Ah, Malta. Golden beaches. Azure seas. Spectacular coves. UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s no wonder millions flock to the jewel of the Mediterranean every year. The island – and neighbouring Gozo – might be relatively tiny, but they pack a heck of a lot in, so you’re going to want to hit the ground running when you touch down in marvellous Malta. Here’s the lowdown on what’s hot in Malta in 2017.
Chances are, you came to Malta for some time on the sand. And you’re in luck because that’s exactly what you’ll get when you head to this island country.
For one of the island’s most irresistible stretches, head to Mellieha Bay. The waters here are warm, calm and incredibly shallow right out to sea, making it perfect for the kids to splash around in. Break up your time on the beach by completing the climb up into the stunning old town, passing a subterranean chapel as you go. There’s also St Agatha’s Tower looming over the beach, and if you can manage the climb, this beautiful bright red castle is well worth a visit.
Just north of here is Paradise Bay. Extremely secluded and remote, it’s not always easy to reach, but for those who manage it, a delightful reward awaits. The beach here is tiny, but there should be just about enough room for you to lay down your towel. So why head there you ask? The water. The sea here is crystal clear – unlike anything most people have ever seen – and teeming with tropical fish.
There’s no place on Earth quite like the fortress city of Valetta. Its narrow canyon-like streets are sheltered by ornate balconies which hang above. You’ll journey through tiny alleyways and gritty backstreets that suddenly open out into grand plazas, spectacular churches and fortress walls. It goes without saying that it’s an Instagrammer’s dream. Be sure to set aside several hours to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Grand and old though it may be, Valetta isn’t Malta’s only slice of architectural history. Scattered right across the island are many Megalithic Temples. These are thought to have been constructed between 3600BC and 700BC – meaning some rank among the oldest structures on Earth. Visiting any of the 14 is a humbling experience, but the six which are World Heritage Sites are particularly special. Ħaġar Qim is over 5000 years old and is mostly intact.
One of the most exciting parts of any trip is getting to sample the local food. Thanks to the country’s Sicilian, French, British and North African influences, Malta’s cuisine is rich and diverse: from Timpana, an eclectic mixture of macaroni, minced meat and tomato sauce in pastry – served with egg and cheese – to Fenkata, a hearty rabbit stew.
One of the best places on the island to try homecooked Maltese cuisine is United Bar in Mgarr. Other superb culinary offerings include Grotto Tavern in Rabat and Commando in Mellieha. The former is set among beautiful, cave-like walls and specialises in delectable seafood and Mediterranean dishes, while the latter is found in an elegant old stone building and serves fine quality cuisine. For a truly out-of-this-world experience, book yourself a spot at Dinner in the Sky in Valetta. Once you’ve taken your seat and are buckled in, your table will be lifted high into the sky by a crane, offering great food and great views in unison.
The day trips
Malta is packed with so many amazing days out that it would be a real shame not to oblige. Obviously, you won’t be able to do them all, so there are a couple of standouts we’d recommend. First up is the Blue Lagoon. Located off the small island of Comino, this stunning natural wonder can be reached by boat trip from any of the island’s main ports. Don’t expect much beach, and do expect crowds, but once you see the glowing blue water it won’t matter at all. No trip to Malta is complete without a visit here.
Once you’ve ticked that off your list, consider a day trip around the island of Gozo. Malta’s smaller sister can easily be reached by ferry from the port of Cirkewwa, and services run regularly. Once on the island, you should be able to hop on a jeep tour. This will give you a pit stop glance of everything this island has to offer, from stunning castles to secluded coves, ancient sites to sandy bays.