// M A L T A
A perfect place for a little sunshine top up and ocean dip!
the hidden treasures in
A few of my friends had told me about Malta before I decided to venture there myself. According to these friendly words, it had great food, wonderful beaches and 275 days of sunshine throughout the year. The last fact made my two-year-England-dwelling-lack-of-tan complexion jump with excitement at the prospect of remedying my paleness with a well needed sun ray prescription. I’m certain that any longer without sun would have been seen me become an almost transparent being.
Whilst our first day turned out to be one of the 90 rainy days that Malta is not commonly known for, the next four days were filled with heaps of adventures, ocean dips and plenty of sunset spotting opportunities. I’ll share some of the places that we went to during our time in Malta and places we didn’t quite make it to (but wish we had) down below.
Valletta is the capital of Malta and quite possibly the most beautiful city in all of Europe. Unlike other capital cities in Europe though, Valletta is tiny! In fact, Valletta measures a total of 600m by 1000m, making it one of the smallest capitals in the world. I’m also putting it on the list for one of the hilliest capital cities too. Our calves were surely plotting some revenge against us after a day exploring through this hilly UNESCO-listed city.
Must dos include the upper and lower Barrakka gardens which offer views across the harbour and Three Cities (Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea (Isla) and Bormla (Cospicua)), the Manoel Theatre and St John’s Co-Cathedral. You’ll find yourself lost in the maze-like streets, provided with tonnes of photo opportunities and a bunch of local delicacies!
The town of Sliema is a little less hustle and bustle than Valletta but remains a tourist hot spot for finding cool bars, restaurants and shops. You can catch the ferry from Valletta to Sliema for a bargain deal of 1.5 EUR and the trip takes a whole five minutes! There are plenty of good hotels in Sliema and it’s a good place to centre yourself for adventuring around Malta. The three most central areas are St. Anne's Square, the Black Gold Saloon area, The Fortizza Area, the Exiles area, Balluta Bay and Spinola Bay. Choosing to stay within walking distance of these means you’ll be very nicely located.
St. Peter's Pool
Thirty minutes-drive from Sleima, in the area of Marsaxlokk, is a place called St. Peter's pool. It attracts swimmers and snorkelers in what is best described as one big ‘natural swimming pool’. You can choose to frolic in the water, jump in from the rocks surrounding it, or choose to laze on the ledges for as long as your heart desires. Just know that you won’t be the only one there … as you can see in this photo below. I’ve made a little post on how to get St. Peter's pool using public transport here if you’re interested.
Mdina, located on a large hill in the centre of West Malta, was the old capital of Malta. During medieval times, Mdina was known as the Noble City, housing, surprisingly, many noble families. Today, Mdina is referred to as the ‘Silent City’ as no cars (except those of a limited number of residents) have permission to enter Mdina and the town. This car restriction means exploring needs to be done on foot. We spent our time wandering through the narrow alleyways and admiring the pretty unique architecture. You can also visit the Natural History Museum, the Palazzo Falzon, the Palazzo Santa Sophia, St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Mdina Dungeons if you’ve got some spare time up your traveller’s sleeve.
Palazzo Santa Sophia: The basement of this house is assumed to be the oldest in siculo-norman style and dates back to 1233. The first floor, however, was added not earlier than 1938. All buildings that were erected between 1100 and 1530 are generally classified as "siculo-norman".
Located just near Mdina is a place called Rabat. Its name was derived from the Semitic word ‘suburb’ as once Rabat was the suburb of Mdina. The village of Rabat houses a number of churches, sanctuaries and chapels. The Parish church is dedicated to St. Paul. The feast of St. Paul is celebrated each year around the first week of July.
Rabat played an important role in the country’s past and is a prime source of its cultural heritage. In fact, the Catacombs of St. Paul are the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta. Together with the Catacombs of St. Agatha, these were used in the Roman period to lay the lifeless body to rest as Romans believed that it is not hygienic to bury the dead in the city. Early Christians used to meet and celebrate mass in these Catacombs.
The centre of Rabat hosts the Parish Church of St. Paul and St. Paul’s Grotto. According to the tradition, Apostle St. Paul have used one of these caves for his apostolic work. Therefore, this cave is considered as the foundation site of the Catholic Church in Malta. Pilgrims, including Pope John Paul II, showed their respect for this grotto which is considered as a sacred place.
At 253 metres above sea-level, the Dingli cliffs are the highest point in the Maltese islands. The cliffs extend all the way from Bahrija to the Munqar area (where you’ll find another natural wonder, the Blue Grotto) and boast pretty spectacular views of Filfa and the Mediterranean Sea. We saw the cliffs during the first few days we were in Malta and we were blown away (almost literally) by the views (but mostly the winds). We returned on our last day and were in awe of the calm blue sea and dramatic waves beating against the cliffs.
I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that Popeye Village made it onto my list after I saw it on insta. Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village, is a purpose-built film set village that has been converted into a small attraction fun park, consisting of a collection of rustic and ramshackle wooden buildings. It is located at Anchor Bay, 3 km from the village core of Mellieħa, Malta. It was 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. We didn’t get the chance to go to the park, but you can find information about opening times and prices here.
On our last day we had one last thing we had to do – the Blue Grotto. A collection of naturally formed caves and a 30-foot arch make up the Blue Grotto. The waters in the grotto are an amazing mix of cyan and emerald greens and as clear as clear can be! If you want to take a boat tour, just head to the main hub and buy your ticket before getting on the boat. Boat tours usually last for around 30 minutes and are guaranteed to leave you devising how you can fake your death and stay in Malta forever.
Gozo is Malta’s laid back and sleepy sister that offers the perfect opportunity to take a few deep breaths and relax. It also offers some of Mediterranean's best dive sites. Steeped in myth, Gozo is thought to be the legendary Calypso's isle of Homer's Odyssey – a peaceful, mystical backwater. Baroque churches and old stone farmhouses dot the countryside and its beautiful rugged coastline provides plenty of opportunities for exploring. We did just that over the few days we stayed in Gozo. I’ve written about what we did here, so feel free to have a read if you’re thinking of heading there and looking for things to do to fill your time.
Comino is a small island in between Malta and Gozo. It’s actually only 2.5 km by 1.5 km! Comino was reportedly the hideout for pirates and smugglers and also, due to its remoteness, it was even used as a place of isolation for cholera and plague victims in the early 19th century. But it’s history could not be as far away from the truth these days. It’s a hotspot for ocean lovers and those wanting a day trip from the mainland Malta. One of the main spots that people visit is Blue Lagoon. You catch the ferry from the Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal in Malta and it’s a five minutes journey to Comino! Once you arrive into the bay at Comino, a few steps and you are at the Blue Lagoon! There is a small beach right by where to boats come in and if you continue to walk along to coastal path, you are right at the Blue Lagoon.
Malta is one of those places where you go to truly escape from the world. It's a little slice of heaven that's only a three hour flight away from reality. I would definitely recommend Malta to anyone who has had it on their 'maybe' list for a while. Honestly, take my word for it, you won't regret it.