Malta

Made up of a small cluster of tiny islands sitting between the coast of Sicily and the North Africa, Malta has a reputation for being  a quiet spot in the sun and a perfect get away for a short break. Malta recently was named one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 places to visit in 2018?

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A short flight from the U.K and you land on this archipelago of three islands. Sunny, extremely chilled out and a beautiful place to relax with blue skies and the cobalt Mediterranean sea. Flights from London to Malta take just over 3 hours.

 

Most of the population lives on the largest island of Malta, while the second largest, Gozo, is known for its beaches and scenery. Comino, the smallest island, is just 3.5 square kilometres.

With over 7000 years’ worth of history under its belt, good weather, and beaches it’s an excellent place for a lazy holiday, or a cultural city break.

The capital of Malta is Valletta, a very small city covering less than a square kilometre and perfect to explore on foot.

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Malta is having a worldwide moment, even despite the loss of one of its most famous tourist attracts, the Azure Window, which crumbled into the sea amidst strong storms in 2017.

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When to go

With a typical Mediterranean climate, the country enjoys pleasant weather throughout the year. Summers are generally hot, with temperatures peaking to 30 degrees in July. April to October is the best time to go if you’re visiting for the beaches. All three of the islands have some truly spectacular beaches, and the water’s particularly clean for swimming in. Winters are mild, with an average temperature of around 15 degrees. It might be a bit too cold for the water.

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Where to Stay in Malta

Recommend picking a central location so opt for Valletta, Sliema, or St. Julian’s for their access to other points in Malta  and ease of various transport modes.

St Julian’s  –  Central , Nightlife , Luxury.

We stayed in St Julians and if you’re planning a child friendly holiday this was the perfect location.

Our hotel – The Corinthia was perfect with both indoor and outdoor pools and a stones throw away from the city centre. A 5-minute walk from one of the nicer beaches in Malta, Corinthia Beach Resort is one of the best value for money hotel in Malta.

 

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Sliema: Proximity to Valletta and St. Julian’s, harbour views, shopping.

Valletta: Capital of culture, good food, quiet nights and leisurely walks.

Getting around

A bus service operates on Malta and Gozo with a selection of passes for bus travel (and some ferry services).  Go back in time and take a ride on the famous Maltese bus.

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Gozo Channel operate a ferry service between Malta and Gozo. A ferry service between Malta and Comino is operated by the Comino Ferries Co-Op. Taxi’s available and quite affordable. Traffic in Malta can actually be quite bad during rush hour. Malta is one of the most densely populated nations in the world, with around 400,000 people living on an island of less than 100 square miles. Still, since the only other option to get around Malta is by bus or taxi, you’ll be stuck in traffic anyway. So, you might as well have the freedom to pull over and take photos, which I guarantee you’ll want to do!

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Must See and Visit

The Blue Lagoon

Just off the coast of Comino, the extremely photogenic Blue Lagoon is the country’s most popular spots. It’s on the route between Malta and Gozo, so sailing boats from both islands regularly stop in the lagoon’s turquoise waters. Avoid the crowds by going either early morning or late afternoon.

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The Blue Grotto

One of Malta’s most beautiful natural sights is the Blue Grotto. A series of sea caves on south coast of the main island and a treat you interested in scuba diving.The best time to visit the Grotto is during the morning – up until about 1pm – as that’s when the waters are at their most brilliantly blue. The blue colour is caused by sunlight shining through the caves at the right angle to illuminate the phosphorescent marine life under the water.

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Silent City of Mdina

A perfectly preserved walled city found on a hilltop secluded, peaceful and full of history.  A pedestrian town with very few cars allowed this has earned the nickname of “the Silent City”. Up until the mid-16th century, Mdina was the country’s capital, and home to many of the Mediterranean’s most wealthy people. After the capital was moved to Birgu (and then Valletta), it went into decline. It’s remained largely unchanged since its heyday, so there are some fascinating historic houses and palaces to explore.

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Valetta

The fortified city of Valletta is one of the most stunning sites in the Mediterranean. The moment you pass through its giant city walls, you’ll understand why Valletta is so crucial to Malta’s history and identity. The streets of Valletta are very distinctive with historic buildings, baroque-era architecture and houses with colourful balconies. You get a great view of the city and its harbour from the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

 

There are several fascinating museums around Valletta with a collection which includes items dating back to 5000 BC. You really don’t have to be a history buff to get into Malta’s past, but if you’re really not one, or you’re travelling with kids, you can see a brilliant overview of the islands’ history in Valetta’s 5D cinema. The main site that you shouldn’t miss in Valletta is the St. John’s Co-Cathedral, where an exiled Caraveggio’s masterpiece “The Beheading of Saint John” is displayed.

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The church is also unique for its tombstone-covered floor, where the epitaphs of over 400 knights and officers of the Order of Saint John were buried after having fallen during the Great Siege protecting Malta.

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A few other spots of interest in Valletta include the Casa Rocca Piccola, an ornate house dating back to the late 16th century, and the Valletta Waterfront.

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Malta’s beautiful churches

There are more than 360 beautiful churches dotted around this island and that’s more than one every square kilometre.There are two particularly famous churches: the domed Rotunda of Mosta, found in the north-west of the main island, inspired by Rome’s Pantheon and Valletta’s St John’s Cathedral, often named as one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Europe. Dating back to the 1570s, it was founded by the Knights of St John. The cathedral’s impressive art collection includes famous works by Caravaggio and Peter Paul Rubens.

 Pastizzi

Being so close to Sicily, there’s a definite Italian influence to Maltese cuisine. You’ll find pasta, pizza and other Italian classics in many of Malta’s restaurants. Malta’s own national dish is stuffat tal-fenek, a rabbit stew. But if you only try one traditional Maltese dish during your trip, make it a Pastizzi. The small pastries are traditionally filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas.

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Must try Cafe Cordina  http://www.caffecordina.com.

Caffe Cordina has a long and prestigious history,  founded in 1837, the Cordina family started off from a small outlet to specialise in the baking and preparation of traditional Maltese sweet and delicacies. Still made in the traditional way, these are available for takeaway at selected outlets throughout Malta and Gozo. But what stands apart is the flagship coffee shop in Valletta.

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Eat some very fresh seafood

You won’t go short on seafood on this Malta. Favourites include lampuki (also known as dolphin fish or mahi mahi), which is often served in a pie. The best place to try Malta’s freshest seafood is in the village of Masaxlokk, on the main island’s south-east coast, the picturesque village hosts the country’s biggest fish market every Sunday.

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Shake a leg in Paceville

Malta’s entertainment district, just outside the resort town of St Julians you’ll find this area famous for clubs/bars and restaurants. During the summer months, much of the nightlife action shifts to open-air clubs, which are found in towns around the main island.

 

Visit a film set

Some very famous movies have been shot on the islands including Gladiator, The Da Vinci Code and The Spy Who Loved Me. Game of Thrones also shot much of its first season in Mdina. The Sweethaven village set from the 1980 Robin Williams-starring Popeye was left intact after filming finished and has now been turned into one of Malta’s most popular family attractions. Popeye Village park offers some picturesque views, as well as theme park-style live shows.

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Grand Harbour Boat Tour

There is no better way to experience the Grand Harbour than by experiencing it by boat. Sit back and relax, or if your like me, frantically take photos while the tour takes you around Malta’s majestic natural harbour. The spectacular Grand Harbour is without question a must-see. There are loads of elevated vantage points in Valetta where you can get spectacular views over the harbour, but there’s nothing quite like experiencing the harbour, from the inside out as it were.

 

A dgħajsa (pronounced Dice-ah) is a traditional Maltese taxi-boat, pretty much the Maltese equivalent of Venice’s famous gondolas, but much cheaper to experience. These little wooden boats give you a more authentic tour of Malta’s historical past.

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Visit the Dingli Cliffs

The Maltese islands are known for their beautiful sheer cliffs which are made of layer upon layer of sedimentary rock. The Dingli Cliffs are on the west coast of Malta with  impressive sights during the day but what I would recommend is aiming for a sunset here.

There is so much more to see and do in Malta and I could go on and on but these are my top tips for this Great Island.

My Top Tips…

Swim in Comino’s Blue Lagoon.

Get mesmerised by the panoramic views at Upper Barrakka Garden.

Eat some fresh fish in Marsaxlok.

Walk the streets of the Silent City of Mdina.

Play at the Popeye Village and taste a film set.

Step inside St. John’s Cathedral and feel the bliss.

Wander the Streets of Valletta and get lost n time.

Discover the ruins of Domus Romana.

Dine at a traditional Maltese with the taste of a rabbit stew.

Eat lots of Pastizzi the local favourite.

Enjoy a refreshing sip of  Ċisk the local Beer.

Boogy the night at Paceville.

 

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49 thoughts on “Malta

  1. Im obsessed with popeye island lately! Id only just heard of it a few months ago but it looks so sweet. Id love the movie sets!

  2. Malta and its island sound like the place to be on this years vacation…or at any year! The blue lagoon must very crowded on high season but its understandable because its gorgeous! The Maltenese cuisine must be delcious aswell, especially their tradional Pastizzi. My daughter would love the Popeye-village…how cute! We were sure of going to Italy this summer but now I am not so sure anymore…Malta is not bad at all!

  3. Malta and its island sound like the place to be on this years vacation…or at any year! The blue lagoon must very crowded on high season but its understandable because its gorgeous! The Maltenese cuisine must be delcious aswell, especially their tradional Pastizzi. My daughter would love the Popeye-village…how cute! We were sure of going to Italy this summer but now I am not so sure anymore…Malta is not bad at all!

  4. This is a lovely itinerary to Malta. We spend most summers in Sicily, so it’s a ferry ride from Malta, but I’ve still not been! You’re right about the Blue Grotto; it’s stunning. Really hope to visit one day soon; who knows maybe this year±

  5. I went to Malta years ago but I have wanted to always go back and spend longer there. Popeye Island is definitely one of the places on my list, I saw it but I never had a chance to go there. The hotel you stayed at the Corinthia pool looks and sounds so inviting, I would struggle to move from that pool one of the days.

  6. I love the Mediterranean Sea, but how have I never been to Malta? The Blue Lagoon and the Blue Grotto are stunning! The old world architecture and the churches, I could get lost exploring church to church. Definitely checking out Malta now.

  7. Absolutely loved all of your pictures, I’m halfway to packing my bags and setting off to Malta. The Silent city of Mdina will be my first stop, I have read and heard so much of this place. The lagoon and all the beaches look blissful, so does the Corinthea Hotel. Thanks for sharing all the details on places to visit in Malta.

  8. We went to Malta for a few days a few years ago (mainly because we found a last minute super cheap flight) but didn’t explore an awful lot of it apart from the city. We didn’t get to either the Blue Lagoon or the Blue Grotto which both look fantastic! You’ve definitely inspired me to go back and see a little bit more of it. We also found the buses fantastic and really useful though.

  9. You have got some great clicks. The Blue lagoon and blue grotto look so gorgeous. I did read about Malta when I learned that it is one of ten listed by LP. Your post gives a helpful sneak peek. I would love to visit it for its history and architecture. Valentta has to be on my list. Also do the bus ride from Malta to Gozo. The bus looks super cute.

  10. Malta is on my high list as I loved Spain a lot. I find a quick resemblance with Spain. I will also try to stay at St. Julian’s as you said it is perfect location for staying. I love those cobbledstone narrow streets and therefore I would love to wander around. Also taking ferries through Gozo channel must be fun with beautiful views.

  11. I too love visiting small countries. they give you a sense of fulfilment even after few days spent there. Frankly I had no clue Malta had so much to offer. Would love to check out the harbour and Valetta too!

  12. What a fun trip! I keep seeing Malta on blogs so I guess it really is one of the top destinations this year. Love the lagoon, looks so beautiful and not very crowded from your photo. And the seafood is enough reason to visit!

  13. I really don’t know much about Malta and I found this post quite fascinating. It seems such a beautiful place both from a cultural as well as a natural beauty perspective. I would love to see the Blue Lagoon/Blue Grotto and the Dingli Cliffs. The water shots you have taken here look so beautiful.

  14. What an awesome post! I really would love to visit Malta and Gozo one day. I have seen so many photos of the Blue Lagoon in Comino and of Ramla Bay in Gozo. And I’d definitely be up for fresh seafood on a daily basis! And I didn’t know that so many movies were filmed there. Real fun fact!

  15. Malta is one of those exotic places that grace the covers of glossy travel magazines. It indeed looks like a slice of paradise. There are so many things that would draw us to Malta apart from its beaches and immense natural beauty. The bus looks fascinating and the Blue Grotto look so inviting. Hope to get there!

  16. Never paid attention to Malta as a preferred destination until I stumbled upon this post. Am so glad I did and now, it has made it’s way to our bucket list! Malta looks so colorful and never seen anything like the Blue Grotto before. This is a good reference guide for a visit to Malta and planning when to go, where to stay and what all to see! Would definitely want to see the beaches too and hence, plan a trip at an appropriate season!

  17. Malta looks so beautiful! I really hope to visit Valletta one day, and see the same places you visited on your trip. I’ve read many good things about Gozo and the Blue Grotto too, so will definitely be adding this to the list.

  18. OMG Malta is such a beautiful place to visit and i love the way you described everything in this blog. Thanks for saving our time by providing us this itinerary

  19. This is pretty cool… were were there in May and visited some of the same places but not all. It’s such a wonderful country. Although young and small, Malta is doing so well economically due to its political stability and strategic priorities. We stayed in St Julians but may be better to pick a small village with more peace and quiet.

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