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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrMalta, a small island amongst a seven island archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the most scenic and idyllic locations for people who love calm and relaxing holidays.
The geographical location of this tiny island (which only appears as a small speck on a standard map), lies somewhere in the center with Sicily in the north, Tunisia in the west and, Libya in the south. With a land mass of just 316 square kilometers, it is no wonder that Malta is one of the smallest populated islands in the world, not to mention one of the smallest nations of the European Union.
Things To See And ExperienceThis miniscule island seems to have it all when it comes to things to see and experience. The island not only offers compelling architectural sights which boast of Malta's rich cultural heritage, which can be observed when you tour the walled city, but it also offers beautiful grottoes, hidden caves, crystal clear azure waters, temples, coves, cliffs, and just about anything else that one can think of. When one experiences all the things that Malta has to offer, the next holiday becomes that little bit harder to plan as it will be difficult to match the unique scenery and culture of Malta.
ArchitectureThe first noticeable thing when one reaches the shores of Malta, or even when one observes an aerial view of the region from the plane, are the buildings and houses. They are all simple and unpainted limestone. Everything is a beautiful shade of muted yellow and it is an incredibly memorable sight that is architecturally so well blended. Just take your pick of any part of any town and one can see the same glamor of muted colors, brass or iron-carved facades and beautiful lamps that illuminate all the architecturally interesting alcoves.
If one strolls through the walled city of Mdina (now officially a part of the city of Rabat), one gets to experience the delight of cobbled roads that are a tad too small for cars, winding tunnels that gives you an urge to explore, and fabulous churches around each corner, where you least expect them! Most tourists would pay a visit to Fontanella Tea Garden restaurant, right on top of one of the city's walls and sip tea and dig into some incredibly delicious cakes while gazing at the most stunning view of the sea, the shore, and the city. Then there is the sleepy, little fishing town of Marsaxlokk where one can witness the same architectural fantasy come alive, but this time, just with a bit more color! The colorful fishing boats that are favored by the local community are all docked together, making it a scenic, photogenic location favored by many travelers.
VallettaValletta, the capital city of Malta, is a World Heritage site and a tourist delight. It is a breathtaking tourist experience that takes you through some unique architectural structures, quaint wine bars and rustic cafes. The haunting, winding cobbled roads are fascinating to walk through, especially when coupled with the joy of enjoying Valletta's timelessly fascinating architecture. Tourists are treated to the awe of the Baroque architecture, which was donated almost five centuries ago by the Knights of Saint John along with the majesty of the imposing walls of Saint John's Co Cathedral.
Valletta is a treasure chest for those who love culture, arts and crafts. The city and its walls are an artist's creative fantasy and the cultural scene boasts of theater events, concerts and even operas. There is a distinct disparity of pace in the city between the work hours and the after-hours. The city's pace slows down substantially in the night and this is the perfect time for tourists to stroll down the cobbled stone pathways and enjoy the city's limestone buildings, imposing walls and wooden balconies, that bask in the glow of the warm, muted street lamps.
The fortress city of Valletta was named after Jean Parisot de la Valette, the city's founder and respected Grand master of the Order of Saint John. As you walk through the grid work of narrow lanes in this beautiful city, you get transported into a historical time that placed great value on art and music. There is no missing the impressive statues, fountains and picturesque parapets that showcase Malta's coat of arms along with its steep, fort-like bastions.
Hotels in Valletta
RabatThe village of Rabat, a suburb of Malta's old capital city Mdina is also a tourist 'must visit' destination. It is accessible by road of course but also by train from Valletta. Rabat may be a small town but it contributes significantly to Malta's agriculture and tourism revenues. Many famous movie sequences, including some parts of the movies Black Eagle and Munich has been shot in this region.
Tourists here are often fascinated by the Saint Paul and Saint Agatha Catacombs, which lie smack bang in Rabat. These were basically Roman burial grounds within the city. The Roman Villa or the Domus Romana is also an appealing visit for tourists. The Domus Romana was once a beautiful townhouse and while it is not just the remains of its former glory, it is still a valuable showcase of ancient mosaics. In fact, the mosaic pavements here are considered to rank amongst some of the most ancient in the world. The Wignacourt Museum, which exhibits artifacts of Punic-Roman origin, is also worth a visit, for here is a glorious exhibition of some oldest historical ceramics, paintings, pottery items and sculptures to be dug up in this region.
Saint Paul's Grotto, the foundation site for the Catholic Church in Malta has been considered as a sacred place for Christians here. It is not just the tourists who love to visit it, as the site has historically been paid homage to by many influential people from around the world, including a visit from Pope John Paul II in 1990.
Hotels in Rabat
Saint Julian'sThe coastal town of St. Julian's is a paradise for water loving tourists, as it boasts of enjoyable beaches and cliffs with great marine views. In a town called Paceville, tourists can enjoy great nightlife, it being the hub of nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Though tourists flock here all year round, it is a particularly favorite summer haunt of the local Maltese as well.
Towns that you just should not miss while you're here are Spinola Bay, Balluta Bay, Saint George's Bay and the Il-Quliet Cliffs. Apart from an old Parish church, the small town's Spinola Bay is a special favorite with tourists who love to enjoy some peace and quiet on sunny evenings or weekends. Water sports and diving are popular here. The bay is lined with shady Judas trees, which lend a unique serenity to the locality, should you just choose to watch all the activity rather than participate in it.
Hotels in St. Julian's
SliemaSliema lies on the northwestern coast of Malta and while it too has an abundance of activities for all kinds of fun loving tourists, what it is best known for is its dining, shopping and nightlife options. Some of the best tourist hotels and modern apartments and villas are located here as well. If shopping and dining are not your prime activities of choice, of course the relaxing beach activities, cruises and water sports are still available here as well.
It is best to explore Sliema on foot, as finding suitable parking can be quite a frustrating exercise here. Sliema not only has one of the largest but also one of the most modern shopping centers in Malta. While the streets too are full of novelty shops, it is quite easy to find international fashion chains such as Zara and Mango here as well. Tigne Point is one of the most recent developments for shopaholics, though the prices are hardly the cheapest in Europe. Irrespective of your budget considerations, Sliema offers plenty of good dining experiences; opportunities that work on all days, whether you feel like sticking to a budget or whether you intend to go all out for that holiday splurge!
Hotels in Sliema
Natural and Archaeological SitesWith large resources of limestone and other similar sedimentary rocks, it is no surprise that Malta has a whole new natural world that can be located underground, underwater and sometimes above ground level. Naturally formed peaks and cliffs, natural caves and grottoes and underground labyrinths are some of the main attractions of Malta. Maltese tourism does not limit tourists to the usual beaches, malls, and museums, but lets them loose to explore freely and to their hearts content.
For the more archaeologically inclined tourists, Malta and the neighboring Gozo have the oldest prehistoric buildings known to man. Not just that, large, megalithic monuments that date from the Bronze age and older, right down to traces of the prehistoric man have been found on these islands! For tourists who aren't intimidated by enclosed, underground locations, the Hypogeum, which is believed to be an age-old temple and burial site, is a must-see attraction for visitors. If one cares to explore these attractions, other sites such as the temple ruins of Borg in-Nadur, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples in Qrendi , and the mysterious cart tracks of Clapham Junction are exciting prospects.
On the natural front, Malta is a photographer's delight. Malta not only has the usual, clear, sunny skies that are prerequisites for the best natural photographs, but the island also has the most unusual and breathtaking sites to mention as well. If one goes nowhere else other than the beach (for tourists that have come to relax), one may have to rethink and reconsider the decision to remain on the beach for the duration of their stay. There is one place that every tourist 'must' visit and that is the famous Blue Grotto. This is a beautiful, naturally formed underwater cave that is aptly topped with a naturally formed stone-bridge-like structure (if one'd want to call it that). The walls of the grotto are lined with red coral. What makes the site stunning are the turquoise waters that are just so clear that you can see the underwater flora below. The caverns trap light reflections which bounces off the waters and in the most mysterious of ways, offer an illuminating, phosphorescent color that is simply not found anywhere else.
Of course if one goes to Malta, it would be such a shame to miss the views offered by the Dingli Cliffs and the Delimara Lighthouse!
Beaches and LagoonsAs summer tourists, it is completely expected that one will spend some time tanning on the golden beaches of Malta, as it is practically impossible to drag oneself off the beach until the sun sets; it's just not happening.
The capital city of Valletta has a great harbor, but if it is sandy beaches that everyone wants, there are two options to choose from. The choice is between the most popular, touristy and of course crowded beaches like Mellieha Bay or Golden Bay, or of course the less popular but equally spectacular beaches such as Paradise Bay or Armier Beach!
Anchor Bay (also known as Popeye Village, due to the famous Robin Williams' film that was shot here) is also a great beach town to visit. To mingle with some locals, it is best to head to Balluta Bay. For such a small island, Malta has various beaches to choose from.
Things To DoApart from all the places to see and experience in Malta; cuisine and the culture, scuba diving, snorkeling and water sports are the biggest 'to-do' activities. Not surprising, considering that it is an island surrounded by warm waters and plenty of sandy beaches! For people who enjoy outdoor activities such as walks and hikes which are quite popular here. In fact, there are quite a few clearly demarcated walking and hiking trails that run through spectacular countryside, which would otherwise remain unexplored should you prefer to do the exploring by car!
Neighboring IslandsNo trip to Malta can be complete without a ferry tour of the neighboring inhabited islands of Gozo and Comino. Seasoned tourists who have been to Malta several times will always tell you, that no ferry tour can replicate a private tour in a personal speedboat as the experience is just phenomenal! Gozo's Azure Window, Calypso Cave, and Fungus Rock are completely mind-blowing but for tourists who are not that easily satisfied, a visit to Dahlet Qorrot, a fishing village with splendid views, and Dwejra Bay is a must. Gozo's Ramla I-Hamra Beach is a one-of-a-kind, red sand beach that will also leave you with unforgettable memories.
On Comino, you will find the most amazing beach settings ever. Comino's Blue Lagoon is surely a work of fiction and not a reality! The lagoon is a beautiful, sheltered bay that has the clearest of blue waters that are warm enough to swim in. Once the swimming and water sports have been enjoyed, which may take a while, one can take a stroll down the even tinier island's coastline and discover a local church and a dramatic castle.
How To Get ThereMalta might be a small country, in a secluded location and with very little coverage in the daily news, but when it comes to tourism, Malta has the ability to hold its own among the best holiday destinations in the world. With the desirable, warm, Mediterranean climate, and several visit-worthy destinations right on its shores, an annual tourist influx of 1.2 million does not seem like much at all. For a holiday that is relaxing yet filled with fun, consisting of sun, sand and a whole lot of adventure, Malta offers great options. You can get to Malta by boat or by cruise, but the most popular alternative is to travel by flight. Malta might be small, really small, but it does have one fully functional airport with a fantastic and well-catered viewing gallery.
Things To Avoid And Local TipsWater is not an easily accessed commodity here, since the island has no large, freshwater bodies like some of the other islands. Water is imported in Malta (so are a lot of the food since Malta is not self-sufficient in agriculture) and while hiking, shops may not come by as frequently as expected. Carrying water is thus very important, and so is carrying sun screen (maybe a whole bag full)! It is important to be careful with wallets and phones but as theft is hardly a problem, one can afford to relax on that front. It is important to book flight as well as hotel reservations well in advance as the prices dramatically increase as the touristy, summer months approach!
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Author: Sayali Bedekar Patil. Last updated: Jun 30, 2015