Malta

Heritage, delicious cuisine and sunshine in a timeless atmosphere

Overview

7,000 years of history, 300 days of sunshine, 100 dive locations and 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites add up to a whole lot of reasons to make a low season trip to the stunning Maltese islands. Comprising Malta, Gozo, and Comino, this beautiful 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 against a breath-taking natural backdrop of impressive cliffs, grottos, bays and beaches.

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, trail running, touring and water sports. Although you may see a few showers, you’ll experience more lush greenery, fewer crowds, great deals on top accommodation and have access to the best restaurants and most popular guides, all while still enjoying plenty of sunshine.

A Quintessential Mediterranean Culture
Malta’s long history of invasion, occupation and trade has resulted in a wonderfully blended multi-layered culture that permeates every aspect of life. The careful observer will no doubt note that the shape of a Maltese fishing boat is little changed since the time of the Phoenicians or that the iconic overhanging balconies are of a distinctly Arabic design. Malta was one of the first European territories to adopt Christianity and you’ll find a people who remain fiercely religious with Holy Week involving a lot of churchgoing, prayers and parades of barefoot penitents. 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.

Europe’s Smallest Capital
Valletta may be compact, but it’s also among Europe’s most concentrated, crammed full of 320 historic monuments. It was granted UNESCO status in 1980 and named European City of Culture for 2018. Valletta also stakes a claim to be Europe’s sunniest capital, making it a rather hot and sticky centre during the summer months. Low season however, is an excellent time to tour the sites in ideal temperatures, on foot, by bike, by Segway or in a horse-drawn carriage. Take in the stunning interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral, home to the only signed Caravaggio painting in the world, and tour the Grandmaster’s Palace, once the seat of power for the Knights of St. John. After a break for coffee and maybe a crispy filo pastizzi head to the waterfront to explore the historic defences of Fort St Elmo, the Knights Hospitaller, and the tranquil Upper Barrakka Gardens.

Historical sites
It’s simply not possible to visit Malta without coming across dozens of monuments, caves and churches that bring the past to life in a way no history book could ever do. The impressive megalithic temples make it onto UNESCO’s World Heritage list as a single entry, but are actually 7 individual sites charting the developing of a unique Bronze Age architectural tradition and, at 3000 years old, outdate even Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt. In fact, the 2 huge temples of Ggantija on Gozo make the grade as the oldest freestanding monuments in the world. When the seasons change with the Equinox, you’re in for an unforgettable experience at the mysterious UNESCO megalithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra. A dawn start might seem early, but so worth it as, around 4am, the first light over the hill brightly illuminates the centre altar. UNESCO also recognises the well-preserved prehistoric site of Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a fascinating complex of underground temples and burial chambers. Don’t miss the chance to explore the silent city of Mdina, a fortified hilltop former capital made up of the ghostly medieval palaces and hidden corners; the fortified 3 Cities across the harbour from Valletta; and the glistening 350 year old Gozitan salt pans.

World-class Scuba Diving
Heated all summer long by the sun, the waters off Malta, Gozo and Comino come into their own during low season Autumn when they are at their warmest, remain tranquil and offer unrivalled visibility. The location is consistently voted the best dive destination in Europe by readers of Diver Magazine. With over 100 dive sites to choose from including wreck, cave and reef sites, there are options for beginners or master divers. There are many professional dive centres offering expert English-speaking dive instructors and PADI certification.


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

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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.

Comino’s Blue Lagoon

It’s a bucket list must to swim, snorkel and relax in the shallow turquoise waters off the rocky shores of Comino. Crowded in the summer, low season is a better time to visit. Many tour operators stop their day trips, so you’ll need to be creative about how to get there, but it will be worth the effort.

Take a Gastronomic Tour

Whether you’re into Michelin venues or hearty traditional fare, you’ll eat your fill in Malta. Enjoy alfresco dining on freshly caught seafood or get cosy with the national dish, fenek rabbit stew. Tour olive farms, learn to make Gbejna cheese, enjoy vineyard wine tastings or take a fun cooking class.

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 Valletta International Baroque festival. The annual 2 week musical extravaganza celebrates Malta’s Baroque heritage. Performances take place in Manoel Theatre and other wonderful Baroque historical venues.
  • 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

  • Come low season Gozo’s sweeping Ramla Bay is a great place to stroll in unspoilt beauty away from the crowds. Known in Maltese as Ramla il-Hamra or Red Sands, the name refers to the beach’s rust coloured hue. There’s a great view of the whole bay from the cliffs that towering above.
  • At Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum just 10 visitors can enter at a time, and there are only 6 tours each day, 2 of which are bookable on the day. Although low season travellers see more availability, it is still recommended to pre-book, and plan the rest of your holiday around your specific entry time.
  • For an insight into local life, take a day trip to Marsaxlokk fisherman’s market. It’s on every Sunday on the main promenade of this town in the south of Malta. A fun place to take photos and indulge in a spot of freshly caught lunch. Don’t leave it too late, as the market closes around 2pm.

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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