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    Explore the unique history of Malta

    By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
    Whether you are off on holiday to dive, to relive a few pages of history, to improve your Maltese or to explore the fringes of Europe, there are countless reasons to make Malta your destination of choice.

    Travel guide

    Small but mighty

    Crammed into a surface area of just a few square miles, you'll find unique archaeological sites, white-rock creeks and coasts with golden sand and wind-chiselled faces. Island-hop from the pristine blue waters of Gozo to the cove-riddled coastline of Comino, before ending up surrounded by centuries of history in the show-stopping capital of Valletta.

    Village culture

    It's impossible not to stop and appreciate Malta's myriad of small villages and towns, filled to bursting with architectural and historic sites which tell the story of an island so often forced to defend itself from attack. To the north, you'll find the quaint village of Mellieha, whilst in the centre await the elegant historic towns of Rabat and Mdina and the prehistoric temples of Hagar Qim et Mnajdra.

    The Fortress City

    At the head of it all sits Valletta, the Fortress City and historic home of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Though almost intimidating from without, once inside you'll find a surprisingly small warren of historic must-sees flanked by bars and restaurants. It may be the capital but once darkness has fallen, the city becomes remarkably quiet and locals head ten minutes along the coast to St Julian's or Paceville, both with great restaurants and buzzing bars competing for space down narrow streets.

    Malta on the water

    You'll find history to fill one hundred holidays on this little island, but if you're looking for beaches Malta is not the destination for you. Few and far between, you'll be hard-pushed to find even a square foot of free sand. Instead, most of the coast is devoted to rocky beaches and beautifully clear Mediterranean waters. No surprise then that diving brings many a visitor to the island's door, in search of WWII wreck dives and impressive underwater caves.

    A Maltese adventure

    All three of the Maltese islands are worth discovering, whether you prefer to cycle them, hike them or even climb them. From the village-addled countryside and rocky coasts of the mainland, to the wide green pastures of Gozo, the distances are small enough that you can leave the car behind. Take time to stop at the tiny island of Camino too, nestled between the two bigger islands and virtually uninhabited save for one hotel and a smattering of snorkelling or diving day-trippers.

    Our Editorial team's advice

    Although the main tourist season runs from April to October, Malta is a great destination all year round. If you want to miss the crowds, aim for a springtime or autumnal trip. Temperatures are still warm and the islands get plenty of sun.

    To really discover the island of Malta - especially in spring - we'd thoroughly recommend hiring a scooter or a bicycle to take you the short distances between villages, towns and scenic coastal spots. If you need it, the islands' public transport systems are well-connected and not too expensive. For the most part too, beach-side hotels offer their guests daily shuttles to the main cities.

    If you're planning on making the trip out to the Blue Lagoon, take a boat from Gozo early in the morning to get there just as the area begins to stir. If there's time, take a trip to Victoria in Gozo, where you can roam for hours on end through the alleys dotted with small ochre churches and lace makers sat on their doorsteps. This is what Malta is all about; take your time to enjoy it.

    pros

    • +The official language is English.
    • +It offers many hotels at affordable prices.
    • +Its boasts a particularly rich cultural heritage.

    cons

    • -Signals are limited on minor roads.
    • -Sandy beaches are small and limited in number (15 for the entire island).

    Traditions

    It may have been part of the British Empire, and the official language may be English, but the local Maltese language is a truly astounding mix of cultures and influences. Almost Arabic in sound, if you listen closely you'll also hear flickers of English, French, Italian.

    Smoking is prohibited in all public areas, including hotels, lounges and restaurants. It is still possible to smoke at outside tables in restaurants and bars.

    The country is firmly Roman Catholic, with spectacular churches to visit in each and every village, as well as those in the larger towns. Be sure to cover your shoulders and knees before entering. Be warned also that you'll find a conservative attitude to beachwear, with a ban on nudity.

    Food

    Malta's cuisine is quite rustic and blends in European influences. 'Widow's soup' is a dish of diced vegetables, cooked with slices of bacon and eggs. The Maltese often prepare fish - grilled or in pies - such as lampuki (bream), the dotte (scorpion fish) or the cerna (grouper).

    Local beer, including the Cisk Lager, is excellent and fairly cheap, whilst coffee is highly reputed even by Italian standards. Don't miss the markets which take place in all the main cities and villages and provide a chance sample the enticing aniseed-stuffed 'qaghaq tal-ghasel' biscuits, goat's cheese and locally-made wines.

    Ideal Weather Search

    Find weekly weather forecasts for Malta . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Malta . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Malta .

    Souvenirs

    Malta is famous for its bobbin or crocheted lace, a tradition dating back to the 17th century. The most common design is definitely the eight-spiked Cross of Malta, but woollen pullovers and scarves, often white in colour, make great souvenirs. Blown glass is also a speciality of the island; the most renowned workshops are located in the village of Ta'Qali, north of Rabat.

    What to see

    The Island of Malta , The island of Malta , Malta
    The Island of Malta
    The Island of Gozo , The island of Gozo , Malta
    The Island of Gozo
    The Island of Comino , Comino Island , Malta
    The Island of Comino
    Baroque art , Malta
    Baroque art
    Roman ruins , Malta
    Roman ruins
    The Megalithic temples , Megalithic temples , Malta
    The Megalithic temples
    The Festas , Festas , Malta
    The Festas
    The Palaces of the Masters , The Grandmaster's Palace, Malta , Malta
    The Palaces of the Masters
    Saint John cathedral , St. John's Co-Cathedral, La Vallette , Malta
    Saint John's Cathedral
    The Ghadira reserve , The Ghadira Reserve , Malta
    The Ghadira reserve
    Marine wildlife , Underwater life , Malta
    Marine wildlife
    St. John's Cathedral , St. John's Co-Cathedral , Malta
    St. John's Cathedral
    The Grand Palace of the President of the Republic of Malta , Palace of the President of the Republic , Malta
    The Grand Palace of the President of the Republic of Malta
    Ta'Pinu basilica , Ta'Pinu church , Malta
    Ta'Pinu Basilica
    Glass blowing , Glasswork , Malta
    Glass blowing

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