Being located in the central Mediterranean, Malta is known for its diverse historic sites and the rocky landscapes. Over time, there were many rulers who left their mark on Maltese civilization. Among these, the Romans, Moors, Sicilians, Knights of Saint John, French and British had the greatest impact on shaping the nowadays Malta.
The Maltese language is a mixture of Sicilian, standard Italian and Arabic. Alongside English, is the official language of Malta. Although was dropped as an official language, Italian remains still widely spoken.
Getting around in Malta
There are three inhabited islands in the Maltese Archipelago: Malta, Gozo, and Comino.
Malta is the main island. Here is where the International Airport (the only airport in Malta) is located. Most likely this is where you’ll arrive in Malta. The other two islands connect to the main island through ferries.
Going by bus
Both Malta and Gozo, have a good public bus transportation network. The routes usually link the different localities in Malta to major hubs such as Valletta, Mater Dei Hospital, and the Airport. In Gozo, the routes run primarily from the central hub of Victoria Bus Station to various localities on the island.
You can find more info about the public transportation system here.
Although the bus network is good, it may take more time to get to a specific place, especially if you’re not close to one of the major stations. Renting a car might smooth the things a bit, but it’s more adventurous, too.
Driving in Malta
Driving in Malta can be quite challenging. If you live in a country where people drive on the right side of the road, you might find driving here difficult.
Having the full administrative power and taking advantage of the fact the Maltese were isolated on their islands and didn’t know how the rest of the people were driving on the road, the Brits convinced the Maltese that their way is the right way. Therefore, the cars run on the left side here.
Since most of the people are not used having the gearbox on the left side, the manual transmission cars tend to be a mess. My rental had only 16000 km on board, but the gearbox was worse than the one on the cars used for driving school.
The roads are not very friendly either. Many roads are in bad condition and narrow. In some cases, there isn’t enough space for two cars to pass so you’ll have to become a bit more creative to find the right solution.
The GPS maps were a bit outdated, too. Google didn’t seem preoccupied to invest too many resources into keeping an up to date status of the current infrastructure. There might be situations where you will end up on some roads on which you could barely fit one car.
At some point, I’ve ended up on a road that was so narrow that I could barely pass with my car. A local, who was passing by, being amused by my struggle, stopped for a moment and said: “This is the Highway of Malta”.
Besides all these, many Maltese drivers have an aggressive driving style and lose patience quickly.
Parking is also problematic here. Make sure that your accommodation has private parking if you decide to rent a car. There are many areas where you’ll have to circle a lot to find a parking spot.
Valletta, the capital of this country, is one of the most problematic in terms of parking. There is a Controlled Vehicular Access system in place here. The system scans your plate numbers and calculates the time the vehicle remained inside the Valletta CVA boundary and finally computes the fee due for access and parking based on the tariffs issued by Transport Malta.
Although challenging, driving a car has its advantages. You’ll be able to reach faster to your destination and see places that are not normally on the bus routes. You could see the whole thing as an adventure, that will spice things up a bit.
Where to stay
There are a number of places where you can find good accommodation options, alongside decent restaurants and bars. In my opinion, the best places to stay are Saint Julian’s, Silema and Bugibba (and the nearby locations). Valletta, it’s animated during the daytime, but it’s pretty quiet and dull at night.
Things to do on the Island of Malta
The Island of Malta is the main island of this archipelago and has the most popular tourist attractions.
Valletta, the small capital city of Malta, is a city with great historical and cultural heritage. It contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John. All its impressive bastions, forts, and cathedral, were completed in the astonishingly short time of 15 years.
From the Upper Barrakka Gardens, it is also possible to see the Saluting Battery each day at 12:00 and 16:00, which I highly recommend you to experience.
Saint Julian’s is probably the most animated area in Malta, which, for most people, makes it a perfect place for accommodation. The Paceville district is heavily populated with nightclubs, casinos, bars, strip clubs, pubs, and restaurants, and is the most important nightlife hub on the island.
Close to Saint Julian’s, Sliema is a major residential and commercial area and a good place for shopping, dining, and café life.
Bugibba is a zone within St. Paul’s Bay and it is a popular tourist resort, containing numerous hotels, restaurants, pubs, clubs, and a casino.
The Ancient Temples
Both more than 5000 years old, the Tarxien and Ħaġar Qim Temples are a great attraction for the passionate of ancient history.
The former capital of Malta, Mdina is a fortified inhabited city and it’s one of the main tourist attractions in Malta. This place has a rich history and in the last years has been extensively restored. You should definitely put Mdina on your list.
Blue Grotto & Dingli Cliffs
Blue Grotto and Dingli Cliffs represent some of the natural wonders of this Island. They offer stunning views of the sea and the rocky Maltese landscape.
The small town of Mellieha is famous for its sandy beaches, near the Golden Bay, and Popeye Village amusement park.
From what I’ve seen during my trip in Malta, the Golden Bay Beach is the best place if you want to go to the beach. This sandy beach represents a nice exception from Malta’s small and rocky beaches.
The Popeye Village was initially the film set of the “Popeye” musical production. Today has grown into one of the major tourist attractions on the Maltese Islands. It’s a great place for small children.
Marsaxlokk is a fishing village in the South part, famous for its fish market, colorful boats and fish restaurants. It’s a colorful area and a good place to enjoy seafood.
St. Peter’s Pool, a beautiful natural swimming pool, is located close to Marsaxlokk at the tip of Delimara Point.
Things to do in Gozo Island
For going to Gozo you will most likely use the ferry terminal in Cirkewwa. It is both an option for pedestrians and cars. The prices for return tickets are around 15 EUR for a car, including the driver, and 5 EUR for pedestrians.
At least for cars, you will pay the ticket price on your return from Gozo.
Victoria, also known as Rabat, is the capital city of Gozo. The Citadel represents one of the main tourist attractions of this city and is visible from almost all the Island.
Azure Window was one of Malta’s major tourist attractions. Although the original limestone natural arch collapsed into the sea, the landscape is still impressive.
Not far from Xlendi Beach, which is pretty small, you can climb the cliffs and discover some fascinating caves.
The Comino Island
Comino is the smallest inhabited island of the Maltese Archipelago. Its main tourist attraction is the famous Blue Lagoon. If the weather is nice you can take a ferry and spend some time at the beach here. The beach is not very large and it seems to get very crowded during the summer.
I haven’t got the chance to visit this during my trip, especially since the water was pretty cold.
Some Final Impressions
Although not the ideal beach destination, Malta manages to seduce the visitor with its beautiful landscapes, good food, and great historical heritage. No one can leave untouched by its stunning natural wonders.
This land has been shaped by so many nations and diverse civilizations that it became a unique gem in Europe.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time here very much and highly recommend you to visit this beautiful country.