If you are reading this, changes are big you’ve got a serious case of wanderlust. We all do. Wanting to travel as far, as much and as long as possible. But, we tend to forget that sometimes, far and long isn’t necessarily what we need. Or what we are capable off (those damn bosses that wont let us travel the world whenever we feel like it). If a 10 day break is all you need, want and can pull off, there are still plenty of places to go where you will feel just as far away as if you traveled all the way to the other end of the globe. We shouldn’t forget those little gems closer to home (well, in case you happen to live in Europe, if not, then this story is not about close to home but still very much worth it ;-)). One of those gems is the medieval and exotic isle of Malta.
Hidden between Italy and Africa, Malta is easily overlooked. A shame, since those pristine beaches, ancient cities, spectacular cliffs, amazing architecture and so much more, is worth every bit of your attention. Whether you want to dance all night long in one of the many bars in St. Julian, work on your tan in Qawra, visit ancient ruins or sniff on some culture in Valetta, you’ll enjoy every bit of it, hassle free. And even though it’s always charming to discover places where you don’t speak the language, the fact that English is the second official language on Malta, makes your trip even more relaxing. Another important detail that will definitely make you want to book: the climate. Between May and October, the average temperature is 26 degrees celsius. Wintertime on the island means an average of 12 degrees. Not too bad eh?
Where to stay
There a enough villages on Malta where you can book your stay, from simple apartments to all-inclusive resorts. Where to stay all depends on your main goal of the trip. Want to head over to one of those resorts? Then Qawra, Bugibba and St. Pauls Bay are your towns. However, don’t expect much of the true Malta here, these towns are full of concrete and tourists. So make sure you have a damn nice resort if this is your home away from home. The true party animals among us should go to St. Julian. This is one of the most vibrant towns, filled with clubs, bars and cocktails. You’ll dance the night away and thanks to the many happy hours, won’t feel robbed inside your wallet. Just be careful here at night, if you don’t watch your belongings closely, you might get robbed for real (oh yeah, my pretty iPhone was a goner after one night in St. Julian’s barstreet, and I wasn’t the only one). So leave your phone at home and party on. The best of both worlds, in my opinion, is the more relaxed but still bustling Sliema. This seaside town, across the water from Valetta, offers nice walks down the boulevard, some great restaurants, good places to stay as well as some more quietness.
Hey, bus driver
Since Malta is home to so many different types of fun, there is one thing you definitely need to do: grab the bus. Until 2011 the island was populated by a large amount of bright yellow, orange, blue and red oldtimer buses, most of them enhanced with religious artifacts of the owner of the bus. It was a sight to be seen and even more an adventure to drive. Unfortunately those buses have disappeared since then, but that does not mean that it isn’t still the best way to make your way around the country. ‘It’s not about the destination but about the journey’ couldn’t be more true here. Just staring lazily out of the window, admiring the landscape zoom by, is the most relaxing way to travel. Best part of it, it’s pretty affordable. Specially when you plan to discover a different part of the island every day. In that case you can buy an unlimited bus pass for 7 days. This ‘ Explore’ card is just 21 euros (yes, they have euro’s) and will get you anywhere you want, day and night. You can buy these passes at a number of sales offices, including the airport. Just ask for the Tallinja Explore card.
Right, so you have your transport all sorted out. Now, where to go?
This is the countries’ capital, UNESCO recognized, and it’s fabulous. The city is surrounded by water and makes you feel like you have traveled back in time to the middle ages. It has some beautiful churches, St. Johns Cathedral to name one, harbors and tiny alleys to get lost in. If you want to chill out for a while, reading a book or just watch people (or boats), go the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Full of shady places, little fountains and birds. Don’t be scared when they fire the canons that are stationed below the gardens, that just happens. Valetta offers lots of little and big cafe’s and terraces, restaurants and bars. And of course a ton of nice little shops, museums and everything you need for a hot day in the city.
Wherever you are in Malta, on almost every street corner they’ll try to sell you a cruise to Comino, a small Island where the water is bluer than blue in the Blue Lagoon. This cruise will sail you along the Maltese coastline, it’s super pretty. However, in the summer season, it’s also super crowded. If you happen to find yourself on Malta before June or after September, take the cruise. Just make sure you pay a little extra for the more luxe cruise on a Turkish wooden vessel, you’ll get everything you need including a little mattress on the deck for sunbathing. Don’t go for the cheaper, massive tourist boats. Unless you like to sit on an uncomfortable plastic chair, almost on the lap of your sunburned English neighbor for the entire day. If you don’t fancy the cruise (in the high-season) or if you are on a budget, take the bus! Go to Cirkewwa in the north and embark on of the ferries to the Blue Lagoon. Once arrived, you can stay as long or short as you like. Go early if you want to avoid the crowds (there will be crowds, trust me, but the water is worth it).
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay & Golden Sands
Hey beach bum, this is the place to go for a tranquil day in the sand. There is, as far as I know, only one resort near these beaches, so it’s much less crowded than the sandy options near the resort towns. Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Sands are next to each other and the bus stop is in the middle of nowhere. The beaches look like hidden bays and you’ll find a lot of locals here as well. There are not many restaurants, so make sure you stock up before you go. All you need to do once you have arrived: find a spot and enjoy. Oh, and to make sure you are back at the busstop in time for the final bus to avoid being stuck here for the night (unless you are up for and adventure, of course).
Hidden Ghar Lapsi
After a long busdrive, you’ll arrive at Ghar Lapsi. At first you will doubt whether you are at the right place and whether you should catch the bus right back. Then you will walk down the street, and see the stairway between the rocks. Climb down and smile, you are in the right place. A natural pool between the rocks is the perfect place to cool down and to chill in the water. Want to chase some fish? Just swim from the pool to the open water, put on your goggles and enjoy the underwater-world. This is a mostly known as a dive site and a far journey from almost all of the villages, so you’ll see more Maltese seniors bathing there than hungover tourists. It’s pure heaven.
Eat cake in Mdina
Exactly in the middle of the island, the medieval town of Mdina arises. Hardly any cars are allowed in this thickly walled city, so you can look around and simply be amazed by the wonder of the buildings, the doors (yes the doors), the views, the smells and the cake. Yes, the cake alone is a reason to catch those buses heading to Mdina. Search for Fontanella Tea Garden, find a spot on top of the city walls, take in the views and the most amazing cakes. If you don’t mind death by chocolate, take the choco one and thank me later.
Spinola bay stroll
If you’re staying in Sliema or St. Julian, don’t forget a stroll around Spinola bay. Full of nice places to dine or drink or just soak up the many lights and sounds. There is only one word that describes this bay: lovely.
The colours of Marsaxlokk
Google Malta images and you’ll find the colorful boats of Marsaxlokk. Not a sight to miss. This little fisher town is not spoiled by large apartment buildings and will give you the authentic Malta vibe. The boulevard is the perfect place to grab a bite, since the many little cafes offer great fish meals for very reasonable prices. If you are there on Sunday, the big market will tickle all of your senses.
I think I haven’t covered half of the adventures you can have on Malta, but you get the picture. This is one perfect island, combining sightseeing and other day trips with lazily hanging on the waterfront. There is no need to head over to the other side of the world to experience true adventures. Just make sure to catch the bus on time!