out during the evenings, when, in the Summer time, the Maltese people make fireworks and go out for the “Festa” (it is all about keeping together the community, meeting each other and oh yeah, having fun during the hot season).
7. “Cross the sea” from Valletta and pay Sliema a visit
The small harbor where you can admire small Venice-like boats (some even more colorful).
8. Take a one day trip on the sea to Sicily
We personally did not do this, because the time was too short in our opinion and Sicily definitely needs more days to be visited, but since you are here, you can choose to do so, since the distance is rather small and you could get a few good hours on the Italian island.
This are in a nutshell the things I recommend for Malta, please feel encouraged (don’t be shy, it would be very much appreciated) to add here any additional attraction. I personally liked the little island very much as a one time trip (and from what I have seen the English people agree, because most of the tourists around there were from the UK) and would recommend it as a wonderful summer destination!