Just south of Sicily, one finds a little rock that is an island nation. It’s pretty strange that Malta and Gozo (both of which are part of the same archipelago) are not part of the Italian peninsula but once you discover the islands you will understand much more of what Malta is truly about.
How to get around
Once you arrive at the Malta International Airport, there’s a few options you can go for. The Maltese Islands are small in size (316km²) and finding your way around is pretty easy.
The public bus: The public bus is not the most convenient but a very economical way to travel. You can purchase a tal linja travel card for €21 per person. The 7 day travel card entitles you to unlimited travel, any time of the day.
Renting a Car: Car hire in Malta start from around €25 daily depending on the season. In Gozo car rental is cheaper. I hired a car for 2 days from Xlendi Car Hire while in Gozo. The cost was €45 including fully comprehensive insurance.
White Taxi Service: You can book an instant white taxi from the airport. The price is fixed so you don’t have to worry about traffic especially during peak hours when roads get very busy. You can find the fare here
Regular Taxi: A regular taxi is normally cheaper than a White Taxi. The cost can vary from one company to the other. I booked a few rides online with Greenr Cabs, an electric cab company. They were always on time and they have free Wi-Fi as well inside.
Dive into Malta’s culture
Although very small, discovering all the quaint and charming neighbourhoods will take time. In fact, you will soon notice that everywhere you turn around, you will find a picture-perfect setting. You can visit the archaeological sites that are sprawled all over the island and wonder at who were the builders of such megalithic temples. Prepare to be awed as some of these temples are considered as the oldest free-standing buildings in the world and are also part of the UNESCO heritage.
If you prefer more modern and urban quarters you must definitely look at the old and new cities of Malta. Originally Malta’s noble city was Mdina but today this fortified city is home to very few residents. No traffic goes through its narrow winding streets but within you will see fabulous Baroque architecture side-by-side with medieval and Norman style. You might fall in love with Mdina but a visit to Valletta is a must. Valletta, named after the famed Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette who won the Great Siege of 1565, is today the capital city of Malta. It has been labelled as a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen. These European gentlemen, known as the Knights of St John have left their mark all over the islands but Valletta is one big monument of palaces, churches, cathedrals, stately buildings and gardens.
If you’re after an active holiday, Malta is a hub for different kinds of sports but it excels in marine sports. Being an island, Malta has lots of rocky coves and sandy beaches that appeal to different kinds of people. If you’re on the island with young children, consider spending a day at the beach but if you have the opportunity to be more adventurous you can try out a variety of water sports like jet-skiing, kayaking and windsurfing. Yachting and sailing are also part of the scene. Children will definitely love Popeye’s village, the real village where the original Popeye movie was taken.
If you visit the island of Gozo, hiring a Jeep is a must. There are a lot of hidden jems that are hard to reach by car due to the road conditions. A one day rental can cost your between €35 and €55 including fully comprehensive insurance.
Deep blue sea diving experience
If you‘re interested in the underwater world, then do not miss out on diving. Indeed it feels like the underwater world is in leagues with what Malta has to offer on land. With numerous diving spots and thriving marine life, Malta and Gozo have been acclaimed as one of the top world diving sites over and over again. One of the most touted spots is the Azure Window, a place worthy of a visit not only for diving’s sake!
Where to hand out
Malta’s nightlife is equally vibrant – the most intense being the Paceville scene, a sea-side zone which is dotted with clubs and disco bars, that are a major attraction for the youngsters and revellers. But Malta is also home to other clubs too. One such nightspot is the La Grotta discotheque, a club that is world-famous. The club which is perched on the side of a valley that ultimately leads to Xlendi bay in Gozo is the perfect place for open-air summer partying. If you prefer a night that is less noisy and more refined, you can try other entertainment spots like wine bars and casinos such as the Westin Dragonara Casino located in St. Julians.
Eat like the locals do
And finally, don’t miss out on Malta’s food. It’s an eclectic mix of traditional Mediterranean but over the years it has acquired influences from the various nations too. For example, you will find that most restaurants will have pizza on their menu, a clear reflection of the Italian connection but likewise you will notice overtones of the continental inspiration. You must taste the traditional street food which in Malta takes the form of ‘pastizzi’, a form of savoury where flaky pastry envelopes a ricotta or mashed-pea filling and ‘imqaret’, a sweet type of deep-fried pastry filled with dates.
If you’re in Gozo, find some time to visit the traditional farming estates where you can relish the famous peppered cheeslets, the authentic Gozitan honey and a variety of local produce such as olives, capers, pickled onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Don’t forget the wine, because Malta and Gozo have both their own distinct DOK! You will also notice a variety of restaurants offering different types of cuisines in most places.
Fine dining experience
The best dining experiences are those where you enjoy the view as much as you love the food. You can check restaurants such as Rampila, tucked away between the bastions of Valletta for a unique location or drive down to Marsaxlokk, the fishermen’s village for a sea-food feast. In Gozo, do not overlook Ta’ Carolina in Xlendi and Kantra Lido at Ta’ Ċenċ, both of which offer a great dining experience.
Elena is an avid traveller and loves to write about her travel experiences. She is a regular writer on xlendi, a travel and tourism website. When she is not travelling or writing, Elena enjoys swimming and going for long walks in the countryside.