There are a number of reasons why Malta should be up there close to the top of your bucket list. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is made up of three beautiful islands. They’re each unique, but all come with idyllic beaches, rich historical sites and deep cultural traditions that are sure to enthrall and enchant.
The country is well-known for its scuba diving and snorkeling, its pleasant climate (think over 3,000 hours of rays each year!), and its uber-old capital in Valletta. All that comes wrapped up with a past that’s seen everyone from the Normans to the Moors to the Knights Hospitaller make a home in these parts, raising great castles and cathedrals in their wake.
Still not convinced? We’ve put together this list of the top nine reasons why you should be booking your plane tickets to Malta imminently. No matter what kind of traveler you are, you’re sure to find something that will make your trip unforgettable, whether that’s the tasty Maltese wine or the intriguing UNESCO city at the heart of it all. Let’s begin…
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Malta has a Mediterranean climate, meaning that the summers here are long, hot and full of sunshine. That’s just what you were hoping to hear, right? July is often the hottest month, with an average daily temperature of 80 F (27 C). Overall, though, the best months to visit to enjoy consistent sunshine without the crowds are from May to June and then again from September to October, as it stays warm pretty late and warms up early this far south but the bulk of the travelers come in the height of the summer.
That’s not to say that the winters in Malta are cold, though. With the country boasting over 300 days of sunshine each year. This means even in the colder months you are likely to be able to top up the tan, although the Mediterranean can get chillier and not too many folk will swim (at least not the locals!).
That said, winter is a cracking option if you want to hit the historic sights of Valletta (more on those later!), because it means you can get into the Co-Cathedral and see those haunting Caravaggio paintings without the queues. The cooler weather also makes for some great hiking on Gozo island, between the craggy coastline and the lush inland farms.
Malta is brimming with stunning beaches. Perhaps the most famous of the lot is the Blue Lagoon, a wide inlet on the side of the island of Comino where the sandbanks get shallow, and the H2O turns a shimmering glaze of turquoise under the Mediterranean Sun. A boat trip over there is like a journey into the Caribbean.
But that’s not it. There are gorgeous beaches on Malta island and Gozo to boot. The first is most famous for its sandy bays where sunbeds dot the shoreline. The latter is better known for having a rugged coast covered in intrepid paths to wave-lashed beaches.
Here are just a few more that we think are worth visiting:
- Golden Bay – One of the most family friendly beaches on the island of Malta, this one has soft sands and protected swimming.
- Xlendi Beach – Bring the snorkels along for Xlendi Beach, which is dashed through by incredible reefs filled with fish.
- Ramla Bay – Usually way emptier than the popular resort beaches around Valletta and the Malta north coast, this Gozo bay is a true stunner, with golden sands and a backing of lush hills.
Over time Malta has gained a reputation as one of the best places to dive in Europe and even the world. Its clear waters allow for high visibility, so those who strap on the tanks can go and see th many caves, the submerged rockery, and the resplendent reefs, all of which come filled with a plumage of interesting marine life.
Notably, Malta is also home to a number of wreckage sites of aircraft and ships. A whopping 15 of those are now popular diving sites. Famous spots include Cirkewwa and The Blue Hole, a 15-meter-deep rock pool with underwater caves.
Malta’s diving spots run the gamut from beginner to expert level, so there’s something suitable for all levels of abilities. On top of that, the relative lack of tides and hidden currents, matched with warm weather, make it a great year-round diving destination. There are plenty of schools for those wishing to learn, especially in Valletta, St Paul, and Buggiba.
Maltese food is a symphony of flavors that draws in influences from as wide and far as North Africa, Spain, Italy, and England. It’s a product of thousands of years of invasion and counter-invasion, which had the effect of bringing exotic spices from Arabia and more earthy cooking methods from Northern Europe alike.
So, get ready to sample things like:
- Ftira biż-Żejt – Malta’s answer to the sandwich, this is made with a local type of crunchy bread and filled with a salsa of olives, onions, parsley, mint, and anchovies.
- Stuffat tal-Fenek – Rabbit stew. Hearty, filling, homey, but with a hint of cinnamon and paprika.
- Bigilla – Nope, you’re not in Mexico, this bean paste is an island fav, with hints of fresh mountain herbs.
- Torta tal-Lampuki – The locals pack this buttered pastry with maho-maho, olives, and capers.
Malta is also smack dab in the heart of the Mediterranean, which means there’s oodles of seafood to go around (check for the fresh catch of the day at the taverns close to the seashore for the best) and oodles of citrus fruit to boot.
Malta isn’t just about tasting unique food, you know? The islands also boast a history of winemaking that goes back something like 500 years. It’s thought that the Knights of Saint John instituted the first vineyards in the country during their tenure on Malta in the 16th century. Despite the British actually uprooting Malta’s grapes in favor of more lucrative crops like cotton later on, there’s been a recent resurgence in the art and there’s now plenty to sample…
With a distinctly Mediterranean terroir – hot summers, wet winters – the vineyards here are known for their high yields. They predominantly grow Grenache and Syrah grapes, with a heavy focus on fruity, mineral-rich reds. Check out some of the wineries below if you fancy making a day of it:
- Marsovin Winery – A gorgeous winery with funny and friendly guides ready to host tasting sessions.
- Tal-Massar Winery – One of the few wineries on Gozo, this one has a stunning location on the north end of the island.
- Meridiana Wine Estate – This grand vineyard does tasting sessions with food platters. It’s the posh option.
While Valletta might hit the headlines with its medieval castles and whatnot, there’s a whole wonderworld awaiting in the Maltese backcountry. We’re talking dusty ridges, rolling hills dotted with gallery woods, undulating farm fields ringed by drystone walls, and craggy coastlines beset by cliffs and rock arches. It’s a mecca for those who like to escape the city.
Both Malta island and Gozo are great options for walkers. The first is better explored, has more marked trails, and better accessibility. The latter is for those who really want to get away from it all, offering less-trodden paths that lead to hidden coves and things.
Check out these top Malta hikes:
- Slugs Bay Beach Loop – This loop of northwest Malta offers views of the neighboring island and drops through an incredible staircase cut into the cliffs.
- Gebel Ben Gorg Cliffs – Go remote on Gozo with this craggy cliff walk.
- Marsaskala to Marsaxlokk – A particularly awesome part of the Malta coastline, offering views across the south of the Med.
The cost of a trip to Malta varies a lot depending on the time of year you visit. The off-season is between September and May. During that, you’re likely to see the price of everything from accommodation to tours to flights over to the island dip considerably, although Christmas and New Year are the exceptions.
That said, Malta is hardly a bank-buster even during the summer. A mid-range hotel in June or July will likely cost between $80 and $100 a night. What’s more, there are plenty of family-sized farmhouses and villas dotted across the island, which may prove more economical if traveling in a larger group.
More generally, we’d estimate that you need about €60-90 ($67-100) per person, per day in Malta for a pretty good holiday. That puts the country roughly in line with others in Southern Europe (Italy, Greece) but also makes it cheaper than France, Germany, and the UK.
Malta is as an archipelago, meaning that it consists of a number of islands, in this case three. Malta itself is the main and the largest island of the bunch, and the home of the capital of Valletta. For that reason, it’s the most visited and the most built up, so has an abundance of hotel resorts, restaurants, and attractions, not to mention the main airport.
But it’s actually real easy to hop between the other islands of Comino and Gozo. Both can be reached within 30 minutes by ferry from the ports on the northern side of Malta. Gozo is slightly smaller than Malta and prides itself on its peaceful and relaxing nature. Comino is the smallest of the inhabited islands, and is home to only a handful of people. Both offer opportunities for exploration as well as clear waters and beautiful beaches.
Basically what we’re saying here is that you get three islands for the price of one in Malta, and it’s a great adventure for those who want to go on a mini Mediterranean island-hopping adventure.
History oozes from every carved portico on the great cathedrals and every gothic apse in the grand castles of Malta and its towns. Valletta is the place to begin. It’s one of the most striking capitals in Europe, perched like a Game of Thrones citadel above the sloshing waters of the Med. It’s all UNESCO tagged and has an entire old town that’s been virtually unchanged since the days it was a Christian fortress back in the 15th and 14th centuries.
Don’t miss the majestic St. John’s Co-Cathedral, said to be one of the prettiest churches in Europe, it’s home to The Beheading of Saint John – the revered masterwork by Caravaggio. There’s also Fort St Elmo, which hosts the national war museum, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which were used by the medieval knights as a lookout post and relaxation area.
But it’s not all about the capital. Escape to the town of Mdina and you’ll find an equally as immersive spot. There, weaving, winding alleys ring around a venerable town center that was built largely by the Moors of North Africa. Then there’s the Baroque city of Victoria, which sports glowing honey-tinged domes and houses galore.
Is Malta good for tourists?
Malta is a great spot for tourists with something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you want to relax on the beach or take part in an adrenaline-filled activity, you certainly won’tt be bored in Malta. The consistently good weather make it an ideal location to visit at any time of the year, and the range of delicious food, at affordable prices means you can enjoy your trip without breaking the bank.
How many days do you need in Malta?
You can quite easily explore the main island of Malta in just a couple of days. Other islands – Gozo especially – are just a short 30-minute ferry ride away, so you can always incorporate those as day trips. That said, we’d say the prime amount of time to spend in Malta is between seven and 14 days.
What is Malta famous for?
Malta is famous for a number of things, but perhaps mainly it’s the Mediterranean climate, which means sunshine on more than 300 days of the year! On top of that, Malta’s capital in Valletta is one of the most famous in the world, with a UNESCO tag and stunning medieval architecture throughout.