Malta travel guide and tourism info for the curious traveller
My name is Edward and I’ll be your virtual Malta travel guide to the Maltese islands. All information and most photos that you’ll come across on MaltaUncovered.com was written by myself, from personal experience as a life-long tourist in Malta.
How is this Malta travel guide different from all the others?
My mission is to go beyond what you’d get from a standard Malta travel guide and show you what you can expect, with insider info only the locals know about. Off the beaten path tips, a balanced view of what’s worth doing and where the best place to stay is, etc. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Ask me a question. I’ll skip past the basics about Malta (although they’re definitely worth a read), and focus on the most important travel info you came here for. Behind all major topics you’ll find on this page you can click through to more detailed articles on each.
I can think of at least 10 reasons to visit Malta. The main ones are:
- The Maltese are generally very hospitable and the vast majority speak English well
- The weather is great: Over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, an average daytime temperature of around 30 C during summer months and 15 C during winter months
- There are various types of beaches around if you’re looking for a beach holiday
- Few countries in the world can offer visitors as much in terms of history and culture as Malta can, in so little space. If like exploring points of interest on your travels, you will not be bored. Guaranteed. Malta’s capital of Valletta alone is a big treasure trove of things to discover.
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- The best points of interest
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- Best places for food and drink
- Accommodation suggestions
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Deciding during what time of the year to travel to Malta can be tricky. July and August are the busiest months in terms of tourism and they’re also the hottest months of the year. If your main priority is hanging out on the beach, enjoying the sunny weather, and not much else, you’re good. If you want to explore Malta and enjoy some beach time as well, you’re probably better off going in June or September.
Although the weather can be a little unpredictable, especially in September when the weather system is often affected by the long spell of heat and humidity in July/August. If beach holidays just aren’t your thing, April/May is probably the best time to go. That way you get to enjoy the lovely spring weather and at the same time avoid the business of peak season. During the winter months, Malta is also a great winter escape.
The weather can be unpredictable in terms of cloudy/rainy weather but the sun is always around and gloomy weather rarely lasts. You’ll be able to enjoy points of interest in relative peace and good quality hotels with favourable rates during that time of the year means there are plenty of opportunities to relax as well.
How to get there
The two most popular ways to get to Malta are:
- By air – Various European airlines fly to Malta from most major cities in Europe and you can easily get a reasonably-priced flight to Malta if you book in advance.
- By sea – Either on a cruise liner or taking a ferry. The most popular ferry route comes in from Pozzallo in Sicily (Italy)
Where to stay in Malta really depends on what type of traveller you are and what you plan on doing during your visit. Whatever your plans are, travelling to different parts of the island doesn’t take long at all, especially if you decide to hire a car. Public transport can be a little trickier, however, so it’s still worth choosing your location carefully.
I offer some advice on doing that here: Where to stay in Malta.
Malta offers a good selection of hotels that suit different budgets and requirements, but not all are as good as advertised.
Here are my recommendations for the best hotels in Malta
You can hire a car from major touristic places like Sliema and Buġibba, Qawra and St. Paul’s Bay, but also from the airport with internationally recognised car hire companies being represented. Driving in Malta can be tricky. It’s one of the few countries in the world where people drive on the left-hand side. Although if you were to ask the Maltese where they drive, they’ll tell you “In the shade”. Which is funny but sometimes rather accurate.
Drivers tend to be temperamental and not particularly interested in abiding by the law of the road. That means you need to be focused and aware of your surroundings more so than anywhere else. Especially at junctions and roundabouts where “give away” is sometimes interpreted in a creative way (or simply ignored altogether), it’s important to be cautious. Should you hire a car in Malta? If you’re a confident, experienced driver, yes. If not, you might be better of using other modes of transport.
The only mode of public transport are buses, which will take you to even the remotest parts of the islands but will take significantly longer to get you from A to B than when you drive yourself. Nevertheless, despite a rocky reform in recent years, public transport is reasonably reliable, comfortable and reasonably priced.
Taxis and mini buses
Several operators of taxis and minibuses (for transport of larger groups) are available in Malta and are reliable. More here: Getting around in Malta and Gozo.
Top 10 Things to do
- Explore Valletta, Malta’s capital city and treasure trove of historical interest
- Wander through the streets of Mdina, the small medieval looking town surrounding by tall bastions and overlooking most of Malta from on top of a hill.
- Take the ferry up to Gozo, to explore that island, visiting the citadel in Victoria, going for a swim at Ramla l-Hamla and eating some super-fresh fish at Marsalforn.
- Visit Comino for a day, taking a cheap ferry in the morning from Sliema or Bugibba and spending a good part of the day enjoying the crystal clear water around the Blue Lagoon.
- If you’re into fish, have lunch in Marsaxlokk. The place is known as THE place for fresh fish among the locals. Sundays are busiest but it rarely gets TOO busy and you might find a few interesting Maltese snacks and sweets at one of the market stalls.
- Spend a day at the beach at Mellieha Bay or Golden Bay and go paragliding or hire a jet ski.
- Take a boat tour around the Grand Harbour near Valletta
- Enjoy the nightlife in the open air at Gianpula Fields or Marrakesh on the outskirts of Rabat.
- Visit one of the megalithic temples, some of which are older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt
- Sample some Maltese wine and take a tour through one of Marsovin’s (one of the major producers of Maltese wine) wine cellars.
Many more things to do here: 101+ Things to do in Malta and Gozo.
A number of great annual events are organised around the Maltese islands and are well worth planning to attend during your holiday:
- February – Carnival celebrations in Valletta are something to behold. Teams of volunteers work tirelessly every year to create the coolest themed, most colourful floats you can imagine and parade through the city.
- April – Medieval Mdina takes you back into the past in the medieval-influenced setting of Mdina itself. Various re-enactments of knights in battle take place, there’s a falconry display, music, a small market and food stalls, and more.
- April – The Malta Fireworks Festival. Fireworks are popular in Malta and several smaller factories around the island manufacture fireworks in support of the annual village feasts. Together with a few international pyrotechnic companies, some of the best local manufacturers stage a spectacle not to be missed, in different locations. There’s usually a display in Valletta and on different nights in Bugibba and Marsaxlokk.
- July – Isle of MTV brings some of the biggest international musicians and acts to Malta for what’s become one of the biggest parties of the year. Thousands flock to il-Fossos, the big square of Floriana, right outside Valletta, to enjoy MTV’s event of the year. Various local clubs organise warm parties in the preceding days as well.
- July – The Malta Beer Festival is the perfect location to cool down after a hot summer’s day enjoying a variety of local and international beers while enjoying some of the best musical performances from local artists. Held for around two weeks towards the end of July at Ta Qali (at the Malta National Park).
- September – The Victory Day Regatta sees teams from various localities take to the water in Grand Harbour and fight for the win in a traditional race that was held as early as 1822.
- September – The Malta Airshow brings together aviation displays and demonstrations from across the globe, from rescue helicopters to jets and bombers.
- October – Birgu Fest is an event that’s gained popularity in recent years when thousands flock to wander through the candle-lit streets of Birgu (also known as Vittoriosa). Aside from the food and entertainment, the focus is on the historical significance of Birgu as the first home of the Knights of Malta, with several free tours taking you around points of interest.
- October – Notte Bianca. Valletta truly comes to life in a cultural celebration which includes visual art exhibitions, theatre performance, street musicians and dancers, while state palaces and museums open their doors for the evening.
- Last but not least, village feasts are held throughout the year in most localities around Malta and Gozo and are a great opportunity to get a taste and feel of something that lies at the core of Maltese culture: celebrating religion. Food, drink and fireworks but more importantly religious processions and a coming together of local families.
A couple of quick tips on where to eat:
- If you’re looking to get a taste of Maltese food, try Dar il-Bniet in Dingli. Curious to try the local favourite of rabbit? The village of Mgarr is known for a few places that prepare a delicious fenkata (rabbit dinner), e.g. Tal-Ingliz and Sunny Bar, both right next to the parish church
- Not on too strict a budget? Da Pippo in Valletta and Giuseppi’s in Mellieha are a few personal favourites with quality food at reasonable prices. Also, try the Xara Palace Trattoria while you’re going around Mdina and Fratelli di Buffala if you’re staying in Sliema.
- Looking for a quick bite? Cafe Jubilee in Valletta, Gzira and Victoria (Gozo) has a quirky/fun setup and offers good food at reasonable prices.
Looking for more recommendations? Check out my full my favourite restaurants in Malta.
Malta has several beaches around its ~250 km long coastline, some of which are sandy, others rocky. The water quality of the bathing water at most beaches is excellent and the island has multiple Blue Flag certified beaches, which indicate the presences of safety measures (including lifeguards), amenities and environmental protection, amongst other criteria. Without a doubt, the most popular beaches are Mellieha Bay (also referred to as Ghadira), Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha. I put together my personal Top 10 beaches in Malta, together with a few beaches “off the beaten path”.
- If you expect to get to know Malta, the places popular among tourists may not necessarily give you that opportunity. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Malta is a safe country to travel to and the Maltese are generally helpful. Ask your local contact (or receptionist) for some tips on good village feasts to visit, or maybe an event mostly locals would know of. It pays to explore in Malta.
- If you decide to take a taxi, always agree upon a fare beforehand and don’t be afraid to shop around at taxi stands
- If you want to go swimming at a nearby beach outside of the high season (July-September), always be informed of the safety systems in place at the bigger beaches (flags). If there’s no flag to indicate that the bathing water is safe for swimming, always check with the locals.