Country guides Europe
Malta Travel Guide
Dubbed the open air museum of the Mediterranean, Malta is a compelling country bursting with interesting historical sights. The small country is comprised of three islands: Malta Island, the largest and most visited of the three; Gozo, famous for its gentle hills and tranquil atmosphere; and Comino, a small and isolated island with excellent water sport opportunities.
The allure of a holiday in Malta is tangible and varied. Within Valletta, visitors can see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mdina, where one can explore the ruins of the ancient capital city of Malta. While on Gozo Island, the Ggantija Temples, massive megalithic structures that pre-date Stonehenge, are a must-see.
Malta is also a fantastic beach holiday destination, featuring a varied and pleasant selection of beaches and a generally laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, peppered throughout the year with vibrant festivals and other cultural celebrations.
The best beaches in Malta are Golden Bay and Mellieha Bay in the north of Malta Island, or on Gozo, where Odysseus is said to have delayed his homecoming by lazing on the red sands of Ramla Bay.
The Blue Lagoon, located on the coast of Comino Island, boasts some of the clearest, most turquoise water in the Mediterranean and is a huge hit on the international diving and snorkelling circuit, while the Azure Window (on Gozo Island) is a deservedly famous natural rock formation that picturesquely frames the Mediterranean Sea.
Best time to visit Malta
Malta has a typically Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers, and cooler, wet winters. The best time to visit Malta is between April and October, and the high temperatures in July and August are soothed somewhat by sea breezes.
What to see in Malta
-The ruins of Mdina are situated on a rocky outcrop about nine miles (15km) west of Valletta, and home to the Baroque Cathedral of St Paul.
-The Ggantija Temples, on Gozo Island, are impressive pre-Phoenician structures with an ancient and mysterious history.
-The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, believed to be a Neolithic burial chamber constructed about 5,000 years ago.
-The Caravaggio Paintings in the St John's Co-Cathedral have captured the imagination of travellers for many years, and the cathedral itself has an interesting history.
What to do in Malta
-Watch The Malta Experience, an audio-visual show in Valletta that provides a fantastic overview of 7,000 years of Maltese history.
-Head to one of Malta's glittering beaches, and enjoy the tranquil seaside atmosphere while sampling some local seafood.
-For snorkelling and diving enthusiasts, a trip to the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island is an absolute must.
-Take a walking tour of the Three Cities, an urban conglomerate located on promontories opposite Valletta, where the Baroque-style stone buildings glow a deep honey colour in the setting sun.
Getting to Malta
Cheap flights to Malta International are easy to find from a variety of British and American destinations. Direct flights to Malta are available from major British airports, with the flight taking about three hours. Passengers flying from the United States may have to book a connecting flight. Note that Malta is a Schengen member state, and so some passengers might require a visa to visit the country.
The Sword and the Scimitar by David Ball, The Jukebox Queen of Malta by Nicholas Rinaldi, and Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess.
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Gladiator (2000), Troy (2004), and Alexander (2004).
Fenkata, a feast of rabbit meat marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves.
Cisk, the national beer, and local varieties of wine such as Marsovin and Delicata.
What to buy
Maltese glass products (go for an 'art-glass' item), Maltese lace items (such as parasols) and filigreed silver jewellery.
What to pack
If travelling to Malta between April and October (and especially in July and August), prepare yourself for dry heat and lots of sun - pack sunscreen and after-sun lotion, as well as a hat and lightweight clothes. Bear in mind that many of Malta's best sights require some exploring, and so comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended.
What's on in Malta
The Malta Carnival (February) brings riotous celebrations to the capital of Valletta each spring. The Malta Fireworks Festival (April), held at the Grand Harbour in Valletta, is an exciting and popular visual feast that culminates in a 'History of Malta' laser show set to rousing music.
Did you know?
-Malta was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as 'Melita', which means the 'island of honey'.
-In the past, there used to be a bridge connecting Malta with the island of Sicily.
-The University of Malta is one of the oldest in the Mediterranean, having been founded in 1592.
A final word
A country with a rich history and interesting cultural sights, uniquely blessed with great beaches and outstanding natural scenery, Malta is a top-class Mediterranean vacation destination that is sure to appeal to visitors from all walks of life.