The Maltese Islands are like nowhere else. Here you'll find great prehistoric temples, fossil-studded cliffs, glittering hidden coves, thrilling diving opportunities and a history of remarkable intensity.
The Deep Blue Sea
You're never far from the Mediterranean here; in Gozo you can see the sea from almost everywhere you go. The islands' beaches are small and perfectly formed; there are also some breathtakingly beautiful coves to swim in. This is also one of the world's finest places to go diving, with a wealth of sites ranging from sunken WWII bombers to dramatic undersea caves. To cap it all, much of what you'll eat will come from the sea's bounty.
A Mediterrean Cocktail
People here are warm and welcoming, but also have a certain gentle reserve. It's the kind of place where if you ask for directions you'll get a cheerful reply, and maybe even be guided part of your way for good measure.
The country is staunchly Roman Catholic, with mighty churches towering over diminutive villages. But there's also the beguiling mix of cultures that's stewed over generations. The Malti language sounds Arabic, but is speckled with Italian, French and English words, and local food packs in Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavours, while making use of local ingredients like rabbit and honey. Even the local fishing boats resonate with history, their prows painted with eyes as their Phoenician predecessors' were several millennia ago.
Prehistoric & Futuristic
Malta and Gozo are home to some of the world’s most impressive prehistoric sites, including gigantic temples set atop sea cliffs, and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, the 5000-year-old underground necropolis carved perfectly from the living rock. A visit to any of them will stay with you long after you've left the island.
It's also remarkable to visit somewhere where the history of savage warfare – all due to Malta's geographical significance – is so enduringly evident. The islands have an embattled feel, even in today's peaceful times, with their walled cities, great fortresses, fortifications running over remote hills, and myriad underground tunnels that became homes away from home during WWII bombardment.
Though building upon an already overcrowded landscape is a favoured activity of the Maltese, many parts of the island still manage to retain a sense of timelessness. This back-in-time atmosphere is even more pronounced on Gozo, where horses and carts are sometimes seen on country lanes, and quiet villages combine Italianate architecture with incongruous English red post boxes and blue police lamps. Lately, however, Malta's beautiful 17th-century capital, Valletta, has received some substantial 21st-century sparkle. The city has a new Renzo Piano–designed gateway, parliament building and open-air auditorium built on the elegiac ruins of the city’s opera house.
Best places to stay in Malta
Secret Mediterranean islands where you can escape the crowds
There are more than 200 islands in the Med, yet 90 per cent of tourists stay on just 10 per cent of them. We’ve rounded up six lesser-known isles worth seeking out if you’re looking for a little peace and quiet. Pantelleria, Italy Boat at sunset by Luca Volpi. CC BY-SA 2.0.
Malta destination guides
Tiny countries that pack a big punch
Size isn't everything. Here are ten of the smallest countries in the world. Some of them are rarely visited, except by travellers collecting visa stamps. Most are islands, often far flung.
Malta Shore Excursion: Malta Hop-on Hop-off Tour
No matter when your cruise ship arrives in Malta, this is the perfect do-it-yourself shore excursion. Discover Malta’s top attractions on a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour, which provides full commentary and a comfortable, secure environment. Malta boasts more than 7,000 years of history and is brimming with attractions and places of interest.
Malta Shore Excursion: Private Tour of Historic Palaces and Noble Homes
Discover Malta’s luxurious side while you’re in port on this shore excursion to the palaces and noble houses around Valletta. Malta has a long history with varied influences, including Roman, Greek, Arab, French and British, which has led to some beautiful architecture and sophisticated residences.
Steal away: hidden coastlines of the Mediterranean
If lying elbow-to-elbow with sunbathing strangers on a French Riviera beach doesn't fit your criteria for a relaxing seaside getaway, 1) you're not alone and 2) never fear: there are still stretches of uncrowded, undeveloped, and untrampled coastline along the Mediterranean.