Steeped in history and soaked in sunshine, Malta is an archipelago like no other. This is a dream destination for culture vultures who long for sand and sea.
With incredible islets, breathtaking cliffs and more beautiful beaches than you can count, Malta is a Mediterranean haven you can fly to in just three hours.
You’ll find plenty of things to do for couples, families and solo adventure. With a great balance between cultural cityscapes, pristine lagoons and intriguing ancient ruins, it’s easy to find your place in Europe’s pint-sized paradise.
Malta at a glance
Malta is the smallest country in the European Union, but the trio of islands makes up for its size with a vibrant personality. More than two million tourists are magnetised to its otherworldly shores every year, including half a million Brits. The main resorts include the romantic city of Valetta, lively Bugibba in St Paul’s Bay and the lush miniature island of Gozo, where you’ll find hidden treasures galore.
Planning your dream honeymoon or a relaxing family holiday? Read on to find out what you can expect…
Travel advice when visiting Malta
Most people visit Malta without any problems, but it is still important to keep an eye out for risks and to take out the correct insurance. Malta uses the Euro, so it is a good idea to exchange money on a prepaid card before you travel to get the best rates.
Malta is generally safe, but crimes against tourists do occasionally occur. To protect yourself and your valuables, avoid carrying large sums of cash and use your hotel safe if one is available. Keep an eye on high-value items when travelling through crowded places and on public transport. Traditional Maltese bird hunting takes place in Spring and Autumn, so be careful in rural areas during these seasons. It is a good idea to read up on Maltese laws before you travel so you don’t get caught out. For example, topless sunbathing is illegal.
Due to Malta’s history as a British colony, motorists drive on the left. This means it is easy to rent a car with your UK driving licence – but an International Driving Permit may be required after Brexit.
There is a convenient public bus service that travels around the islands of Malta and Gozo. To travel to the islands of Gozo and Comino, you will need to take a boat from the harbours at Cirkewwa or Mgarr.
Average accommodation costs
The average price of a hotel room is €97 in Malta.
Popular tourist attractions in Malta
Every inch of Malta is a dream to visit, but there are some must-see spots your itinerary shouldn’t skip. Here are three of the best:
1. Blue Lagoon
The Maltese island of Comino is home to many natural wonders, but Blue Lagoon is probably the best of them all. This slice of paradise is made up of an idyllic azure pool flanked by otherworldly limestone. It’s one of the most-photographed spots in Malta because of the striking colour of the sea. This is a great place to snorkel, dive or soak up the sunshine on a catamaran boat tour. Comino is a tiny island spanning just 1.4 square miles and the entire space is a protected bird sanctuary and nature reserve. Don’t forget to phone home and tell everyone you’ve found heaven on earth! Take an early ferry from Malta or Gozo to beat the summer crowds.
2. Blue Grotto
Situated at the southern tip of Malta, Blue Grotto is another dreamlike part of the country’s coast. This colossal sea cavern is shaped like an arch and its popularity has spiked since Malta’s iconic Azure Window collapsed into the ocean in 2017. You can visit the Blue Grotto Wall and Viewpoint for impressive panoramic views (many bus tours from Rabat will stop here) or take a boat tour to explore the scenery fully. Boats leave daily from the Wied iż-Żurrieq harbour, providing a close look into Honeymoon Cave, Cat’s Cave and Reflection Cave. The best time to visit is in the early morning, when the water’s cyan hues shine through in the golden sunlight.
3. Medieval Mdina
If you thought the capital of Valletta was a Mediterranean time capsule, you’ll be blown away by Mdina. This fortified hilltop city is a treasure trove of history dating back 4000 years. Stroll past the ancient walls to discover Roman catacombs beneath the country’s oldest cathedral and a dense collection of history-themed museums, including the Mdina Metropolitan Museum that sits beside St Paul’s cathedral. The Silent City even hosts its own medieval festival each May, when you can see live reenactments and explore the traditions of the day.
The best beaches in Malta
Malta is famous as a diving hotspot with a striking coastline. In fact, it stretches for 85 glorious miles. Whether you want to try water sports or simply take in the beauty, there’s a Maltese beach for every taste.
Pack your bucket, spade and a camera when visiting the incredible points. Here are three of the best:
Ramla Bay is the perfect vision of a dreamlike Maltese holiday. Set beside Roman ruins, with striking red sands and clear blue waters, Ramla Bay is home to the largest beach in Gozo. It is situated at the bottom of a valley where flora and fauna thrives, creating a place where you can truly unwind. Grab a book and pack your hiking shoes – beyond the statue of the Virgin Mary that stands in the bay, you can walk to the wonders of Calypso Cove. This place even has a rich history – it’s thought to be referenced in ancient Greek mythology.
Golden Bay Beach
If you are planning a family holiday, it is worth venturing to Golden Bay Beach. This is one of the best Blue Flag beaches in western Malta, with plenty of facilities, including great restaurants. The sand is soft and yellow and the clear, calm seas create a great place for snorkelling. The lifeguard flag system helps to notify swimmers and watersport lovers about tide safety, so you can drift out on a pedalo with peace of mind.
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay
Malta is popular for honeymoons and when you visit this beach, you will understand why. This secluded stretch is Golden Bay’s idyllic cousin– a Blue Flag paradise just a short distance from the bustle. Unlike its energetic relative, Ghajn Tuffieha can only be accessed by walking across a long network of steps and footpaths. The reward is a romantic cove set in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This special place is also known as the Riviera Beach and it is a great place to take romantic walks as the day’s last golden rays flood the landscape.
Excursions in Malta
No matter where you are staying on the archipelago, it is always possible to find a great day trip where you can explore the islands further. You might like to break up a beach holiday with a city excursion. If so, try the capital of Valletta. Here, you’ll be able to stroll along the Grand Harbour and see the fabled Barracca Gardens. It’s a culture-lover’s dream.
If you ignite a thirst for more exciting history, try the Three Cities tour. This popular route spans Cospicua, Isla and Vittoriosa, where you’ll find museums, churches and historic harbours away from the crowds.
Adventurous travellers can even take a full-day trip to Sicily for a taste of Italian energy. This larger island is home to fashion-forward boutiques and yet more beaches. There is a night ferry that connects the Mediterranean islands and you can even take a helicopter tour to see the incredible Sicilian mountains.
Food and drink in Malta
You might expect the cuisine in Malta to be similar to that of its Italian neighbours. While there are similarities, the tiny nation actually has many unique dishes. Maltese cuisine takes influences from African, continental and even British food.
The British and French footprint on Maltese food is clear from the abundance of pastry dishes. Kannoli is the signature dessert, made by rolling pastry with ricotta cheese and confectioners’ sugar. Once your sweet tooth is fully indulged, try pastizzi – a savoury pastry baked with ricotta or mushy peas.
Timpana is like a perfect fusion between British and Italian food. It is a cheesy pasta dish baked like a cottage pie and often paired with bolognese. Meat-lovers will adore Bragioli, a steak dish garnished with bacon in a deliciously fragrant sauce.
Vegetarian travellers shouldn’t skip the opportunity to try Kapunata – the island’s answer to ratatouille. At the coast, you’ll find intriguing seafood dishes including lampuki pie, while central Malta is more accustomed to dishes like Fenek – rabbit cooked in red wine.
Kinnie is the nation’s soft drink of choice, while Cisk lager is the traditional alcoholic drink.
Malta may be better-known as a relaxing haven where you can see quaint historic towns, but don’t be deceived. When the sun sets tourists descend from their resorts to embrace the warm night air.
The bulk of the nightlife is in northern Malta, which is speckled with energetic resorts. Paceville, St Julian’s is the most energetic spot. Here, you’ll find nightclubs, pubs and bars galore – Havana and Sky Club are two of the best.
St Paul’s Bay is home to a cluster of villages where you’ll find relaxing pubs and bars that stay open late into the night. Bugibba is home to the Oracle Casino and plenty of live sport bars.
If you wish to experience the traditionally Maltese way to party, head to a local village festi. These happen throughout the year to celebrate each town’s patron saint with enigmatic fireworks. The season starts in Floriana, where children parade through the streets with a band. Mqabba’s festival is an altogether louder experience where you can see some of Malta’s most flamboyant Catherine Wheels.
Shopping in Malta
If hunting for great souvenirs is a priority for your holiday, you won’t be disappointed.
Shopping in Valletta is clustered between Republic Street and Merchants Street. The Artisans Centre is a great place to explore traditional ceramic, metal and glass crafts – look out for traditional Maltese door knockers. Lions symbolise protection while dolphins promote prosperity. If you prefer bright entertainment complexes and designer brands, head to Embassy Shopping Centre.
Away from the capital, the best retail experiences tend to be relaxed and open-air. The Birgu Flea Market is a weekly street market where you are likely to find a bargain. It is just a short drive away from the megalithic temple ruins at Tarxien.
On the island of Gozo, one of the best open air markets happens daily in Independence Square. In the south of Malta, don’t be surprised to find fresh seafood at these markets – the Marsaxlokk Sunday market is well worth the crowds.
Ta’Qali Crafts Village is a fantastic place to secure your very own slice of Maltese culture to take home. You can watch live demonstrations of glass blowing and see sculptors and lace weavers at work.
Malta culture and art
Malta may be a small island but it has enough culture and heritage to rival the much larger countries that surround it.
Valletta is easily the best place to find cultural attractions in Malta. In this marvellous city, you can spend a day touring St John’s Co-Cathedral, Grand Master’s Palace and the National Museum of Archaeology and still barely scratch the surface.
Art is a huge part of the country’s culture. The capital city was named the European Capital of Culture and in 2018 saw a cultural programme of hundreds of projects and events that included transforming the former National Museum of Fine Arts, which is situated in Auberge D’Italie, into MUZA. Head here to browse art by both local and international artists.
Outdoor adventure in Malta
Malta’s beautiful weather makes it the ideal destination to take advantage of the great outdoors and experience the various exhilarating activities – all against the backdrop of the beautiful, rugged landscape.
The waters off Malta’s coastline are regularly named among the best in the world for diving. Firstly, it is crystal clear, providing the perfect conditions for exploring the caves, reefs and wrecks. You don’t want to miss the most popular dive site, The Blue Hole in Gozo, which starts in a sea pool.
Back on the surface, there are a number of water sports to try too. Water skiing, sea kayaking and wakeboarding are all popular here, as is windsurfing – especially around Ghallis Rock and Mellieha Bay. You can also try deep-water soloing – which is rock climbing without a harness, using the water as protection, should you fall.
If you would like to explore this beautiful country on two wheels there are three designated circular routes that you can follow. One takes you around Gozo, while the other two begin in Rabat.
If you would prefer to pull on a pair of walking shoes and hike your way around, then you are in the right place – there are more than 1,300 routes to explore.
There are also a number of flying schools in Malta, where as well as learning to fly a plane you can get a bird’s-eye view of the country and see the stunning scenery from a whole new angle.
While there are plenty of tourist attractions in Malta that you won’t want to miss, you may also like to discover the lesser-known parts of this country. There are several places that are worth heading off the tourist trail for. Here are just three you might like to start with.
These three temples can be found on the south coast of Malta, around 500 metres from Hagar Qim Temples. But, with such a short distance between them, it is definitely worth a visit to Mnajdra too. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and so the first thing you will notice when you arrive is the cover, which is in place to protect the temples from the elements. The oldest of the three dates back to 3600 – 3200 BC.
St Peter’s Pool
Between Delimara Point and Marsaxlokk you’ll find this stunning natural swimming pool. Its remote location means you will have to walk nearly two miles to reach it but, because of this, you might well find you have it to yourself. Walk onto the flat rocks and take the ladder down into the crystal clear water. Don’t forget your snorkel mask, this is the ideal spot to head beneath the sparkling surface and come face-to-face with the fish below it.
In 1980 Anchor Bay became a film set for the Popeye musical starring Robin Williams as the Sailor Man himself. Today, the set remains as a tourist attraction. When you arrive you’ll be met by Popeye and friends, who will provide the entertainment as you explore and become part of the film set. You can visit the cinema where you’ll see a short documentary and learn more about Popeye Village, before watching the animation shows, browse the Comic Museum and visit Santa’s toy town.
Best times to travel to Malta
The climate in Malta is exactly what you would expect from a Mediterranean isle south of Italy, with warm to hot summers and mild weather year-round. August is the warmest month, when temperatures often reach 32°C.
The peak tourism season lasts from June until August in Malta, but you’ll find a slow buzz in all the key resorts from April to October. In these cooler seasons, you are more likely to find temperatures of about 20°C, unless winds from Africa happen to bring warmer weather.
Malta is unlikely to experience rainfall in July, meaning the peak summer months are best if you crave that idyllic beach weather. The low season lasts from December to February – you might get a good deal, but rainfall is far higher at this time of year.
Whenever you decide to travel, you now have all the knowledge you need for a fantastic getaway.
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