Malta

Malta

More than a decade ago, I made my maiden voyage to the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, spending a whirlwind long weekend there. Ten years later, and my husband and I would move to the tiny country, so that Shawn could pursue a year-long educational program at its university. The resulting experience allowed me to soak up copious amounts of sunshine and culture, and taught me how to appreciate a slower pace of life.

From day trips to prehistoric temples, to olive and citrus harvests, and lively festa celebrations, here’s hoping these dispatches help you find your own magic on Malta.

Below, you’ll find my Maltese indexes, as well as specific tips for the islands of Malta and Gozo.


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Table of Contents

General

Places

Malta

Freedom Day regatta participants race in a gondola-like boat called a dgħajsa, in Malta's Grand Harbour.
A Freedom Day regatta is held annually in Malta’s Grand Harbour, with rowing clubs from all over the island vying to win the event. They race in a gondola-like boat called a dgħajsa. Some say that this vessel’s design dates back to the Phoenicians who settled the islands around 750 BCE.
A vintage car drives on a steep Valletta street, past colorful and vintage storefronts.
In Valletta, you’ll find vintage storefronts from days bygone. They advertise everything from jewelry, to paint, even gloves. You might even spot classic roadsters motoring on by.
A Maltese cake called prinjolata, traditionally made around Carnival celebrations, sits at a candy stall.
Maltese revelers choose between a colorful and traditional array of sweet treats at Valletta’s Carnival celebrations. There are perlini (pastel-colored, sugared almonds), chocolates, and the decadent grande dame of them all – prinjolata. It’s a dome-shaped sponge cake dessert infused with pine nuts, almonds and citrus fruit, then slathered with cream and melted chocolate.
Marsaxlokk Harbour is seen from afar, with a green field in the foreground.
Spring blooms color the landscape overlooking Marsaxlokk, a beloved Maltese fishing village in the southeastern part of the country. Though they’re not visible here, Marsaxlokk’s harbor is studded with colorful wooden fishing boats – called luzzus. A popular Sunday market is held here – featuring everything from freshly-caught fish, produce and sweet Maltese treats, to clothes and souvenir trinkets.
A stone apiary (place for keeping bees) on the Mediterranean island of Malta.
We loved exploring the lesser-known Xemxija Heritage Trail. This handsome apiary is one of the stops on the trail. (Apiaries are places where bees are kept for honey production.)

Gozo

  • Watch snow-white salt being harvested from the Xwejni Salt Pans on Gozo’s northern coast.
  • Admire the sophisticated construction of Malta’s mysterious ‘Temple Builders’ at their largest temple, Ġgantija, which predates Egypt’s Pyramids.
  • Gawk at the beauty of the Gozitan countryside while strolling atop Victoria’s Cittadella.
A couple sitting in front of the Azure Window on the Maltese island of Gozo.
Shawn and me, with the Azure Window behind us. The picture was taken about one year before the natural formation collapsed. Despite it no longer being there, there’s much to experience on Gozo.
The Ta' Pinu Basilica towers over the landscape of the Maltese island of Gozo.
Gozo’s Ta’ Pinu Basilica is a popular place for religious pilgrims. It was built in the early 20th century.

Accommodation

When I visited Valletta back in 2006, short-term lodging options were few and far between. Back then, I stayed at the Asti Guesthouse, run by sweet Annie and her family, and situated on atmospheric St. Ursula Street. In recent years, more and more charming boutique hotels and self-catering apartments have appeared on the scene in Valletta (affiliate links), some occupying pretty old palazzi. Since we lived in Valletta, we never had the need to stay elsewhere in the city. Still, Valletta boutique hotels like the Casa Ellul, Trabuxu Boutique Living and 10 Strait Street piqued my curiosity, as they look like they offer a stylish blend of old and new. Airbnb is also an option for finding accommodation. (If you’re new to Airbnb and sign up using this link, we both get $25 in travel credit. Some readers have mentioned that Airbnb modifies the promotion from time to time, so the figure might be a bit more or less.)

Since Valletta is compact, chances are that you’ll find yourself in a convenient spot wherever you choose to stay on the peninsula. Valletta hosts the island’s main bus terminal, so staying there makes day-trips to sites elsewhere on the island convenient. Even if you’re visiting for a long-weekend or city break, there is much to keep you busy in Valletta itself.

While I would wholeheartedly recommend staying in Valletta, it might not be a good fit if you’re planning to spend most of your time at the beach, or if you’re not accustomed to lively surroundings (honking horns, construction noise, and ‘pleasant noise’ – like acoustic guitar and chatter of guests emanating from the wine bars & cafés).

If you’re thinking of moving to Malta, here are my recommendations for finding long-term accommodation.

Transportation

  • Taxis – From the airport to Valletta & surrounding areas | General taxi standards. We regularly used the bus to get around the islands of Gozo and Malta. However, when we needed an early-morning taxi to the airport from Valletta, we used eCABS. We were impressed with the customer service we received, and the pre-arranged fare was the best I found too.

  • Bus – If you’ll be exploring Malta for a few days or more, you’ll probably want to pick up a multi-use bus card. Depending upon how many days you’re staying, this will likely save you money, and it’ll make bus drivers happy too, since you won’t need to make a cash transaction. Journeys completed within two hours should count as one fare, so save your receipt if you choose to pay with cash. If you’re living in Malta for a longer amount of time, you’re eligible to apply for a residential Tallinja card, which offers even lower fares. Whatever card you choose, use this Journey Planner to map out your excursions. Keep in mind that short distances can be deceiving when it comes to travel times throughout the island! The island is densely populated, and it can take an hour just to go a few kilometers. This is especially true during rush hour, or if there’s just been a heavy storm. (When we first got to Malta in 2015, flooded roads meant that it took us about 2.5 hours to travel just 10 kilometers by bus!)


  • Malta – Gozo Ferry – It takes about 25 minutes to get from Malta’s ferry terminal (in Ċirkewwa) to Gozo’s terminal (in Mġarr). See the Gozo Channel website for ticket prices as well as a timetable of ferry crossings.


  • Sliema – Valletta Ferry – It takes about 5 minutes to travel from Valletta’s Marsamxett Harbour to the city of Sliema by ferry. This is considerably faster and more scenic than taking a bus! See the Sliema Ferry website for a timetable and fares.


  • Valletta – Three Cities Ferry | Dgħajsa– The journey time from Valletta to Vittoriosa (known locally as Birgu) is roughly 5-10 minutes. Alternatively, you can travel by dgħajsa, Malta’s version of a gondola. Dgħajsa drivers congregate near Valletta’s Three Cities ferry point. Like its Sliema Ferry counterpart, a ferry or a dgħajsa is a quicker and more enjoyable way to travel from city to city than by bus. Visit the Three Cities ferry website for a timetable and fares. As for dgħajsas, on one of our crossings by dgħajsa, Shawn and I met ‘Captain Bruce’ who pilots the Pici. He can be reached by mobile at 99 93 33 77. Alternatively, you can schedule a dgħajsa through this website. (I have no experience with this site.)

Sailing Day Trip Malta Gozo Comino
Approaching the island of Gozo. The town of Mġarr is visible in the background; that’s where Gozo’s ferry terminal is.

Additional Malta Resources


A man and a child ride in a horse-drawn sulky cart, in Malta
Horse racing is popular on Malta. Here, a man and a child leisurely ride near from the Dingli Cliffs. They’re in a horse-drawn cart, called a sulky.