Last February, John surprised me (yet again!) with a week long break to beautiful Malta. Neither of us had ever been, but it was certainly on my list of places to go.
Malta is more than just an archipelago (a group of islands) in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea – between Sicily and the North African Coast. Famous for it’s golden sands and blue waves, but there’s so much more on offer, plenty of adventure, culture and history.
The most striking thing is the weather, it is almost always sunny, the temperature has historically never dropped below zero, and even in February the temperatures were a pleasant 20 degrees.
How to get there:
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Hire a car: This was the best decision we made on the trip, and it gave us so much freedom to do whatever we wanted. There are lots of public transport options in Malta, for example when we were staying in St Julians and wanted to get to Valetta it was easier to hop on the local bus, but to get further afield on limited time we found the car hire fantastic. We booked this through Hertz online – and I would recommend advance booking for the best prices. Booking direct online was also far cheaper than walking into the Hertz office in the hotel FYI! It cost us just 19eur a day including insurance.
Where we stayed
We stayed in St.Julians area, which is the perfect base in Malta for exploring. It’s a seaside town, known for beaches like Balluta Bay, a rocky stretch with a promenade and restaurants. Bars and nightclubs line the streets of Paceville, an area south of St. George’s Bay Beach.
We stayed in a super central boutique hotel – hotel Argento. It was a nice 4 star, very reasonably priced. It was the best location for getting around – plus it has the bonus of a nice rooftop pool.
We visited the Hilton St Julians which was fabulous, but a lot more expensive.
Places we visited
We traveled via bus from St Julians which took no more than 20 mins.
The city is surrounded by water on three sides, so anywhere you go you have an amazing view of the vintage city and the sea. The city is protected by a fortress, so the entrance is very unique, having a big piazza with a fountain and then the actual entrance to the city.
We found the most beautiful café in the square – Café Cordina – A very traditional and unique café shop, that was there since 1837. This is a MUST visit. We sat outside enjoying the sun and stayed for hours enjoying the desserts & wine.
Walk the length of Valletta , down to Fort St Elmo. After you’ve visited the Fort I suggest a boat ride to see and visit the Three Cities :
The Three Cities
The Three Cities offer an intriguing insight into Malta and its history. Left largely unvisited, these cities are a slice of authentic life as well as a glimpse into Malta’s maritime fortunes. a short stroll around is enough to get a glimpse into the past. I advise you take a private boat/gondola which costs as little as 2 eur per person! The boat can hold about 8 passengers, but if you’re lucky and there’s no other passengers waiting, you’ll have this boat to yourself for just 2 eur! The boatmen are also knowledgeable tour guides , so its only polite to leave a tip considering the boat fee is so low. The journey to the other side is around 15 minutes. In comparison the public ferry is 50 cents.
The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum
The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is the only prehistoric burial site which is accessible to the general public and it is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, as a site that “bears a unique testimony to a civilization which has disappeared”
Hypogeum is the most expensive site to enter at €30, but in my opinion it was well worth it.
You must book online in advance as this sells out months ahead – there are extremely limited visitor numbers – The Hypogeum is open for 10 visitors per hour for a maximum of 8 hours a day. This precaution is part of conserving the site and is complemented by an environmental control system which keeps temperature and humidity at required levels, thus ensuring that the site is preserved for future generations.
Can be booked online through official site here https://booking.heritagemalta.org/, however I had difficulty with the booking system and ended up having to phone them – however it was worth it to secure the tickets!
I purely went for the views by Popeye village and didn’t actually go into the village itself. There is a fee to enter and it is more aimed at children. However, you can park right by it and just walk up the hill a little to these incredible views. Set in the village of Mellieħa, built as a film set for the production of the 1980 live-action musical feature film Popeye, produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions starring Robin Williams.There are shows, rides and museums, as well as play houses where children can climb and explore the village. Children may also get to meet the main characters from the show.
A visit to the Blue Grotto is a must; however, the site can get extremely busy during summer. To enjoy the caves at their best, go early in the morning when the sun is lower in the sky and the sea is calmer. In case that the water’s too rough, or you don’t have enough time for a boat trip, there is a viewing platform on the road leading to site, where you can also enjoy this natural wonder.
Trips are around 20 minutes long
Boat prices for Blue Grotto Malta: Adults €8.00 whilst children €4.00
The only way to get tickets for the boat trip is from the Booking office.
It is situated adjacent to the boat yard close to the embarkation area.
Today Mdina is a major tourist attraction recognised internationally as an important UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mdina, also called the Silent City, is surrounded by fortified walls and sits on top of one of the highest hills of Malta. Built in Medieval times, much of its original architecture has been preserved and its narrow alleys tell tales of centuries of history. To me, this whole experience felt other-worldly, straight out of a fairytale. The entrance to Mdina was used in the filming of Game of Thrones!
It is actually possible to stay here within the walls, they even have a beautiful small 5 star hotel, but bear in mind it is a very quiet area and so I would recommend just doing a day trip in your hire car.
Roaming around the Mediterranean island of Gozo is a constant adventure. Despite the recent collapse of the azure window, there is still a plethora of treasures to be discovered. As a rule of thumb, unexpected beauty is always around the corner.
The main thing we wanted to see here were the infamous Gozo salt pans (you might remember this featured on The Apprentice 2018)
The production of sea salt has been a long tradition in Gozo and the saltpans found near Marsalforn are still used today. It’s interesting to walk along to the them (very early in the morning) to watch the salt being collected as it glistens under the rising sun.
There is a surreal world of limestone waves on the left and a giant web of glistening salt pans cut into the stone on the right. It’s a stunning view especially with the blue/ green ocean as a backdrop.
While the Gozo salt pans go back to the times when the Romans were on Malta, they are actually still active today. The family-owned and operated salt company Leli tal melh still harvests salt during the summer months.
The Leli tal-melh team is usually around to sell their salt during the day. You should definitely plan to pick up a bag or two.
All of the above is only a snippet of the things you can do in fabulous Malta, I hope it might give you some ideas!