PREPARE TO BE STUNNED BY MALTA’S HIDDEN GEMS

History, culture and nature all meet on the Maltese islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino.

 

The European Union’s smallest member state has a heritage built up over the millennia that never ceases to surprise.

The blend of history and culture, warm and pleasant Mediterranean climate, beautiful scenery and crystal-clear waters make the islands a magnet for visitors fascinated by the varied attractions that the island has to offer.

To highlight the best of Malta, the islands have taken part in an EC-backed project aimed at promoting European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN).

The islands’ history can be traced from their prehistoric sites – including the six UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric megalithic temples, ancient cart-ruts, and troglodytic caves – through remains from the Punic, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Norman and Medieval periods, right up to the occupation by the Order of St John and the subsequent French and British occupations.

Regular visitors will be familiar with the capital city Valletta and its ancient predecessor, Mdina.

View of Valletta from Yacht
[Credit: Beautiful Destinations]

Both have a treasure-trove of architectural and artistic gems, with Valletta designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and being crowned European Capital of Culture 2018.

But Malta is not all about Valletta and Mdina – other towns and villages offer an insight into the way of life of the Maltese and bear witness to the various cultures and regimes which have swept over the islands.

Six locations in particular were picked out as EDEN destinations when holidaying in Malta, which is a little more than three hours from the UK.

Top of the list is Qrendi which has a number of top attractions, including the famed pre-historic temples of Ħagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples.

Mnajdra Temples in Zurrieq
[Credit: Beautiful Destinations]

There are Phoenician and Paleo-Christian rock-tombs, as well as Knights’ period watch-towers and churches, and the geological formations of Maqluba, set in luxuriant countryside filled with many indigenous trees and plants.

Many couples are choosing to make the idyllic countryside surrounding Qrendi the back drop to their weddings.

Qrendi also offers superb scuba diving spots, at close-by Wied iż-Żurrieq and the Blue Grotto, which are both renowned for their crystal-clear waters.

Wied il-Ghasri Gozo
[Credit: Beautiful Destinations]

The small village of Għajnsielem in Gozo, which is the second-largest island of the archipelago, hosts a Christmas event which has become one of the most popular in the Maltese islands.

Twenty thousand square metres of once-neglected land have been converted into a recreation of Christ’s birthplace, earning it its name of Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem.

Over fifteen different NGOs and private businesses are involved in the running of this site which welcomes 100,000 visitors a year.

The village of Mellieħa boasts sites of cultural, religious and natural history interest to complement its fine sandy beaches.

Perched on a hill, Mellieħa has distant views of Comino and Gozo while also priding itself on spectacular attractions including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieħa, the labyrinth of a war-time air-raid shelters and Popeye Village.

In the northern region of Malta, the village of Dingli is set on a high plateau 250 metres above sea-level, with vantage points providing some of the most beautiful views on offer.

Dingli’s outstanding heritage is reflected in its pjazza which embodies the village’s heart and soul. The vegetable and fruit market make this a must-visit.

The small town of Ta’ Xbiex is located in the central region of Malta and is home to about 2,000 inhabitants.

The village is home to a number of foreign embassies together with the flowering yacht marina, both situated by the pleasant Ta’ Xbiex seafront, overlooking the magnificent Grand Harbour.

Malta’s wide-ranging tourist centres offer stunning experiences for those who venture to the many contrasting corners of the beautiful islands.

Fly direct to Malta from £44

Fly Go Light from £44 one-way, including taxes and charges. Travelling with Air Malta from London Gatwick. Available up to 31st Mar 18,

subject to availability. See full terms and conditions at airmalta.com.

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