A holiday in Malta is on many European traveller’s wish lists but is one of the travel options people often know little about, as opposed to popular holiday destinations such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece. Why should you visit Malta instead any other Mediterranean holiday destination? What sets Malta apart from the rest and makes the island nation a must-see holiday destination?
1. A welcoming visit to Malta
The Maltese are renowned for their hospitality, friendliness and generosity. The people are traditionally kind-hearted and will go out of their way to make guests feel at home. The majority of people are very accommodating, and are very willing to lend a helping hand, should you need directions or require assistance of any kind. This characteristic is deep-rooted in Maltese culture and makes for a very warm and welcoming experience. Apart from personal experience, it’s something I hear those who travelled to Malta mention on a regular basis.
2. Almost everyone speaks English
The fact that English is Malta’s second official language obviously helps and takes away a language barrier that many guests to other holiday destinations face time and again. Malta was part of the British empire for around 160 years (gaining independence in 1964), which shaped the country and its inhabitants, most of whom now have a good command of the English language. For English speaking tourists this means that communication forms little or no problem, which is an important benefit. Maltese, however, is still the country’s primary language spoken by the vast majority of the Maltese population.
3. Points of Interest
Should you be interested in spending some, if not all, of your time visiting points of interest, Malta has plenty to offer that’s worth seeing. Moreover, unlike most travel destinations, you can visit a large number of fascinating sites that testify to Malta’s rich and turbulent history within a relatively small area. You can organise day trips, combining a visit to, for example, Mdina with visiting the Tarxien Temples, rather than losing half the day on travelling to a single location.
Many tour operators can facilitate you with a choice of tours around the Maltese islands, but obviously at a cost. The relatively short distances, convenient bus routes and road signs make it relatively easy to find your way around using public transport or a hired car if you prefer to explore the islands by yourself. Even easier, you can take a hop on hop off bus tour that takes you past a bunch of points of interest in no time.
4. Good choice of hotels and other accommodation
There’s a wide range of possibilities for accommodation in Malta and Gozo when looking for a place to stay. Besides a choice of hotels (from luxurious 5-star hotels to the more economical 4- and 3-star hotels), many self-catering apartments, as well as hostels, can be found throughout Malta and Gozo. The highest concentration of holiday resorts and hotels can be found around St. Julian’s, Bugibba/Qawra, and Sliema, which are all situated along the Northern coastline of Malta. Accommodation in St. Julian’s is recommended if you enjoy spending your nights going out but, being close to the nightlife hub of Malta, staying there is not advisable for couples and families who prefer peace and serenity. For those travellers, places like Mellieha and St. Paul’s Bay are much better places to look for accommodation.
Find out more on Where to stay in Malta.
5. The weather
The weather in Malta is one of the major reasons over a million tourist visit the Maltese islands, and for good reason. Summer weather is great for those looking for a beach and sun holiday and winters are mild, with relatively high temperatures and still a relatively high amount of daily sunshine hours for those looking to escape the dark, sub-zero winter months back home.
6. Things to do – Sports, Leisure Activities and Events
It’s not easy to get bored in Malta, with a large number of things to do and see. You can enjoy a variety of sports and other leisure activities in Malta including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, scuba diving, paragliding and windsurfing, among others. Most of the larger hotels offer indoor pools, gyms and tennis courts, which comes in handy if you like to stay active when the weather isn’t very inviting to go out.
Most materials needed for outdoor sports are available for rent at a low price and there are various locations on the islands where these sports can be exercised. Gozo is a particularly popular location for rock climbing, thanks to its steep cliffs, and mountain biking thanks to its quiet roads and excellent hill climbs.
Scuba diving at various dive sites around the Maltese islands is also a very popular activity among tourists, with many interesting diving sites (scuttled ships, for example) and certified PADI courses available. If you prefer just watching sports you won’t have to worry about missing any big football matches or other sports events. Most pubs (as well as dedicated sports bars) have a satellite dish perked on their roofs and most display what sports events are shown on chalkboard notices just outside their premises.
Events, such as pop concerts and theatre shows, but also historical re-enactments such as In Guardia are popular among tourists and provide great entertainment for the whole family.
There’s more to Malta as a nation than just the island Malta itself. The Republic of Malta also includes sister island Gozo, which is said to be what Malta used to be like: rural and peaceful. Gozo is an excellent location for families, couples and elderly who prefer having a peaceful holiday with beautiful beaches and countryside views.
There are plenty of interesting sites around in Gozo as well, for example, the Citadel bastions of island capital Victoria, the Megalithic temples of Ggantija, or Calypso’s cave, said to be the location of part of Homer’s Odyssey. The seaside town of Xlendi is a popular tourist destination as well, offering a beautiful view of its bay surrounded by high cliffs. Ramla l-Hamla, Dahlet Qorrot and San Blas Bay are beautiful beaches to go for a swim, one being larger and busier, the other being more secluded and more difficult to get to (steep hill descent) but definitely worth the effort.
To get to Gozo on arrival at Malta airport, you can book a direct transfer which takes you straight from the airport to the ferries in the Northern most tip of the island of Malta (a place called Cirkewwa). The ferries will take you to Mgarr Harbour in Gozo, from where you can easily get a taxi to your accommodation if you arrive during the day. For late night arrivals, it’s best to make arrangements with a local taxi operator before travelling.
8. All-year Round Holiday Destination
Unlike many other Mediterranean destinations, a holiday in Malta offers you a lot of possibilities even outside of the high season. Outdoor activities such as biking or hiking are very popular during the rest of the year and many people flock to cultural and historical sites to learn more about Malta’s past and present whilst enjoying the country’s mild winter weather.
9. Vibrant Nightlife
Malta offers a vibrant nightlife, which has attracted some of the biggest names in the international club scene, such as Tiësto, Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten and Carl Cox. Open-air clubs are a unique experience and open-air clubs are immensely popular among both locals and foreigners.
10. Malta’s Beautiful Beaches
Often a deciding factor for sun seekers is the potential for relaxed summer beach life and in that respect, Malta doesn’t deserve. Some of Malta’s best beaches are located along the Northern and Western shorelines of the island, most notably Mellieha Bay (the island’s largest beach), Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha.
It’s not just about the most popular beaches in Malta, however. If you’re looking for quiet and smaller beaches with beautiful surroundings Malta and sister island Gozo offer a few great options, some of which aren’t easy to find and therefore less likely to attract the masses. How would one spot these beaches? You can either ask the locals or if you’re more adventurous have a look at satellite imaging on Google Maps and find your way!