Despite being a small archipelago, Malta offers a dazzling variety. Prehistoric temples, fossil-studded cliffs, secret coves, exhilarating scuba diving, and an intensely dramatic past are all to be found here.
The topography of Malta mixes rocky stretches of coastline that lead to towering limestone cliffs with protected bays that conceal gin-clear water and red-gold beaches. You can take to the water in sky-blue traditional vessels, regal yachts, or speedboats, and the islands’ numerous marinas are crowded with boats. Underwater, there is a world of caverns, crags, and wrecks for snorkelers and divers to explore. Walking trails navigate view-filled roads that connect remote coves and unexpected historical sites above the water. A straightforward ferry ride across Grand Harbour in Valletta is a spectacular experience, even for the transient traveller to Malta.
Although Malta is adamantly Roman Catholic, it is also home to an alluring fusion of cultures that have coexisted peacefully for many years. Traditional Maltese cuisine incorporates regional delicacies such as honey along with flavours from Sicily and the Middle East. The Maltese are friendly and outgoing; if you ask for directions, it’s possible that a local will accompany you as you travel. There are many areas with a high level of modern sophistication, but there are other areas where you get the impression that you’ve travelled back in time, particularly on Gozo where enormous churches tower above sleepy towns.
Malta’s strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean made it a desirable and hotly contested prize, and the islands are dotted with magnificent above- and below-ground defences. Watchtowers dot the coastline, Mdina and Victoria are hilltop towns with a fortress-like appearance, and Valletta, the capital, is a harmonic grid. Even Malta’s fishing vessels have a retro vibe to them thanks to the painted eyeballs on their prows that resemble those of their Phoenician forebears. The nation’s capital is also a revitalised hub of modern design and architecture following Valletta’s tenure as a European Capital of Culture in 2018.
The amazing prehistoric monuments in Malta and Gozo were built by sophisticated-looking temple builders, who also left behind tiny figurines and enormous sculptures that have endured for millennia and are kept in Malta’s interesting museums. Massive temples and towers from many various ages stand proudly in the open, continuing to keep a constant eye on the sea. The most extraordinary location is underground: the 5000-year-old Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a necropolis carved out of the living rock. In other parts of the islands, smaller prehistoric sites have a more subdued effect over time but nonetheless offer significant insight into the legacy of the civilization.