Positioned north of Libya, east of Tunisia and south of Sicily, the nation of Malta comprises seven Mediterranean island destinations. Nicknamed ‘the Mediterranean’s open-air museum’, Malta is home to an astonishing selection of ancient constructions, some even older than Egypt’s Pyramids while other structures date back to the time when the nation’s major island was called home by the Knights of St John.
Malta ranks among the world’s oldest places and it is crammed full of ancient landmarks ranging from Baroque castles and palaces to prehistoric megalithic temples. Malta offers a haven for archaeology and history buffs, who definitely will be impressed by its ancient sites, such as Hagar Qim and the Tarxien Temples, which are considered to be our planet’s oldest human settlements.
The fantastic fortified coastal city of Valletta is the capital of Malta. Valletta was constructed in the 16th century by the Knights of St John. Though Malta’s capital is historic, modern Valletta has successfully integrated a first-class tourist infrastructure together with outstanding healthcare services. Located northwest of Malta Island is Gozo, renowned for its Neolithic archaeological attractions at Xaghra and the medieval Citadel at Victoria. A world-class water sports playground is provided by charming Comina, situated between Gozo and Malta.
The best places you should visit
An architecturally rich island with many cathedrals, palaces and forts dating back to the 16th century, Malta is an impressive presence and the largest of the three islands in the Maltese archipelago. Take in some culture, sun and relaxation on this idyllic island and have an outstanding vacation. Here are the top 5 must-do activities when visiting Malta:
St. John’s Co-Cathedral
The simple outside of this cathedral does not prepare the visitor for this amazing experience. The ornate cathedral is a stunning feast for your senses including paintings, carvings and tombstones. Constructed between 1573 and 1577, the cathedral contains two Caravaggio masterpieces along with its huge collection of other artwork. Pay for the audio tour to get the most out of your visit and stop by the museum that is also included in the price of admission for a look at some Flemish tapestries, sacred vestments and other art pieces.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
Neolithic temple builders created this temple somewhere between 3800 BC and 2500 BC. Explore the intricate bas reliefs, underground tombs and overall amazing stonework that are so incredibly preserved here. Your admission includes an audio tour. Be sure to book your tour in advance, as this is one of the most popular attractions on the island and is regularly sold out weeks in advance. Also be sure to wear good walking shoes, as the interior can be very slick and if you are up for it, hike over to the Tarxien ruins afterward to see more Neolithic temple ruins.
Casa Rocca Piccola
The ancestral home of the 9th Marquis de Piro and family, this 16th-century palace contains the riches and furnishings of the family. Still inhabited by the de Piro family today, this is an exquisite look into the old nobility that is so intertwined with the island of Malta. Visit the garden, summer and winter dining rooms, WWII bomb shelters, and centuries worth of artifacts. Your entrance fee includes a guided tour that features lots of great information about the history of the house and its decorations.
Popeye Village Fun Park
For those traveling with children or just the young at heart, this is a must-see attraction. Meet famous cartoon characters, take a boat ride, and explore the small fun park with rides for kids. Located on the film set of the 1980 musical production of “Popeye,” this quirky park has some great features that make it a nice break from the other sites of the island. Try to go in summer when more rides and features are open.
Because the island of Malta is relatively small, you are never far from the beach. Check out Ghadira Bay, Golden Bay, Gnejna Bay and Paradise Bay for some of the best beaches on the island. Varying between remote and party beaches, there is something for everyone on the picturesque sandy beaches of Malta.
Hotels in Malta
The best hotel establishments are concentrated in Malta’s bigger resort areas and cities. The St Julian’s and St George’s Bay districts are home to the most luxurious hotels, while the Bugibba resort represents some superb lodgings as well. Gozo boasts some first-class hotels at San Lawrenz, Mgarr and Sannat. Apart from hotel facilities, there are also numerous other lodging options available.
Tunis, Cairo and Mainland Europe offer the sole direct air links to Malta International Airport (MLA). Year-round ferry services depart from Genoa, Catania and Sicily. Ground transportation on Malta is provided by taxis, buses, taxis and private hire cars. The public bus network on Gozo and Malta operates convenient and reliable transport services, although hiring a car may be an ideal option as well. A frequent ferry service connects Malta and Gozo, with crossings taking around 20 minutes.