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Europe Destination Specialists 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Malta Destination & Travel Guide

Essential Facts

Currency

The Euro is the only currency accepted in Malta, however, Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Diners Club credit cards are widely accepted. Most hotels, stores and restaurants will also accept Visa debit cards, but having Euros on hand for smaller souvenir stands, shops, or restaurants is highly recommended. US and Canadian dollars can be exchanged for Euros at your local bank, or at currency exchanges, or pulled from an ATM in Malta while you are there. 

Language

Maltese is the official language of Malta, though English is spoken widely, as well as Italian. With lots of international diversity, many other languages from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere are spoken as well, though they are far less common.

Best Time To Go

Lovely weather can be found here year-round, which makes Malta a popular destination for summer vacationers seeking the hot, hot sun, as well as a wonderful long-stay destination for travellers seeking to escape the North American winter months. During the winter months, the weather in Malta is typically pleasant, without intense heat.

Climate

In summer (mid-June to late September), days with highs of 31 C/86 F and lows around 22 C / 71 F are most common. From November to February, daily temperatures average between highs of around 17 C / 63 F and lows of roughly 9 C / 50 F. In both the summer and the winter, rain is infrequent. 

Ideal Traveller

Travellers keen to explore historical Mediteranean regions will find a wealth of ancient and medieval history in Malta, going back over 6000 years. Gorgeous beaches offer a respite from busy sightseeing. Guests looking for the excitement of daytime activities and nightlife should stay in the coastal towns of Qawra, Buggiba and St Paul’s Bay in the north. Because Malta is such a beautiful and friendly country with pleasant weather year-round, it is a great place for long stays of 1 to 3 months, allowing time to enjoy the beaches and offering great value accommodations in low season.

 

Getting There From North America

Major Airports

The only airport on the island is Malta International Airport. There are ferries that run from Sicily and mainland Italy, however these are multi-hour routes and are typically not recommended if you’re not comfortable with (potentially rocky) journeys by sea.

Major Air Routes from the United States

Lufthansa/United via Frankfurt or Munich, Delta/Alitalia via Italy, or British Airways/Air Malta flights via London are the most common routes.

Major Air Routes from Canada

In high season, Lufthansa/Air Canada fly frequently to Malta with stops in Frankfurt or Munich, Air France stop in Paris en-route, while KLM flights take you to Malta via Amsterdam.

 

Essential Sights of Malta

Malta Island

Malta is smaller than Rhode Island or Prince Edward Island, so it’s an easy place to get around. The scenic towns of Qawra and Saint Paul’s Bay towards the northern coast of Malta are where the nicer resorts are, where you’ll find plenty of action during the day and nightlife in the evenings. The capital city of Valletta and nearby Sliema have some historic sites like churches and it’s where the majority of the Maltese population lives. Photographers will love the colourful boats in the harbours and dramatic cliffs around the island.

Gozo Island

Gozo is a large sister island to Malta, more hilly and green than the main island. The adventurous can enjoy Quad’s (ATV’s) here, while those seeking a more relaxed pace may prefer to visit historical sites or watch the picturesque sunsets.

Hagar Qim

The temples at Hagar Qim are designated UNESCO Heritage Sites, and are some of the most ancient sites on earth dating back to around 3000 BC. Tours here usually offer photo stops with beautiful scenery and insights into Maltese culture.

Blue Grotto

A trip to Malta would not be complete without visiting the clear waters and natural caves of the Blue Grotto on the south coast of Malta. Aptly named after Italy’s Blue Grotto on the island of Capri, the area earns its name, with sapphire sparkling waters reflecting the soft sand seabed, and underwater flora. Boat rides here allow exploration of a system of caves and arches, and a visit in the morning and afternoon shows off the sunlight mirroring the dazzling colours of the minerals in the rocks.

Mdina

A visit to the ancient Maltese capital of Mdina to visit sites like St. Paul’s Catacombs and St. Paul’s Cathedral is a must for history lovers. The cathedral is found just a short drive from the coastal hotels. You can find out why they call this place the ‘silent city’ and spot some surprising and familiar European cultural influences such as medieval and gothic architecture.   

 

Other Highlights of Malta Off the Beaten Path

Popeye’s Village

‘Popeye’s Village’ is a small area where the 1980 movie was filmed and is now a small amusement park for all ages.

Upper Barrakka Gardens

Just beyond the city gates of Malta’s capital, Valletta, you will find the peaceful and scenic Upper Barrakka Gardens. Photographers will love the panoramic views of Malta and the calm nature of these gardens, created over 350 years ago. It’s a rare moment of calm in the busy city of Valletta… except when the cannons fire from the Saluting Battery just below the gardens. This takes place every Monday to Saturday at noon and 4 pm as a nod to Valletta’s naval history.

Blue Lagoon 

Top among Malta’s scenic beaches and coastal vistas is the Blue Lagoon, on the small island of Comino. One of the easiest and most scenic ways to visit this gorgeous bay is by boat tour from the main hotel and resort areas of Sliema, St. Juliens, and Qawra, which usually includes incredible views from the water and opportunities for swimming and suntanning. While this area can get busy in the summer months, a morning visit can keep the large crowds at bay. The views of clear waters make the experience totally worth it. 

 

Top Activities and Experiences in Malta

The Beaches of Malta 

The beaches are a real highlight here, and with so many days of sunshine and warm weather, it’s no wonder they are so popular. Both Malta and Gozo offer a range of beautiful beaches to beckon sun-bathers. Also worth noting is that Malta is not an ‘all-inclusive resort’ destination, so you can find a huge variety of activities and adventures just steps away from top hotels.

Historical Appreciation

Because the history of Malta dates back over 5,000 years to the Megalithic era, fans of historical tourism will find plenty to explore. Both Malta and Gozo feature several sites, such as the Bronze Age Ggantija temples on Gozo and the Hagar Qim complex on Malta. More (relatively) recent historic sites can be seen in the old capital city of Mdina in St. John’s Catacombs, or you can visit the medieval armoury of the Knights of Malta at the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta. You can even spot some Baroque works of art from the famous artist Caravaggio in the 17th Century St. John’s Co-Cathedral.

 

Essential Maltese Foods to Try

Maltese Pastries

Meals and desserts featuring flaky pastries are common. You may want to try Lampuki (a variety of Mahi-Mahi) pie, pastizzi (a savoury pastry filled with ricotta cheese or peas), and dessert kannoli (fried flaky tubes filled with ricotta). Maltese sourdough bread or hobz tal-malti is soft enough inside to melt in your mouth but firm and crusty on the outside. 

Seafood

Being an island nation smack dab in the middle the Mediterranean Sea means taking advantage of locally caught fish and seafood. Pescatarians will love the variety of unique fish featured in snacks like hobz biz-zejt (bread covered in tomato and fresh olive oil topped with tuna and capers). Grilled swordfish steak or Pixxispad is popular, along with other varieties of seabream and grouper which are usually topped with or fried in olive oil and herbs.

Olives, Cheese, and Wine 

The rich soil in Malta is wonderful for growing fresh olives and cultivating a variety of cheeses like Gbejniet (local sheep/goat cheese side dish). While Malta may not be as big of a wine destination as say Tuscany in Italy or wine regions of France, the varieties of local Gellewza and Ghirghentina wines grown and bottled here will delight even an experienced sommelier.

 

Most Popular Itineraries for Malta

For a short stay in Malta, the Highlights of Valletta itinerary is an excellent starting point. Including a 3-night stay in the capital city of Valletta, a day tour to beautiful Gozo Island, and round-trip airport transfers, the program serves as an ideal introduction. Once you’ve got a taste of Malta, you’ll surely want to go back. Fortunately for you, a long-stay in bustling St. Paul’s Bay is easily attainable (and surprisingly affordable). For those seeking a more in-depth exploration of nearly 6,000 years of history and local culture, consider an escorted small-group tour to the less visited sites, while gaining a local expert’s insights. 

 

Tips for Sustainable Travel

Eco Certification Malta was founded in 2002 and certifies that hotels in Malta meet the environmental and socioeconomic criteria set out by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. This plan ensures that waste management, energy, and noise pollution along with local culture (among other things) are fully respected. There are over 25 hotels that are fully Eco Certified in Malta and Gozo.

Since 2016, Malta has also committed to increasing its protected marine areas over an additional 3500 square kilometres through two important European Union projects, the LIFE+ MIGRATE, focusing on turtles and dolphin habitat preservation, and LIFE+ Malta Seabird project.

9 Jul 2020, 8:34 p.m.

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