Located just forty miles south of Sicily, Italy, the Mediterranean island of Malta has remained relatively unknown and unexplored by the rest of the world which makes it sort of like its own little paradise. I moved to Malta a little under a year and a half ago and have slowly adjusted to life in the Mediterranean Sea. Here’s what you need to know if you are planning a holiday to Malta any time soon:
When I first arrived to Malta, this was the hardest thing for me to adjust to. The style of living in Malta is very laid back, calm, and uncomplicated. It may sound nice now, but when first arriving, the customer service (or lack thereof) became very frustrating. However, spend enough time here and the relaxedness of the way of living will become something you admire and wish other parts of the world adopted.
With over 450,000 people residing on such a tiny island, the only thing not calm about life in Malta is the traffic. I like to tell people this fact: There are 500,000 cars currently on the island. If you do the math, that’s more than one vehicle for every person on the island!
You will realize that even though the tone in their voice may not sound like it, the Maltese will treat you (a foreigner) the same as they would treat a long-time friend. One of the country’s native languages is English (along with Maltese), so you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who couldn’t communicate with you in English. There’s so much more to the Maltese way of life that I still have yet to figure out, but it is certainly an interesting culture.
Malta seems as if it was literally created for tourism but Maltese government won’t put any organization into the industry. With beaches all around the island, historic fortresses and cathedrals aplenty, towering cliffs where land meets the sea, and rolling hills all over the island, it’s one of the prettiest destinations in the Mediterranean. Just go on one hike in the Maltese countryside and you will realize the immense beauty of this country. There’s opportunity to do almost any adventure sport in Malta whether its rock climbing, windsurfing, abseiling, or even just a simple hike – Malta has it all. Although, if you only have time for one hike, I recommend making it on Malta’s sister island, Gozo.
Gozo and Comino
Malta’s smaller sister islands of Gozo and Comino are located just off Malta’s northern-most coast and just a cheap, short ferry ride away. The infamous clear sea water of the Blue Lagoon – which is twice as likely to be packed in the summer time – is found on Comino. However, that may be the only thing to offer in Comino as not even humans reside on this tiny offshore island. Gozo is my favorite and much larger than Comino. Home to about 30,000 residents, this island offers vista views like no other. If you have a day in Gozo, rent a scooter and cruise around its narrow roads all day. I guarantee you find yourself hopping off the scooter more than once to start on a hike.
If you want the all-in-one cultural experience of Malta’s history and architecture and everything in-between, look no further than the country’s capital, Valletta. Already pre-chosen as Europe’s 2018 Capital of Culture, Valletta is one of the most beautiful spots in Malta. Buzzing with life (mostly tourists) and local delicacies, Valletta will do a fantastic job of showing you what Maltese culture is all about. In addition, it’s my favorite place to take in the great sunsets of Malta. However, Valletta is close and convenient but it is not even my favorite fortress city in Malta. Mdina, the Silent City, located inland is the most beautiful city in Malta. I recommend going at dusk as the city is quieting down and the narrow alleys get more eerie.
Malta offers one of the most ecstatic night life’s in all of Europe. Sliema and St. Julian’s, in particular, are the best cities to be in on the weekend. Paceville, located in St. Julian’s, is Malta’s most popular club district. Drinks are cheap and normally you can find Buy One, Get One Free coupons scattered throughout the district to almost every club. A night out in Malta can cost whatever you make it. One of my favorite things to do is leave Paceville for a breath of fresh sea air. It is located right along the sea which makes it very convenient to take a seat in the sand and share a wine bottle with friends.
Remaining one of the most (if not THE most) affordable countries in the European Union, Malta has managed to keep its prices down which makes it an ideal budget holiday idea from almost everywhere in Europe. Here’s a list of basic, consistent prices to compare.
- Hotel: $40/night
- Hostel: $10/night
- Airbnb: $30/night (whole flat)
- Car Rental: $40/day
- Traditional Meal: $12
- Pastizzi (traditional snack): $0.30
- Maltese Beer: $3
- Beer (from shop): $0.90
- Public Transport (two hours): $1.50
A weekend in Malta isn’t complete without a visit to Marsaxlokk’s Sunday morning Farmer’s Market. If you get home from Paceville at a decent hour the night before (which sometimes feels impossible), why not make a trip to the southern-most city in one of Malta’s biggest fishing villages? With artisan carts lining the road for almost a mile, it’s almost impossible to leave Sunday’s market without a handmade souvenir or homemade delicacy.
Malta is a hidden gem in the middle of the Mediterranean. I love the fact that Malta is unknown to most of the world. So, a big thank you is in order to the map-makers who will still occasionally leave this tiny island off of their map on accident. Malta is more than just a great holiday vacation to me; it has quickly become a home.