Spring in Malta
Malta is not your typical Mediterranean getaway. A small, formally contested blip in the EU, Malta is more like an extension of Italy with its cultural influence and a hangover of British imperialism. But this often forgotten island is a welcome combination of British structure and Italian chaos that somehow seems to form some kind of synergy of excellence. With blue skies, blue waters and a horizon stretching forever across the Mediterranean sea, it is no wonder more people are starting to travel to the island.
Despite its size, there are pockets of interest spread across the Island ready to explore, including two connecting Islands in Gozo and Camino that have spectacular cliff formations – under threat from fierce winds and erosion – and some of the most beautiful inlets and beaches this side of Thailand.
The food is really very special in Malta. Nowhere have I had such fresh, delicate combinations of flavours, and for such affordable prices. Flavours of the sea combined with southern Italian staples and a particular slant to a very British Rabbit stew, make for a fresh abundance of dishes across the country. Fine dining is in particular extremely cheap for the quality that is offered and the hubs of Valetta, Sliema and St Julian’s have an overwhelming variety of mid-range restaurants that consistently have fine dining service and menus for next to nothing.
From the formidable Strait Street in the capital Veletta, little alleyway bars and Italian restaurants to waterfront vistas such as The Villa in Sliema, with fresh seafood served right to your table, there is no shortage of great food. Be sure to check out the historical coffee bar and cake shop Caffe Cordina for a surreal Italian-in-Harrods afternoon tea.
There is no shortage of things to do from day tonight, with the largest number of UNSECO world heritage sites in one place including the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum (that requires months of pre-booking) and multiple megalithic temple locations. From dawn to dusk, adventure tours from day-long boat trips to surrounding islands, parasailing, snorkelling and speedboat rides are everywhere or if you want to tailor your own, equipment rental huts surround all the major beaches and some of the smaller inlets.
Although the bus system is extremely extensive and affordable ( €21 for a full weekly ticket) to get around the coastal hubs, renting a car, or scooter for a couple of days to explore beyond the fringe is well worth your while. Although buses do travel to all areas of interest, the small coastal roads and constant traffic jams can make a 20 minute journey up to two hours long.
The old city of Mdina is without a doubt a must see. As the fortified capital from around the eight century through to the middle ages, the city still has a small residential population. Popular today for its views, amazing sweet shops and traditional architecture, wandering the streets sends you back in time. For a hit of kitsch, Popeye Village is a must see. The village purpose-built for the film is still perfectly intact and is located at one of the most majestic fishing villages in the country. Points too go to the authorities here, who have successfully capitalised on this site. With your ticket, you get a free drink, a boat ride around the lagoon and open-ended access to the beach all for €10.
An alternative to the Greek Islands, South of France and Croatia, Malta offers sun, sail, warn waters, seafood, history and adventure at a fraction of the price. Great for families, couples and group holidays with friends, Malta is a truly relaxing escape well worth a visit.