Mythical Malta is a land of underwater caves, medieval architecture and incredible temples. Formed of three primary islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino – and eighteen smaller ones, this small country sits between the coast of North Africa and Sicily.
From prehistory, through the Phoenicians, the Knights Templar, the Ottoman Empire, French invasion and as a British protectorate before independence, Malta has been an important element in some of history’s great moments.
Whatever you are looking for, one of the islands is sure to deliver. Choose from wreck diving, museums, fishing trips and days at the beach. The cuisine takes the best from all its influences, so why not enjoy the cafes and eateries and take in those Maltese moments.
Visit Mdina, the old capital
On a scenic hill in the centre of the island sits Mdina, the old capital of Malta. Famous for the fortifications that encircle it, history buffs will be in heaven.
The beauty of the town is not lost on anyone, with cute cafes in picturesque streets and squares. There is an unusual and delightful mix of Norman and Baroque architecture, including several palaces, most of which serve as private homes.
St Paul’s Cathedral or the Mdina Cathedral, dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle, was founded in the 12th century. According to tradition, it stands on the site of where Roman governor Publius met St. Paul following his shipwreck on Malta.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
Upper Barrakka Gardens are close to Valletta and offer some of the best views across Malta. From this pretty vantage point, you can see the ‘Three Cities of Malta’ and as far as the Grand Harbour.
In 1824, the gardens opened to the public. They suffered major damage during WWII but are restored to their former glory. Stroll round the gardens before heading into the centre of Valletta.
Go wreck diving
Malta’s warm climate and clear seas make it the perfect destination for swimming, snorkelling, or diving.
Along with artificial reefs, there are a number of WWII military wrecks, the most famous of which is HMS Maori. A destroyer sunk by the Germans it sits on the seabed at a depth of 14 metres.
The relatively shallow depth makes it ideal for beginners. Pick a diving school and get your PADI certificate whilst you’re there.
Fort St Elmo
Fort St Elmo has guarded Valetta’s harbour since the days of the Knights of St John. It was the focal point of the Siege of Malta in 1565.
Built in a star formation it commands the entrances to both harbours along with Fort Tigné and Fort Ricasoli.
The fort houses The National War Museum with collections including exhibits ranging from the Bronze Age to 2004.
The Three Cities
Across the Grand Harbour from Valletta are the so-called ‘Three Cities’ of Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa.
Senglea and Cospicua are known for their scenic waterfront promenades and pretty marinas. However, Vittoriosa that is the most impressive of the Three Cities.
One of the must-sees in Vittoriosa is Fort St Angelo, an important part of Malta’s military heritage. It was once home to the Grand Master of the Order of St John, and has traditional and immersive displays.
Another must-see site in Vittoriosa is the Inquisitor’s Palace. Originally built as a courthouse in the 1530s, it was the seat and home of the Inquisitors for over 200 years. History buffs can tour many beautifully restored rooms and original cells within the palace, some of which still contain carvings made by the prisoners. The building is also home to the Museum of Ethnography dedicated to Maltese religion and culture.
The island’s largest museum, the Malta Maritime Museum, charts Malta’s 7,000-year seafaring history. The museums has unique artefacts including a giant four-tonne Roman anchor belonging to the Knights and a number of ancient Maltese boats.
Marvel at Mosta Dome
The whole of Malta is lined with lavish architecture and Mosta Dome is among the best.
The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is neo-classical in style. The dome is the main feature and measures 121 feet and 220 feet high. That makes it bigger than St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Inside there are gilt decorations and marble floors, which echo your footsteps. The pipe organ is equally impressive with 2,000 pipes.
Horseriding at Golden Bay
Golden Bay is a soft sandy beach that backs on to towering cliffs. Enjoy the scenery from the vantage point of horseback, with a range of options from hours to the whole day.
Sunset horse rides, as the sun slides beneath the horizon, filling the skies with beautiful hues, is a fantastic way to end the day.
Go to Gozo and see the Ggantija Temples
One of the three main islands in the Malta archipelago, Gozo is less developed than Malta and is known for its scenic hills. Its limestone arch, The Azure window, collapsed in 2017, but that still leaves plenty to see on the island.
The Ggantija Temples pre-date the pyramids and are among the world’s oldest freestanding structures. Ggantija translates to ‘Gigantic’ and there are two temples here encircled by an outer fortification wall.
In ancient times, the temples would have been used for sacrifices and as a place to make offerings, and there is an interesting myth associated with its construction.
For a picturesque, quaint fishing village, look no further than Marsaxlokk in the south of Malta.
A pulsing market takes place here every day. Then there is the harbour with pretty bobbing fishing boats, known as luzzus, bobbing to a different pulse.
In a range of hues, the boats are painted with glaring eyes said to guard against evil spirits.
Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum
The oldest of all the prehistoric sites in Malta, Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum is a huge underground tunnel, which contains the fossils of a range of extinct animals.
Many date from the Ice Age, include giant mice, hippos, deer, and dwarf elephants. Signs of human life here stretch back 7,400 years. What is incredible is that people still lived in the cave until 1911.