We were supposed to visit Malta in May 2020…well you know why we didn’t. So it was exciting to be able to add Malta back into our travel itinerary. In 2020 our plans were to spend 10 days on the island of Malta and an additional six on the island of Gozo. Our rescheduled trip however needed to be shorter, so we spent our time on the main island of Malta with a quick day trip to Gozo. I fell hard for this beautiful and ancient place. Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite.
Two Years Later
This itinerary was pretty tight, as we attempted to resurrect our original trip we were on when the Pandamit made its nasty entrance. At that time, you might remember, we fled Israel to Cyprus but were locked down in Cyprus for two months. Eventually abandoning the remaining itinerary, which included Malta, and making our way back to the USA to wait it out. Wait it out we did, with the rest of the world, and two years later we are out here again…Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite.
Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite
From the moment we arrived in Valletta, the fortress city on a peninsula, I knew this was my kind of place. So much history as well as pre-historic history, yet alive and so incredibly beautiful. The most surprising thing we found was it is CHEAP. By far the cheapest country we have visited in the European Union. Gotta love that!
Malta is also friendly, clean, delicious and just about everyone speaks English. English is an official language, but the local Maltese language prevails. It is an interesting mix of Arabic and Italian.
Where We Stayed
We stuck pretty close to Valletta, opting for an Airbnb in the historic area rather than a resort in the more cosmopolitan areas of St. Julian or Sliema. In hindsight I think with more time I would have also enjoyed a night or two inside the walled village of Mdina, and a longer more leisurely visit to Gozo Island.
There is no shortage of accommodations all over the island, which is only 17 miles long and 9 miles wide. Depending on what is important to you (history, nightlife, beaches) you will find something to match your desires.
Malta can trace it’s history back to 5200BC. I mean wow. That is crazy right? I love this kinda stuff so much and it is one of the astonishing things about Malta that caused me to fall in love with it. In recent years some incredible pre-historic ruins have been found, known as the Hypogeum. The Smithsonian Foundation claims this site to be the most significant pre-history site in the world. (Tip – only 80 people a day are allowed to visit the Hypogeum. Plan ahead for this. Unfortunately we did not get to see it.)
From the arrival of man Malta became a place everyone wanted to get their hands on, due to it’s central location in the Mediterranean. Over the centuries the island was controlled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and the Byzantines. Then came the Arabs, followed by the Normans and then the Knights of St. John before the Ottomans arrived. Napoleon gave it a try, but the British secured the island for 170 years. In 1974 Malta became independent.
This vast and diverse history is evident in the architecture, language, people and food. Absolutely fascinating to a history geek like me.
Recommended Things To Do
First of all Malta is surprisingly affordable compared to most of Europe. We were astonished at how cheaply we could eat, drink, shop and be entertained. Malta uses the Euro and credit cards are accepted everywhere. A dinner with wine or beer for two could be had for around 45 Euros.
Some of our favorite things we did were;
As you likely know I love to take a food tour whenever I visit a new destination. I usually try to do it early in my itinerary because it is always both a history lesson and yummy. We booked our tour through Viator with Best Tours Malta and our guide Chris was not only knowledgeable about food but we learned a great deal about the history of Valletta.
I recommend three places in Valletta that provide a wonderful opportunity to learn about the astonishing history of both Valletta and Malta. Be sure to visit St. John’s Cathedral, The National War Museum (Fort Saint Elmo) and the The National Museum of Archeology.
We rented a car for two days to get out of Valletta and see some sites. Seeing some significant archeology sites made us thankful we made the effort. Hagar Qim is a significant pre-historic site on the island of Malta dating to 3200 BC. It is one of several UNESCO sites in the country and it is fascinating. A very well done interpretive self-guided tour is included with your admission. At the Hagar Qim site you will also see another pre-historic temple site called Mnajdra. Both sites worth your time.
There are multiple other ruins on the island of Malta and on Gozo as well. I wish we had the time to see more. We briefly visited Dingli Cliffs, not known for ruins although there are some, but known more for the spectacular views of the cliffs and the beautiful sea.
Because we were short on time, we only did a day trip to Gozo. Our original itinerary had us spending six days there with a car. I sure wish we could have done that, because a day trip did not do it justice. Partly because we were with way too many people and it just was not enough time. IF YOU ONLY HAVE A DAY, here is what I recommend. Take an ECab (Malta’s version of Uber and highly recommended over a regular taxi) to the ferry, walk on the ferry, and prearrange a PRIVATE GUIDE to meet you on the other side. This way you can gear your day to the things that are important to you; architecture, pre-history, churches and cathedrals, agriculture, salt pans and more. I’m still glad we went but if I did it again I would definitely spend the money for a private tour.
Blue Grotto and Sea Caves
On Malta’s south coast you will find the most beautiful blue water. The Blue Grotto viewpoint is definitely worth a stop (it’s on the way to Hager Qim) and with more time you can also take a boat to the Blue Grotto and the Sea Caves. We did not go in the boat but it looked really fun. It is a beautiful spot.
St. Peter’s Pool
St. Peter’s Pool is a popular swimming and sunning site of St. Peter’s Pool. Although we were the oldest people there (easily by 30 years), we had a blast!! Stunning location. Parking is tight, but there is overflow parking for busy days. On the day we visited it wasn’t terribly crowded but I understand it can get very crowded. Try to go on a weekday. So much fun and worth the effort to get there.
After our swim we continued on to the beautiful fishing village of Marsaxlok. We had a delicious lunch on the seaside.
Mdina & Rabat
With our rental car we went to the inland walled city of Mdina, which is surrounded by the newer city of Rabat. We were really glad we arrived an hour before our 11am guided walking tour because the village was abandoned and so quiet. And boom, at 11am all the tour buses from the cruise ships arrived. Wow, suddenly it was like Disneyland! We learned a lot from our walking tour and our guide was exceptionally knowledgeable in the history of the two cities. I am so glad we did this and recommend it definitely if you visit Malta. In hindsight it would have been fun to spend a night or two inside the ancient town.
On a whim we looked up what our options were to attend a live performance in Valletta. This is something we have come to enjoy in places we visit around the world. The only thing on during our short visit was a dance performance at the remarkable and historic Teatru Manoel right in old town Valletta. The performance, an interpretive dance about the life of Frida Kahlo, was incredible, but the historic theater was astonishing. We would not of visited the theater if we hadn’t decided to go to the performance so I am so glad we did.
Marvelous Malta – A New Favorite
Sometimes I am flabbergasted at the wealth of history and beauty we discover in our travels. It never ceases to amaze me and Malta was all that and more. I am so very glad we finally made it to this fascinating island nation. I hope you can visit too. Marvelous Malta – a New Favorite.
Watch for an upcoming post about our experience in Israel and Cyprus. See last week’s blog post Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.
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