If variety is the spice of life, then the Maltese archipelago most definitely got the memo! From culture vulture antics in Malta's capital to ancient landscapes in Gozo, these bitesize island beauties are jam-packed full of showstopping sights. Whether you're a wandering soul or a good old-fashioned sun seeker, Malta and Gozo are where holidays and happiness go hand in hand.
Once you've had a taste of these irresistible islands, you'll soon realise why so many world powers have vied for the archipelago's affections. Set in the heart of the Mediterranean, just a stone's throw from Sicily, these shores have long been sought-after and fought-over. A bona-fide paradisiacal prize, it took holidaymakers a while to cotton on to what prehistoric empires saw all along. Now a melting pot of cultural influences, the islands have inherited Italy's elegance, Arabic flavours and a lengthy British legacy.
From Malta's brown and baked scenic beauty to Gozo's greener stylings, there's no doubt that nature lovers will relish exploring the wild, unspoilt landscapes. If your tastes lean more towards iconic landmarks and man-made masterpieces, the archipelago's compact size has got you covered. Go from rural recreation to bright city lights in no time. Bursting at the seams with Baroque churches, maritime museums and all manner of traditional treasures, it's no wonder Malta's capital, Valletta, donned the European Capital of Culture crown in 2018.
The Maltese have a reputation for being as warm as their weather, a testament to their full-hearted hospitality and welcome-anywhere attitude. Friendly locals will happily point you in the right direction if you get lost while exploring, or better yet, they'll make suggestions on other places to pop into! A people truly proud of their heritage, they're keen to share stories and must-sees with visitors. Not to mention the countless carnivals and events crammed into the islands social calendar. Be sure to swing by and join in with the festivities, from streets decorated in a kaleidoscope of colour to dazzling firework displays – the Maltese know how to party!
Basking in over 300 sunny days a year, Malta and Gozo are blessed with a balmy climate across the seasons. Enjoying mild winters and heavenly summer highs, the archipelago is every bit as Mediterranean as you might imagine. Temperatures soar well into the 30°Cs in July and August, perfect for beach bums looking to top up their tan.
Spring and Autumn are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and day-trip devotees. Blissful breezes make conditions comfortable for hikers and cyclists, keeping climes pleasantly cool as they rise through the 20°Cs. Sea temperatures stay toasty well into October, so a spot of last-minute sun could most definitely be on the cards!
Whatever your holiday habits might be, Malta and Gozo are teeming with tonnes of bucket list must-sees. Just a 20 minute ferry ride apart, these two pearls of the Mediterranean have managed to keep their own personalities intact. From otherworldly seascapes to wind-battered cliffs and temples that have stood the test of time, here's a taste of what the islands have to offer…
Livelier and louder than its little sister, the archipelago's golden child gets its 24-carat colour from places other than its sandy shores. Valletta, Malta's capital, is a shining example of those honey hues. Sitting pretty on a hilly peninsula, it glistens in a perpetual state of sun kissed warmth. If you're looking for a place to start, the fortified city and its first-rate view-points are sure to spark your wanderlust. Meander the maze of alleyways and navigate the narrow cobblestone streets, all the while stumbling onto hidden gems and iconic landmarks. Stamped with the UNESCO seal of approval, this World Heritage Site is showered in cultural treasures and accessorised with architectural elegance. For the best view in the house, head to the Upper Barakka Gardens and admire the harbour panorama over the Three Cities of Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa.
Trade new for old (a relative term on Malta) and spend a relaxed day in Mdina. A medieval marvel that's been stealing hearts for centuries, it stands proudly at the island's highest point. Dubbed the 'Silent City', the historic hamlet is a peaceful breakaway, boasting picturesque squares and hidden passageways by the bucket load. Mirroring Malta's aptitude for an unbelievable amount of things to do in such a tiny space, Mdina boasts Game of Thrones filming locations, soaring city walls and secret tombs. The original capital is even more beautiful at night when illuminated by lamp light, so if you can't spare a full day an evening visit is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Not to be outdone by man-made masterpieces, Mother Nature has loving crafted coastal havens and rocky works of art across the island. Whether you're after all-action adventures or relaxed rambles, there's something for everyone. Dust off your hiking boots and conquer the countless trails that snake their way across the countryside, leading you through traditional villages, wild flower meadows and across dizzyingly high cliffs. Swap boots for wheels and cycle your way along narrow lanes and ever-changing scenery, thanks to Malta's petite size you can ride almost anywhere! Horse riding at Golden Bay, sunset sailing along the dramatic coastline, or heart-racing rock climbing are just some of the ways to unleash your adventurous streak…
Your moment of holiday glory awaits on gorgeous Gozo! A match made in heaven for anyone craving time spent in the great outdoors, nature rules the roost on this little island. Surrounded by deep blue seas, carpeted in lush green valleys and fringed by red sands and soaring cliffs, there's a whole host of ways to explore. From peaceful country rambles to windsurfing and sea-kayaking, get under Gozo's skin with action-packed activities. Luscious landscapes aren't restricted to life above the waves either, with a whole underwater world waiting to be explored. Aquatic adventures are one of the most popular pastimes among visitors, with plenty of options for first time divers. Rugged rocks, flurries of fish and eerie shipwrecks are just some of the rewards waiting beneath the surface.
History hunters are in for a treat, with ancient ruins and Megalithic marvels scattered across Gozo. The Ġgantija temples are among the oldest stone buildings in the world and were dreamt into existence even before Stonehenge – well and truly earning their UNESCO World Heritage Status. Extending a whopping six metres in places, their name translates to giant and it's not hard to see why! The island is peppered with pre-historic pockets that feel as though you've stepped back in time, although a keen eye is needed to identify some of the smaller sites, surely that's all part of the fun…
Unlike its big sister, Gozo has kept things almost completely traditional. Time-honoured towns, hilltop hamlets and old-world villages give visitors a taste of local life, each with their own eccentricities and claims to fame. L-Għasri is Gozo's smallest village and dominated by the iconic Gordan lighthouse, offering 360° views over the entire island. Ix-Xewkija is the oldest settlement and home to a world-famous rotunda. You'll find the dazzling domed church at the centre of the village, a beloved landmark visible almost anywhere thanks to its sheer size. Weighing in at 45,000 tons, the dome alone is an impressive 74 metres tall. Picturesque Xagħra packs a punch with its collection of attractions, from the UNESCO World Heritage Temples of Ggantija, an 18th Century windmill, grottos and medieval chapels. A stone's throw from the village itself you'll find the mythological Calypso Cave, allegedly home to the nymph in Homer's Odyssey.
When it comes to sandy sweet spots, Malta and Gozo's coastal creations will leave you spoilt for choice. Brooding, off-the-beaten track beauties, secret sunset coves and heavenly hideaways are all at hand for the under-the-radar beach goer. Buzzing bays boasting golden shores and shallow waters are paradise for more mainstream sun seekers. Mix with a balmy Mediterranean climate, turquoise lagoons and natural pools and you're good to go!
Blue Flagged Għajn Tuffieħa is the perfect place to lay out your towel and escape the crowds, while Fomm Ir-rih is one of Malta's most isolated and wildest bays. If sweeping seascapes crafted with dramatic design are more your cup of tea, then iconic Dwejra Bay is the one for you. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area is home to the Blue Hole, an inland sea and collection of nature-crafted craggy masterpieces.
Headliner on most holidaymakers' bucket lists is none other than Comino's Blue Lagoon. Sandwiched between Malta and Gozo and surrounded by aquamarine waters, this spot is sure to make your jaw drop. Only accessible by boat, choose between your own private charter, one of the local tours or a public ferry. Be warned though, the area's beauty hasn't gone unnoticed. Beat the day-trippers and head out early for a secluded snorkel in the stunning sheltered inlet.
Inspired by local produce and influenced by a medley of Mediterranean flavours, sink your teeth into mouthwatering Maltese dishes like fish pie, rabbit stew and Kaputana. A taste sensation based on changing seasons and available ingredients, traditional recipes have been passed down through generations, so locals have had a long time to hone their culinary creations.
Pastizzi pastries were the Maltese stand-in for fast food right up until the 1990s, but the lip-smacking snacks are no less popular now the big brands have arrived. Found all over the archipelago, fluffy pastry parcels come with savoury or sweet fillings, so take your pick from ricotta, mushy peas of Nutella. A must-try on a Malta and Gozo holiday!
The Maltese people will find any excuse to party! Enjoying an unbelievably busy annual calendar crammed with cultural events, summer carnivals, religious celebrations and foodie festivals, chances are your holiday will coincide with at least one. Performing arts are growing more and more popular, with a jazz festival recently being added to the repertoire. Towns and cities are dressed up to the nines in dazzling lights and beautifully decorated streets, with every colour of the rainbow on display – and we're not just talking about Pride.
A firm favourite with visitors and locals alike is Malta's International Fireworks Festival. Bringing some serious sparkle to the April sky, the pyrotechnic celebration was born out of Malta's ascension to the EU. Now it's reimagined itself as a worldwide competition in which local groups and international companies try and out-do each other with their crowd pleasing whizzes and bangs. Lasting for three nights and taking place in various iconic backdrops across the archipelago, different themes are set each year to keep audiences and competitors on their toes. Out-of-this-world waterfront illuminations at Valletta's harbour are not to be missed!
Wheels are the way when it comes to getting to grips with Malta and Gozo. Bitesize distances lend themselves to driving, so you can get anywhere your heart desires in next to no time. Not to mention the top attractions are all much easier to access with a car, allowing you to jam-pack your itinerary with as many must-sees as you can physically manage! The tiny little landmass has plenty of bucket list hotspots to choose from, whether it's blissful beaches, craggy cliffs or historic highlights – the freedom of a hire car makes your holiday hassle-free. Thanks to Malta's historical attachment to us Brits, they drive on the left. So you'll feel right at home cruising along coastal roads and navigating country lanes.
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