Malta

Timeless atmosphere in a quintessentially Mediterranean culture

Overview

Gazing over the glistening 350 year old Gozitan salt pans, paint brush in hand, being coached by a professional local watercolour artist, you’ll know you made the right choice to take a low season trip to the stunning Maltese islands. Made up of Malta, Gozo, and Comino, the archipelago lies smack bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, between Sicily and the North African coast. Just about every invading force going has left their mark. The Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, French and British have all occupied the isles, leaving a space brimming with historic landmarks. And now it’s your turn to experience this beautiful country of impressive cliffs, grottos, harbours, and delicious cuisine.

During the long hot summers the islands are filled with sun-seeking tourists, but a low season visit during the cooler November to March period is an excellent way to escape the dreary winters of northern Europe. With highs ranging upwards from the mid-teens the weather is ideal for hiking, and although it might be on the chilly side for a dip in the sea, you’ll experience more lush greenery, fewer crowds, better deals for top accommodation and have access to the best restaurants and most popular guides. The inspiring painting workshop is just one unique low season experience waiting for you. You may also choose to try your hand at glass blowing, take a horse drawn carriage through the silent city of Mdina, or visit the daily fish market in Valletta. February and March especially are exciting times to explore and take part in the authenticity of Carnival and Holy Week.

Blended culture
Malta’s long history of invasion, occupation and trade has resulted in a wonderfully complex multi-layered culture that permeates every aspect of life. The careful observer will note that the shape of a Maltese fishing boat is quite distinct and little changed since the time of the Phoenicians. Wander the streets and look up to the iconic overhanging balconies which are of an Arabic design. Malta was one of the first European territories to adopt Christianity, and you’ll find a people who remain fiercely religious to this day. Maltese language closely resembles Arabic but with Romanised characters, although, 90% of the population speak English which is one of the country’s official languages. Not least, the food has a particular Italian influence with some of the best pasta outside of Naples.

Historical sites
It’s simply not possible to visit Malta without coming across an impressive range of monuments, caves and churches that brings the past to life in a way no history book could ever do. The prehistoric temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra on Malta and Il-Ggantija on Gozo, at 3000 years old, outdate even the pyramids of Egypt. The fortresses of St Elmo and St Angelo are possibly better known due to their starring roles in film and TV productions. Explore the silent city of Mdina, a fortified hilltop centre and former capital made up of the ghostly medieval palaces of noble families. It is well worth a wander to discover its hidden corners. At its heart stands St Paul’s Cathedral proudly boasting two clocks on its façade, apparently to confuse the devil as well, no doubt, as local parishioners. If it’s chilly out, spend an afternoon among the treasure troves that are the museums of Valletta and the Cathedral of St John.


Major Airport

Malta International Airport - MLA

Low Season Months

Jan
13°C
95mm
5hrs
Feb
13°C
63mm
7hrs
Mar
14°C
37mm
7hrs
Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
21°C
77mm
7hrs
Nov
17°C
109mm
7hrs
Dec
14°C
108mm
5hrs

Hotels

Coming online very soon

Top Experiences

Carnival Parade

Join the extravagantly attired locals is their outrageous costumes. See them riding on flamboyant floats in street parades each February. Valletta is the main hub, while each town has its own take on the party spirit, not least Nadur in Gozo with its own macabre version of carnival.

Holy Week

The Easter build up is a special although rather solemn and serious period. Traditional Maltese visit seven churches and pray in each one. The Washing of the Feet takes place on Maundy Thursday followed by Good Friday processions with biblical characters and barefooted penitents.

Cooking with Pippa Mattei

Take a workshop with award-winning Maltese chef and writer Pippa Mattei. Classes take place in a spacious kitchen overlooking her Mediterranean garden. Learn to make traditional dishes, including the wonderfully almondy Easter figolli biscuits, and enjoy your efforts with local wines.

Insider Tips

  • The country’s flag bears the George Cross, awarded to the people of Malta by George VI in 1942, when Malta was still part of the UK, for bravery during WWII. It’s not to be confused with the Maltese Cross made up of four V-shaped arrowheads and associated with the Knights of St John.
  • Classical music lovers must visit in January and experience the Baroque festival. The annual event is a 2 week musical extravaganza, celebrating Malta’s Baroque heritage. Performances take place in Valletta, Europe City of Culture 2018, as well as in Baroque venues outside of the capital.
  • At markets, boutiques and craft centres you can pick up some great gifts. Favourite buys are herbs and spices and little bags of rock salt. You’ll also find gorgeous handmade glass items and the beautiful silver and gold filigree jewellery which dates from the days of the Knights of St. John.

Good To Know

  • Although car hire can be convenient for getting around be aware that the Maltese drivers have habits that can make driving rather stressful for visitors. Pre-booked airport transfers, rather than the pricey white cabs, are a good start on arrival. And buses and ferries are regular and clean.
  • A visit to the Hypogeum is a must-do. The UNESCO site is one of the world’s best preserved prehistoric sites, a complex of underground temples and burial chambers. However, just 10 visitors can enter so do pre-book, and plan the rest of your holiday around your specific entry time.
  • When the seasons change with the Equinox, you’re in for an unforgettable experience at the mysterious megalithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra. A dawn start might seem a little early, but so worth it as, around 4am, the first light comes over the hill, brightly illuminating the centre altar.

Food & Drink

De Mondion, Mdina

£££££

Michelin starred establishment serving scrumptious dishes using local seasonal produce in a cosy atmosphere. Its location in the Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux among the Mdina's medieval bastions, make this an exceptional fine dining experience.

Djar il-bniet, Dingli

£££

A traditional family run farm to table restaurant with delicious local specialities and a legendary dedication to quality and taste. Set close to the pretty coastal village of Dingli, it is superbly placed for a well-deserved lunch after a trek in the morning.

One80 Restaurant, Gozo

££££

Overlooking the Mgarr Yacht Marina at Malta’s sister island of Gozo, One80 prides itself on a lively atmosphere and a unique dining concept. Take opportunity to see boats coming and going while you relax and enjoy delicious international cuisine.

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