The Maltese Islands – Underrated gems or best kept secret ?

 Marsascala Bay

  I have an affinity with the Maltese islands. The fact that I was born there may have something to do it, but, as I have lived most of my life in Australia, the distance between the 2 countries has made this affinity more special. I was constantly reading about it and wanted to know more. I returned there many times for short holidays, and my fondness grew with each subsequent visit.

 

Sliema Waterfront

Sliema Waterfront

 

I am now a permanent resident of the country, and, while I may seem biased towards it, it’s a bias that I am proud of and want to share with other travelers. For those of you who have not visited Malta or do not know much about it, I just wanted to present an overall view so as to maybe whet your appetite, and even dip your toes in its waters. If I sound a bit like a travel guide or tourism site then please overlook that and take in the vision.

 

Golden Bay

Golden Bay

  

The tiny, Mediterranean island nation of Malta is rich in culture, history and natural landscapes. It may only be a dot on the map of Europe (316 sq.km in area), but it is a popular, yet maybe underrated, tourist destination.

 

Republic street in capital city of Valletta

Rebublic Str Valletta

 

Straddled halfway between the south of Sicily and the north African coast, its strategic location is not only easy access from most parts of Europe, but has been at the centre of many a conflict throughout its turbulent past. The islands have been invaded and occupied over the centuries by the likes of the Romans, Byzantines, Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Turkish, French and British (and a few others in between!).

 

During the Second World War it was under siege from the Germans for almost 2 years, who wanted it as a stepping stone to Africa. Like many other battles in its history, the resilience of the people held out and the island was not taken. The entire population was awarded the George Cross for its bravery and stoicism.

 

Today the country enjoys a relaxed lifestyle with little, if any, political issues, and, whilst not a wealthy nation, it manages to fare better than most of the other European Union members. The crime rate is low and both locals and visitors find it is safe to walk around comfortably without being harassed or compromised. The Maltese have their own language called "Malti" which is of Semitic origin with influences of Italian and French. English is widely spoken and taught in schools as a main language and Italian is also known and spoken by many people.

 

Narrow street in capital of Valletta

St Dominic Str Valletta

 

The Maltese are friendly and helpful, and appreciate and respect visitors to their country. They are also a very religious people, with almost 98% of the population being Roman Catholic, and their lives tend to revolve around their local church and community. Each village has a church “festa” to celebrate the feast of their patron saint or guardian, and these are very popular with both locals and visitors.

 

Farming fields in the south 

 Qrendi farm fields

  The islands offer something for all levels of tourists and explorers. There are 3 main islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta is the largest and most populated, whilst Gozo is smaller, quieter and naturally greener. The “rock” of Comino sits between Malta and Gozo and is ideal for swimming and diving.

 

The lush, green hills of Gozo

green hills of Gozo

For the adventurous there are numerous walking trails that cover spectacular coastlines, country back roads and lanes, old villages that look like time has stood still, ancient stone temples and dwellings, underground grottos and caves, and species of fauna and flora that are unique to the islands.

 

Country lane in Qrendi

country lane in Qrendi

For the traveler who just wants a quiet break from it all there are numerous hotels ranging from 2 to 5 star standards, cafes and restaurants aplenty, serving both local and international cuisines, readily available bus tours and water cruises, several beaches both sandy and rocky and a nightlife that’s bursting with bars, clubs and discos.

 

If you are interested in history and culture there are magnificent stone walled fortifications, classic palazzos, intriguing war time locations, beautifully adorned churches and archaeological museums.

 

Karozzin through medieval city of Mdina

Karozzin through Mdina

 

Water sports enthusiasts are catered for with scuba diving and snorkeling, boating of all types including sailing and speed boats, jet skiing and paragliding.

 

Boats at Wied Il-Zurrieq (Zurrieq Valley)

Wied Il-Zurrieq

  

Four wheel drive excursions are also another fun and adventurous way to see the islands. For the photography buffs there are numerous picture opportunities that will test your creative talents and hone your skills. The colors and textures of the landscape are also a draw card for sketchers and painters.

 

 The Maltese islands need to be experienced to be appreciated. They pack a lot into such a small area and are suited to both those who may only have limited time to spend and for anyone looking for an extended, reviving break.  See you there soon!

 

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay

 

Further information of interest:

http://maltatimeline.webs.com/

http://www.malteseislands.com/festas.asp

http://www.aboutmalta.com/HISTORY/ 

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The journey starts with you. Just open that door and start walking!

 

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Comments (5)

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It does not seem fair that one place should have so much going on.  Worse, it is less fair that I am not there !  Thanks for the great pics and a bit of history.   What are the good months to visit for water sports like paragliding ?   Is it winder or the surf stronger some months than others ?

Thanks for your comments TatToo. Summer is the best time for water sports,from May to October. Most operators usually shut down over winter. There isn't much surf to speak of unless there is an exceptionally stormy day, but the northern parts of the island are more suited for windsurfing and paragliding as the winds from the northern Mediterranean tend to have more strength in them

The journey starts with you. Just open that door and start walking!

 

That's a great piece about a great destination most of us have not heard a lot about.  

 

Would you know if there are direct flights between Malta and Sicily, Islandman?   How would you recommend connecting these two.  I think a great way to spend two or three weeks would be to combine stops at Sicily and Malta.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Hello DrF,

 

there are direct flights from Sicily to Malta and also a daily ferry. Yes, many visitors take in Sicily when coming to Malta, or they combine it with other European destinations. There also regular cruises around the Mediterranean which stop in the Grand Harbour for a day.

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