If Malta isn’t on your radar yet, it’s time to add it to your travel bucket list. Situated in the heart of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and brimming with cultural and natural beauty, Malta is a uniquely charming and world class holiday destination with a lot to see and do. It’s size makes it easy to explore, and with over 300 days of sunshine – the capital, Valletta, was recently voted the sunniest city in the whole of Europe – Malta is an all year round destination and perfect for winter breaks. The English speaking islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino are just over 3hrs away, with a large selection of direct flights from across the UK and accommodation options for all budgets. Malta has been awarded prizes for having some of the cleanest seas in Europe, for being the globe’s third best diving location and having the world’s most scenic airport approach. Recently voted by Skyscanner as their No1 Travel Hot Spot for 2017, and with Valletta crowned European Capital of Culture for 2018, now’s the time to discover Malta yourself.
The Maltese archipelago lies at the centre of the Mediterranean, 93km south of Sicily and 288 km north of Africa, and consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. The islands have a population of over 400,000 inhabitants occupying an area of 316 square kilometers.
Malta is the largest island and the cultural, commercial and administrative centre.
Gozo is the second largest island and is more rural, characterised by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture.
Comino, the smallest of the trip, and famous for its crystal blue waters.
Click here for a map of Malta.
With over 7000 years of history and host to three UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Maltese islands have been described as one big open-air museum. What makes them unique is that so much of their past is visible today and wherever you go, the Islands’ scenery and architecture provide a spectacular backdrop. The narrow meandering streets of Malta’s ancient towns and villages are crowded with Renaissance cathedrals and Baroque palaces, while the countryside is dotted with the oldest known structures in the world.
Image: Valletta Waterfront, Malta
Food and Wine
Maltese cuisine is the result of a long relationship between the Islanders and the many civilisations who occupied the Maltese Islands over the centuries. Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons. Look out for Lampuki Pie (fish pie), Rabbit Stew, Bragioli (beef olives), Kapunata, (Maltese version of ratatouille), and widow’s soup. On most food shop counters, you’ll see Bigilla, a thick pate of broad beans with garlic. Snacks that must be tried are ‘hobz biz-zejt’ (round of bread dipped in olive oil, rubbed with ripe tomatoes and filled with a mix of tuna, onion, garlic, tomatoes and capers) and pastizzi (flaky pastry parcel filled with ricotta or peas). Favourite dessert delicacies are kannoli (tube of crispy, fried pastry filled with ricotta), Sicilian-style, semi-freddo desserts (mix of sponge, ice-cream, candied fruits and cream) and Helwa tat-Tork (a sweet, sugary mixture of crushed and whole almonds).
A trip to the Marsaxlokk fish market on Sunday morning will show you just how varied the fish catch is in Maltese waters. The island’s climate and rich clay terrain have resulted in distinctive wines. Maltese vintages are winning several accolades at international competitions. Grape varieties grown on the Islands include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carignan, Chenin Blanc and Moscato. The indigenous varieties are Gellewza and Ghirghentina, which are producing some excellent wines of distinct body and flavour.There are seven major wineries on the islands, many still family owned, with the oldest and largest dating back to 1907. All major wineries offer guided tours and tastings
Image: Mnajdra Temples, Zurrieq Malta
Beaches and Bays
Malta has beaches for everyone, from windsurfers to sunbathers. Choose from golden sand, red sand, rock and blue lagoons. Some beaches and rocky shores are off the beaten track, but worth seeking out for their seclusion. Do not miss a boat trip to Comino’s Blue Lagoon for the ultimate in azure water. On larger beaches, you will find cafes or snack bars open during the summer season. With Malta’s climate, beach life lasts well into October. Enjoy water sports and activities like windsurfing, jet and water skiing, parakiting and fun rides. You can hire equipment from beach cafes or shops nearby.
The main coastal resorts and larger sandy beaches are in the northern part of Malta. Malta’s most popular beaches are Mellieħa Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa and Golden Bay. For smaller, quieter beaches, try those at the tip of Malta, overlooking Gozo – Paradise Bay and Armier. In Gozo, the most beautiful beach is Ramla l-Ħamra, a large beach of unusual red sand nestling by countryside. Gozo and Comino offer plenty of out-of-the-way rocky inlets with clear waters and perfect snorkelling.
Image: Golden Bay, Mellieha Malta
Find out about the various Blue Flag Beaches and Beaches of Quality around the Maltese Islands here.