ALTHOUGH there are many great holiday destinations, Malta is certainly among the best. This vibrant and exciting island has a lovely mix of beaches, history and culture. We look at five reasons why you’ll love it!
1. Malta’s Culture
When a country is rich in history, it’s rich in culture. Over time a host of nationalities have populated the island and played a part in writing its rich history, leading to a number of colourful, cultural celebrations throughout the year.
Individual village festas or fetes run throughout the summer as well as a number of music festivals both modern and classical. For example, Malta Music Week alongside the Isle of MTV is vibrant and youthful, while the Baroque Festival brings classical music to the island.
Malta’s café culture is the perfect way to absorb its essence by sitting in a sun dappled piazza sipping a fine local wine, enjoying the warmth of its people and Mediterranean charm.
Malta’s capital, Valletta, is a majestic sandstone city with fortified bastion walls boldly rising from the Mediterranean Sea. Its first cornerstone was laid in 1566 and was built by the Knights of Jerusalem, or the Knights Hospitaller, who are intrinsically linked with Malta’s past and this beautiful Baroque city of palaces, gardens and churches.
Already a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 2018, Valletta will take on the proud accolade of European Capital of Culture.
Viewing Valletta from across the harbour at sunset is striking, the city set against the crisp blue sea, its sandstone edifices dramatically shifting through golden hues reflected by the setting sun.
For those with a deep love for diving, Malta’s waters offer an ocean of opportunity. The translucent turquoise hues that have become synonymous with the Mediterranean Sea have seen Malta clinch some truly remarkable awards. This exceptional clarity gifts visibility of up to 30m.
Rated the Mediterranean’s number one diving location and the world’s second best, there is no question that the island is a diver’s paradise. Traverse through hidden underwater caves, glide past haunting WWII wrecks, discover rainbow sea life and explore exotic coral formations.
Known as ‘The Silent City’ the quiet and well-preserved ex-capital of Malta, Mdina, is a walled hilltop city at the heart of the island, offering stunning views across the surrounding green plains right out to the sea.
The city’s charm emanates from its tall sandstone buildings’ honey glow that is set against the azure skies. Wandering the intimately narrow streets of Mdina is like stepping back in time; as you explore the medieval paths your glance often catches yet more alleyways that open into quaint little squares. The city’s beauty and lavish history dating back 4,000 years, strongly places Mdina as one of the most attractive ancient cities in Europe.
The small island of Gozo is a 20 minute ferry crossing from Cirkewwa on Malta’s northernmost shore.
Life on Malta’s sister island moves at a calmer pace, and at just a third of Malta’s size, Gozo nonetheless has many surprises in store for the seasoned traveller.
Gozo is home to the oldest free-standing temples in the world, Ggantija Temples, which date back to 3,800BC. It also boasts a magnificent rugged coastline dominated by the Azure Window, a spectacular rock formation hewn out of the sea. And of course it is most famous for its diving spots.
All roads on the island lead to the capital Rabat (also known as Victoria ), a small, bustling town at the foot of the Citadel, right in the centre of Gozo.
Gozo is best enjoyed with at least two overnight stays as opposed to just a day visit. It is not just a day-tripper’s paradise. Gozo offers a small selection of well-appointed five-and four-star hotels offering all spa, diving and culinary delights.
Accommodation on Gozo is as unique as the island itself. Hotels are designed to reflect local architecture and heritage and are furnished with inimitable character and charm. Upon entering any Gozitan hotel visitors are immediately welcomed by the warm golden limestone so ubiquitous on the island and quickly get a taste of local culture with natural stone floors and vibrant Mediterranean colours.
For an even more special treat, visitors often choose to rent out a typical centuries-old farmhouse, packed with authentic features but also those necessary mod cons such as luxury indoor-outdoor pools, air conditioning and wifi. Many farmhouses or farmhouse-style villas are located right next door to each other forming their own mini community, an ideal solution for small groups.