The Beautiful Maltese Islands – A Travel Guide
For any of you who have not yet heard of Malta, I don’t blame you! It is a tiny island, situated right in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, just below Italy. Even more precisely, Malta lies right beneath Sicily. There are three main Maltese Islands; Malta, Gozo and Comino, all of which have a very distinct character. Thus, you should go round all three islands. When people think of Malta, they think of beautiful beaches and cocktails in the sun. Even though this is true, Malta has a lot more to offer! It is full of history and wonderful villages to explore!
Here are a few places around the islands which are not to be missed when visiting!
Popular Places to Visit in Malta
Built by the Knights of St John on a peninsula, Valletta is considered to be the modern capital city of Malta. Since Valletta is surrounded by sea from 3 sides, you can see a beautiful panorama of the Grand Harbour, amongst having a view of several other bastions, forts and cities which surround it. Unlike many other capital cities in Europe, Valletta is not the main city where people live. In fact, not many people reside here, but rather, a lot of businesses and companies are set up in Valletta. Therefore, with a lot of people heading to work, a lot of tourists roaming around the city and even just locals doing their shopping in Valletta, the city tends to get super busy and crowded during the day.
Valletta is well known for its beautiful gardens such as Hastings Gardens and also Lower and Upper Barakka Gardens. The attraction of the Saluting Battery, where guns are fired at noon every day at the Upper Barakka Gardens, tends to lure in a lot of tourists, especially on a beautiful day! This Saluting Battery brings history to life daily! Whilst roaming around Valletta, you can also see beautiful churches, cathedrals and palaces, most of which are still being used.
Something which is surely worth visiting in Valletta, is St John’s co-Cathedral & Museum which is home to some of Mattea Preti and Caravaggio’s magnificent masterpieces. However, there are also various auberges, piazzas and other museums which you can add to you to-do list when in Valletta. As you can see, there are way too many things to see and explore in Valletta, so scheduling a full day here would be necessary!
The best thing about Valletta is that everything is within walkable distance! This is perfect as whilst walking from one attraction to the next, you can see a lot of other destinations, which may not have been listed on your itinerary. I would highly recommend taking a walking tour of Valletta as it is a great way to see the city.
Whilst strolling around the city, you can also experience the picturesque streets which were built in the form of a grid and most of which are very narrow. This gives Valletta its unique characteristic.
Mdina used to be the capital city of Malta until the Knights of Malta arrived and made Valletta the capital city. Mdina is also known as ‘The Silent City.’ Visitors, businesses and cars are expected to adhere to noise restrictions at all times. Mdina is also known as CittàNotabile which means the noble city. This is because in historical, it used to be home to many of the rich and noble families. Some noble families which are descendants from those times still live in these marvellous palaces in Mdina. The facades of these buildings have also become a tourist attraction. During the times when the Ottoman Empire wanted to take over the islands, this small city, with its high bastions, also acted as a shelter to the many Maltese people fighting for their country.
Mdina is characterised by cobbled streets and narrow alleys which makes it feel like you’re walking through a maze. Moreover, Mdina’s fortified walls give the city a very Mediaval feel. These characteristics seem to attract many visitors from all over the world. From the bastions of Mdina, you can see the beautiful scenery of the neighbouring towns and villages. You can also spot the Mosta Dome from here, which is also known as the ‘Rotunda’ and is the 3rd largest dome in Europe!
I would recommend spending at least half a day in Mdina and while you are there make sure you visit the nearby Mosta Dome in the Church of St. Mary and the Ta’Qali Crafts Village. A guided tour of the area is a must
Just a small tip, don’t leave Mdina before trying out the amazing carrot cake from Fontanella!
Located on the island of Gozo, Ggantija Temples are filled with Maltese history! These two temples were built between 3600 and 3200 B.C and make up the remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site. Ggantija is derived from the word ‘Ggant,’ which means giant in Maltese. Gozitans used to believe that these temples were built by giants, due to the large limestone blocks from which it was constructed. These blocks are very visible and are one of the main features of these temples.
Ggantija temples are considered to be some of the oldest free standing monuments in the world, even older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Notwithstanding their age, they are well preserved due to the hard-wearing Coralline Limestone. Within these temples you can find remains of animal bones which suggest that some sort of rituals involving animal sacrifice took place here. You can also have a look in the museum located right in front of the entrance, which contains a lot of information about neolithic people and times. Some statuettes, amongst other prehistoric objects which were found in Ggantija, are now preserved in the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.
I spent one day in Gozo and wished I stayed longer. If you are based on the main Island of Malta then a organised day trip is the best option.
If you have ever looked up Malta online, you have probably seen photos of Blue Lagoon! This bay’s crystal clear blue waters, make it the perfect place to enjoy the Maltese sun! In order to get here, You need to rent a boat as this bay is located in Comino, one of the smaller islands situated in between Malta and Gozo. It takes around 20 minutes by boat to get there and it would be best to visit during the Summer months, when the days are a lot warmer and the sea is smoother!
You can catch a ferry from Cirkewwa, which then drops you off at Blue Lagoon. The last boats of the day usually leave between 5 PM to 7PM from Comino and take you back to the place of departure. Another option is to go on a day trip by boat, which means spending a day on the boat at Blue Lagoon. On most of these boats, food and drinks are included. These boats might also include a small tour of other bays around Comino. Most of the day tours depart from Sliema or Bugibba.
Be aware though, that since Blue Lagoon is such a popular bay, it is usually super crowded, especially during the weekend. It might be best to head to Blue Lagoon early in the morning. Nevertheless, you should not miss out on visiting this little piece of paradise, where you can spend the day relaxing, swimming, snorkelling and also scuba diving, since the sea is super clear!
Maltese people tend to enjoy a more Mediterranean based diet, but as most other countries, they have typical local food busting with flavour! Stay tuned as another article just about Maltese food will be posted very soon!
How to get around the island
I must admit, the transport system in Malta is not the best in the world. The buses are not super reliable and no trains or trams are available. However, the situation seems to be getting better over time! If you are staying in Malta for a while, I would recommend renting a car or even just renting a place in a central area such as St. Julians, Sliema or Valletta as buses are more frequent in these areas. Taxis have also become a bit cheaper over time and they are really easy to get. The good thing about Malta is that it is quite small, so by car you can get from the South to the North in around an hour and a half. In order to get from Malta to Gozo, you would need to catch the ferry from Cirkewwa and it only takes around 20 minutes to get there.
I hope this guide will make you more interested in visiting the beautiful Maltese islands! Obviously there are a lot more places to see and things to do, but these are just some of the areas which you should definitely see and explore when visiting!
Useful links to plan your trip to Malta
For flights – Click here
To book buses in Malta go to GoEuro
To book tours in Malta go to viator.com
Read our article on the 10 best beaches in Malta.
Read our article on Traditional Maltese Food.
Valletta: 3-Hour Walking Tour – Click here
Half-Day Tour of Mosta, Ta’Qali Crafts Village & Mdina – Click here
Gozo Day Trip from Malta Including Ggantija Temples – Click here
Gozo, Comino, Blue Lagoon, & Sea Caves: Full-Day Sightseeing – Click here
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