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.
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.
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
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.
Narrow street in capital of 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.
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
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
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
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)
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!
Further information of interest: