Introduction to a Mediterranean Island
As mentioned before, we’ve visited the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea twice.
Why would one go back there more than once, if Malta is such a tiny-tiny island? To be precise, Malta is 27 kilometers (17 miles) long and 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) wide.
So, why did we visit Malta twice:
- The sea – typical Mediterranean waters (another word for warm and clear).
- Dive sites – plenty of wrecks with unbelievable underwater visibility.
- History – the first inhabitants probably came about 7000 years ago from Sicily. Malta is even mentioned in the Bible (Acts 28) where the Apostle Paul’s ship went on shore and he took refuge in a cave (St Paul’s Grotto) in Rabat. During WW1, they were the “nurse of the Mediterranean” and during WW2 Malta was Britain’s most important Mediterranean naval base.
- Awe-inspiring buildings in ancient narrow streets and medieval temples dating back to 2700 BC.
- Their people – really friendly and always willing to help. We had great conversations with the Maltese and admired them for their devotion towards their families and just family life in general.
- Maltese food and drinks – we fell instantly in love with their Pastizzi (puff pastry cakes filled with ricotta cheese) and oh, their amazing bread! Berto enjoyed the local beer, Cisk (lager) and I’ve found their wine really tasty.
- The island is a movie set! Malta is home to some iconic movie settings, like Popeye (1980), Gladiator (2000), Troy (2004) and Game of Thrones (2011-2019) to just name a few. We’ve visited the set of Popeye and will do a separate post about this excursion.
There you go … more than enough reasons to visit Malta (again and again 😉).
Following, is a list of the cities/villages we’ve visited while in Malta … we will write separate posts about each one in the following weeks to come:
This is the city that the Knights of St John of Jerusalem built after The Great Siege of 1565 and is the capital of Malta.
THE THREE CITIES
Across the Grand Harbour from Valletta are the Three Cities, namely Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua.
From anywhere around the harbour there are enchanting views of these cities and the honey-coloured stone are beautiful to watch (especially during sunset).
BLUE GROTTO (Coastline)
There are quite a few caves on the coast of Malta, of which the Blue Grotto is probably the most spectacular.
The fishing hamlet, Wied-iz-Zurrieq is quite small and there are only a couple of cafes and souvenir shops. The diving from here are amazing and Berto had the opportunity to dive the famous Um El Faroud wreck.
Even if you’ve only got a limited interest in ancient ruins, you will be in awe by the sheer age of the Neolithic temples. There are over 30 Stone Age temples on 18 different sites. We’ve visited Hagar Qim and Mnajdra near Blue Grotto.
This used to be an old fishermen’s village, but these days it’s a well-equipped sea resort … though not as much as the over touristy places like Sliema, St Julian and St Paul’s Bay.
A beautiful little village that overlooks a bay which is packed with the traditional fishing boats (luzzu). The Sunday morning market is a colourful event and we had a really tasty lunch at one of the restaurants here.
MDINA (The Silent City)
Mdina is the ancient walled city in Malta where the aristocratic families used to live in the 14th and 15th centuries.
The entire walled city is a pedestrian zone – I can’t imagine anyway how cars can drive in these narrow streets and lanes.
This is an absolute tourist attraction and can become quite crowded over the summer months (well, that was pre-Covid anyway). Main attractions here are the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral, museums and palaces.
Some visitors might see Rabat as an add-on to Mdina, even as a suburb. Yet, you will find beautiful streets with shops and quaint town houses that certainly deserves more attention.
There is also a vast network of catacombs and the Roman Villa and Museum is a wonderful example of the remains of this villa.
The hilltop town of Mellieha Bay looks down on Malta’s biggest sandy beach … no wonder it was the choice of stay during our second visit!
Close to Mellieha Bay is Popeye Village, where the 1980 film Popeye has taken place. In this film, the late Robin Williams starred as Popeye and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl. We will take you on a tour through this village in a future post.
GOZO (sister island of Malta)
Yes, just 25km (15 miles) further from Malta, a ferry will transport visitors to Gozo. Another small island (a quarter of the size of Malta), but an absolute gem and worth a visit.
The Cathedral at the Citadel in Victoria was started in 1697 and completed in 1711 – a beautiful place to visit.
Another popular destination in Gozo was the Azure Window – a fine natural arch, tread lightly across this bridge of fossilized seashells – its collapse has been predicted for years … and sadly it finally happened in a storm during 2017.
We’ve found Gozo so fascinating that we’ve booked accommodation for a full weekend on our second visit to Malta. We’ve stayed in the delightful little seaside village, Xlendi and had more than enough time to visit Gozo and all of its spectacular places.
There is another tiny island close to Malta, namely Comino. With its handful of resident families, the atmosphere and landscape on Comino is that of a deserted, but very beautiful island – the perfect spot for bathing.
With its splendid islands and the blue unspoilt sea, the waters of Malta are recognized as a real paradise where scuba divers can enjoy their favourite sport.
And this is Malta in a nutshell … but there are so much more to ‘tell and show’!
Make sure you don’t miss our future posts about this amazing Mediterranean island!
We have done these trips in 2011 & 2013