MALTA (1)


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.

Malta – situated in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Italy and north of Libya (©GraphicMaps.com)

So, why did we visit Malta twice:

  1. The sea – typical Mediterranean waters (another word for warm and clear).
Entrance to the Grand Harbour at Valletta
  • 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.
Yummy Pasttizi (Credit: Pinterest – Bess Garison)
We’ve enjoyed the local wine and beer while visiting Malta
  • 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.
A set of the movie Troy (Credit: Stock photo’s)

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:

VALLETTA

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.

A well-fortified city
You will find several long streets of steps in Malta’s capital

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).

A view of Senglea (with Cospicua in the background)
A walk in Senglea will give you ample exercise!

BLUE GROTTO (Coastline)

There are quite a few caves on the coast of Malta, of which the Blue Grotto is probably the most spectacular.

Small boats waiting to take tourists inside the cave

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.

Take a leisurely stroll at Blue Grotto while admiring the view
The small island of Filfla is visible from Blue Grotto

PREHISTORIC SITES

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.

MARSASCALA

Marsascala

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.

MARSAXLOKK

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 some really tasty fish dishes at one of the restaurants here.

The colourful luzzu’s in Marsaxlokk harbour

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.

Main gateway to Mdina

The entire walled city is a pedestrian zone – I can’t imagine anyway how cars can drive in these narrow streets and lanes.

But somehow, you do see the odd car here and there inside Mdina

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.

Take a stroll through the ancient streets of Mdina
The landscape of Malta as seen from the walls of Mdina

RABAT

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.

The streets of Rabat

There is also a vast network of catacombs and the Roman Villa and Museum is a wonderful example of the remains of this villa.

Mosaic work in the Roman villa and Museum

MELLIEHA BAY

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.

The Cathedral in Gozo
Beautiful streets in Victoria (Gozo’s traditional capital)

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.

The well-known Azure Window – photo taken before it collapsed in 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.

The bay at Xlendi where its calm water is ideal for swimming
From the Citadel, we had a 360-degree view of the island of Gozo
A rare opportunity to see lacemaking – the island’s most famous home industry

COMINO ISLAND

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.

SCUBA DIVING

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.

Malta provides excellent diving conditions

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

Categories: South African Break Aways

32 comments

  1. Malta – so good you visited twice. I can see why.
    I am very familiar with the Popeye movie. I have seen it about 28 times! Not because I am a mega Robin Williams fan or obsessed with cartoon pirates, but because I had a job as an usherette in a cinema when I was at school and couldn’t invigilate the ’18’ – or X-Rated movies as they were then.
    I shall look forward to re-acquainting myself with the locations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow – 28 times … the devotion of a young school girl (I had such a laugh now 😄). Well, I’m sure you’ll enjoy our post about Popeye Village and will recognise several places – we were quite impressed with the whole set!

      Like

  2. Definitely a place I want to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my goodness, I wanna go! Lovely photos, Corna! Looks like a place I could spend a couple weeks without ever getting bored! 🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Enjoyed our own visit to Malta and would be happy to return. Your photos are a nice reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful Malta – my next post coming up will be on this incredible little island too. We loved the sunshine and wide variety of history/food/views/beaches on offer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks beautiful – I’ll look forward to your future posts about these places 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I would love to visit Malta! Looks terrific, honestly not surprised you wanted to go there twice! Often small place have so much to offer that you end up needing more time than expected to truly enjoy it. I definitely felt it on my visit to the island to Madeira last year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And guess what … we’ll go back a third time 😉 (whenever that will be possible). You’re absolutely right about the reason we’ve visited Malta twice – we’ve definitely enjoyed our second visit more.
      After looking at your posts on Madeira, I can also understand your urge of going back there – it is such a beautiful place!
      Thanks for reading and your comment 👍🏻.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a stunning destination! You are lucky ducks to have visited TWICE. I will keep dreaming…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We were there a couple of years ago..it was an amazing placec to visit. Such a beautiful site.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow that is amazing, we have been thinking of visiting, but of course right now we are not going anywhere…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Malta is high on our list once we are based in Sain. Terrific blog post with great information. Saving this. Thank you.
    Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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