One of the Mediterranean’s best kept secrets, Malta is a tiny island situated between southern Italy, Tunisia and Libya. With a meagre population of just over 400,000 people and a land mass of around 316 square kilometres it’s no wonder Malta’s managed to stay a hidden gem for so long.
This summer, budget carrier RyanAir is featuring flights from London’s Stansted airport to Malta starting at £32, so once you’re through with the Olympics, hop aboard and head to one of the hottest (literally) new destinations.
Get a taste for Malta’s historical past by visiting the picturesque Mdina. Located in central Malta, the gated citadel was fortified in 1000 BC by the Phoenicians and is filled with seemingly endless narrow stone streets that weave around chapels, cathedrals, the Mdina Dungeons, the beautiful Palazzo de Vilhena and the Nunnery of St. Benedict. You’ll quickly get lost so forget the map and just wander through the peaceful streets taking in the lovely stone and ironwork.
If you get hungry, grab a cuppa and cake at the Fontanella Tea Gardens with excellent views of the island from the bastions.
A day trip to the tiny island of Comino is a must when visiting Malta. Rumoured to have once been a hiding place for pirates, Comino is now home to one of Malta’s most scenic attractions, The Blue Lagoon. Pristine blue waters and jagged rock formations give this idyllic watering hole a picture-postcard appeal. Be sure to rent an umbrella while you’re here as there is little shade and the scorching sun can be unforgiving.
Flashy hotels, luxury converted “farmhouses” and 5-star restaurants are just a few of the draws of neighbouring island, Gozo. Gozo has all the same things Malta has to offer but on a smaller scale and with less crowds. Rent a car or – if your legs can muster the strength – a bike and explore the winding roads. Nearly every street ends at a beach so bring a towel and enjoy the crystal clear waters and pristine sand. Head to the famous Azure Window on the west side of the island to get a glimpse of the natural rock formation and take a dip in the Blue Hole, a 25-metre deep natural chimney that arches underwater to connect with the sea.
Because you’ll be in the Mediterranean, you’ll have no shortage of antipasti, cheeses, gelato and seafood but if you want to get a taste of true Maltese cuisine, here are a few things to try:
Pastizza is a traditional Maltese snack. This flaky pastry is filled with ricotta or mushy peas and is often served for breakfast. They’re cheap and available nearly everywhere!
Fenek means rabbit and is one of the most popular Maltese dishes. Served either fried, roasted, stewed, with pasta or in a pie, this dish is part of the “Fenkata” harvest celebration at the end of June when large groups gather at Buskett Gardens for dancing and a feast.
Qubbajt is the Maltese version of nougat. You can often find it during feast days coming in a variety of pastel colours with chunks of either almonds or hazelnuts inside.
$$$ – A luxury boutique hotel in bustling Paceville, Palace Hotel offers themed accommodations in one of their luxury concept suites, a swanky spa with indoor pool and a roof terrace with lounge and infinity pool that has a view across Sliema and the Valletta bastions. Visit: www.thepalacemalta.com
$$ – Located directly on the water off the St. George’s Bay marina is the Marina Hotel & Corinthia Beach Resort. This mid-range hotel has everything you need; five pools, restaurants at various price points, a private rocky beach with access to the Sea, a day spa and easy access to Malta’s bus service to get your around the island. Visit: www.marinahotel.com.mt
One-of-a-kind – If you’re looking for a non-traditional accommodation, consider renting one of the luxury converted farmhouses in Gozo. These houses have a rustic charm with stone arches and wood beams. Many feature multiple bedrooms, a pool and are often perched up on a hill to give spectacular views of the island. To check out what’s available, visit: www.gozofarmhouses.com
For more information on Malta, visit www.visitmalta.com