Malta packs glorious variety into its small archipelago. You’ll find prehistoric temples, fossil-studded cliffs, hidden coves, thrilling scuba diving and a history of remarkable intensity.
The Deep Blue Sea
Malta’s landscape contrasts rocky stretches of coast that end in dizzying limestone cliffs with sheltered bays that hide gin-clear water and red-gold beaches. The islands’ many marinas jostle with boats, and you can take to the water in sky-blue traditional craft, stately yachts or speedboats. Snorkellers and divers have much to explore underwater as well, a world of caves, crags and wrecks. Above the water, walking tracks negotiate view-filled pathways linking isolated coves and surprising historical structures. Even for the short-term visitor to Malta, a simple ferry journey across Grand Harbour in Valletta is a magical experience.
A Mediterrean Cocktail
Malta is staunchly Roman Catholic but is also home to a beguiling mix of cultures that has stewed together over generations. Traditional Maltese food mixes Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavours, while making use of local ingredients such as rabbit and honey. The Maltese people are warm and welcoming: if you ask for directions, it’s likely a local will walk with you to help you find the way. Plenty of 21st-century sophistication can be found, but there are also pockets where you feel you’ve gone back in time, especially on Gozo, where mammoth churches tower over quiet villages.
Historic & Contemporary
Malta’s geographical location in the centre of the Mediterranean made it an alluring and much-fought-over prize, and the islands are full of majestic above- and below-ground defences. The capital, Valletta, built by the Knights of St John, is a harmonious grid, Mdina and Victoria are fortress-like hilltop towns, and watchtowers dot the coast. Even Malta’s fishing boats resonate with the past, their prows painted with eyes, just like the boats of their Phoenician predecessors. Following Valletta’s stint as a European Capital of Culture in 2018, the country’s capital is also a re-energised centre of contemporary design and architecture.
Malta and Gozo’s astounding prehistoric sites were constructed by sophisticated-seeming temple builders, who also left miniature figurines and mammoth sculptures of ‘fat ladies’, which have survived millennia and are housed in Malta’s fascinating museums. Out in the open, gigantic temples and towers from many different eras stand proud, continuing their endless watch over the sea. The most extraordinary site of all lies underground: Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a 5000-year-old necropolis carved from the living rock. Elsewhere throughout the islands, smaller prehistoric sites are more subtle in their impact across the centuries, but still provide profound insight into the civilisation’s legacy.