“Malta is a sod of a place”David niven
Table of Contents
Top Seven Destinations In Malta
- Valletta This is the tiny walled capital city of Malta. Beautiful Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is .5 square miles, but it feels like so much more. Every street leads to the sea. This is old Malta, with its 16th & 17th-century townhouses alongside renovated buildings and a bustling nightlife. There are galleries, incredible restaurants, packed cafes, high-end shopping, and art spaces. Enter through the Renza Pianos city gate and begin your journey into this remarkable city. The architecture alone is striking. St John’s Co-Cathedral is stunning. The city so took us we returned for a second visit.
- Hal Saflieni Hypogeumis An underground prehistoric burial site. Discovered in 1902 during construction in the area. The Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a complex of interconnecting rock-cut chambers set on three distinct levels. The complex was used over centuries, with the earliest remains dating back to around 4000 BC and the more recent remains dating to the Early Bronze Age. (ca 1500BC). It makes a unique and mysterious experience giving you a glimpse into this ancient world. Tickets need to be secured months in advance.
- Mdina And neighboring Rabat. Mdina is one of Europe’s finest examples of an ancient walled city and is extraordinary in its mix of medieval and baroque architecture. This city is as if you are stepping back in time. They sit atop a hill in the center of Malta with breathtaking views. The walled city seems untouched and incredibly preserved. Mdina is known as the silent city: as it has few residents and no cars. At night when the visitors go home, the lamp-lit alleys and streets are magical. Rabat is the up-and-coming culinary center of Malta and has a bustling nightlife.
- Gozo Is one of the Mediterranean’s most serene, striking, and unique islands. It almost deserves its own page. It can only be reached by ferry, which has kept it quiet and less crowded. Its rugged landscape begs exploration, and its dramatic rocky inlets will leave you wanting more time. Il-Kastelli Citadel in Victoria is a 15th-century fortification with the gorgeous Cathedral of the Assumption and museums showcasing archeology, natural history, and folklore.
- Blue Lagoon Is one of Malta‘s top jewels, and anyone who visits the Islands should explore this wonder. It’s been called a paradise on earth, with the clearest waters many will ever see and one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is on the uninhabited island of Comino, and it can only be reached by boat. It sits between mainland Malta and Gozo. Swimming is popular, and it can get crowded in the summer, but even then, it is a sight to behold.
- Three cities Claim to be the cradle of Maltese history, as Vittoriosa, Senglea, and Cospicua have provided a home and fortress to almost every person who settled on the Islands. They are intriguing and not really on the map for tourists. As the first home to the Knights of St. John, the Three Cities’ palaces, churches, forts, and bastions are far older than Valletta’s. It is where you can get a window into the real world of the daily life of Maltese people. We loved the Three cities, and it is where you will find the heart of Malta.
- Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples The temple of Hagar Qim stand on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Filfa. At the bottom of the hill, only a short distance away, one finds the remarkable temples of Mnajdra. Both sites are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. First excavated in 1839, dating suggests a date between 3800 – 2200 BC, a period known as the Ġgantija phase in Maltese prehistory. Malta’s Seven Megalithic Temples are older than Stonehenge.
Did you know?
Did you know?
- Population: 514,564 (2019) Population grew 100,000 people since 2011.
- Capital City: Valletta
- Currency: Euros (EUR)
- Government type: Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic. The two major parties are the Labor and the Nationalist parties.
- President: George Vella Prime Minister: Robert Abela
- Ethnic groups: Maltese (descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians with strong elements of Italian and other Mediterranean stock)
- Languages: Maltese (official) 90.1%, English (official) 6%, multilingual 3%, other 0.9%
- Religions: Roman Catholic (official) more than 90%
- Department Risk Level: Three due to Covid.
- Terrorist groups: Army of Islam; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham – Sinai Province; Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem; al-Qa’ida (2019)
- Malta’s motto: Strength and Consistency.
- Malta is only 121 square miles. It is 17 miles across. It is the tenth smallest country in the world.
- There are 168 miles of shoreline, including Malta, Gozo, and Comino.
- Population density is over 2000 people per mile, the 4th most densely populated sovereign nation in the world.
- The average annual tourist draw is 1.6 million.
- Malta became part of the European Union in May 2004.
- They celebrate 14 legal holidays a year.
- Malta has only one University, which is the University of Malta. The American University is establishing itself in the Three cities.
- Malta has been inhabited since the early Neolithic period around 5900 BC.
- GDP is 15 billion nominal—23 billion PP.P 87% service sector.
- Malta is a highly industrialized service-based economy. Major industries are tourism, electronics, shipbuilding, construction, food and beverages, and pharmaceuticals.
- Exports include machinery, mechanical appliances, mineral fuels, oil products, and pharmaceuticals.
- Imports are mineral fuels, oil products, electrical machinery, aircraft, and parts.
- Malta is only 60 miles from Sicily.
- It is only 300 miles from the coast of North Africa.
- Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. It became a British colony in 1813.
- Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 years.
- Malta has three Unesco World Heritage Sites.
- Most Maltese people speak three languages. Maltese, Italian, and English. English is an official language.
- Life expectancy in Malta is 82.75
- The literacy rate is 94.50%
- They have over 365 churches on the small island.
- The Maltese LOVE their cars. There are almost 400,000 registered cars for 514,000 residents.
- During the rule of the Knights of St. John (also known as the Knights of Malta), the population of Malta increased significantly, from around 25,000 in 1535 to over 54,000 in 1632. One of the primary reasons was an improvement in health and welfare and immigration from Western Europe.
- Hollywood likes Malta. Scenes from Gladiator, World War Z, Games of Thrones, Sons of the Sea, and Troy, to name some shows and movies filmed there.
- The name Malta is believed to come from the Greek word Melite (honey-sweet).
- Bees are endemic to Malta, and honey is abundant.
- Malta is the only country in the E.U. that still allows hunting in the Spring for birds.
- Malta’s Seven Megalithic Temples are older than Stonehenge. They are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
- Glass blowing and lace are some of the most well-known crafts on the island that dates back centuries.
- It is believed that 17,000 years ago, Malta was physically connected to Italy.
- Malta was the most bombed place on earth during World War II. The relentless raids occurred between 1940-1942 by the Germans and the Italians. Even hospitals were bombarded to break the will of the people. Some of their most sacred churches and historical sites were destroyed.
- The Mosta Doma was spared during the bombing even though a 500 kg German bomb dropped through the ceiling as people awaited mass. It did not detonate. It is the third-largest unsupported church dome in Europe.
- Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George VI of the United Kingdom for the country’s bravery in the Second World War.
- There have been many hands that Malta has passed through. Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs (two centuries), Normans, Aragonese, French, and the British. All have left their marks culturally, especially in the cuisine.
- The opening of the Suez Canal brought prosperity to Malta as ships stopped to refuel in Malta.
- Napoleon captured Malta on the way to Egypt.
- The second-largest population of Maltese is in Australia, numbering around 200,000. There was a mass migration due to the devastation of WWII. Australia being a British Colony, made for easy migration.
- There are no forests in Malta.
- Malta Has Some of the Best Diving in the World.
- With the official language being English, all signage is in English.
Check out our Mighty Malta Visitor Guide blog post to help plan your next trip.
Good to know before you go
- Tipping in Malta is quite common. In restaurants, the tips are usually 5-10% but make sure it isn’t already included in your bill. It was not offered to be included if using a credit card; it is best to leave cash for tips. Spas and tour guides are usually tipped 10%. Bars do not expect tips unless you have direct table service. Housekeeping at hotels usually gets 2 euros per night. Taxis are not tipped, but many rounds up to the nearest euro. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere but have cash for smaller places and markets.
- Overall, clothing is conservative and simple. Smart casual is what most people wear. When entering any church or place of worship, clothing should be discrete and respectful. Even on beaches, people are expected to be modest, and nudity is not tolerated. Dressing provocatively is not appropriate in Malta. Casual dressers often wear jeans and comfortable shoes. Hats should be removed in homes and churches.
- Driving in Malta is on the left side of the road and can be challenging, especially with the many narrow streets of Malta. Roundabouts and road signs are similar to most of Europe but are all in English. There are a ton of speed cameras, and speeds are enforced. Wearing a seatbelt is compulsory. Using your mobile phone while driving is strictly prohibited. Driving can be challenging, and motorcycles and mopeds seem to have no rules or fear.
- Valletta has a new modern parking system with automatic number plate recognition that can allow the CCTV systems to record the number of cars that come through the city. It is designed to aid the taxation of vehicles based on the time they park in the city. Valletta has three kinds of parking lots, differentiated by color. White parking lots are designed for public use and can be used for 24 hours, blue parking lots are for general use from 8 am to 6 pm, and green parking lots are for residents only.
- The noted above parking spaces visitors can park in are indicated by color, and we found it easy to determine where we should park. White is for public use, free, and open 24 hours a day. Blue parking spots are only from 8 am to 6 pm unless otherwise noted. As a whole, we found parking easy to find and rarely paid for it.
- If you were to ask what would be two words you would use to describe Malta, we would say Rocks and Balconies. This is a massive island of sedimentary rock, and everywhere there is rock. There are rock walls within rock walls within more rock walls. Nothing, though, was kept in those rock walls most often. They have so much rock they make walls everywhere. Then there are those famous Maltese balconies that are intriguing and striking. You never tire of them as they are so fantastic.
- Malta is a place of contradictions. There are run-down areas in desperate need of revitalization. Roads are in terrible shape. Abandoned buildings next to restored buildings. This country was decimated after WW2. They continue to recover from the devastation and the significant loss of their population who left the island. Look beyond that. There are beautiful roads being built, towering cranes everywhere, high-rise buildings, large hotels, and modern bustling districts like Portsmouth. It is improving, and if you look, you will find lots of hope and regrowth. The population is increasing quickly, and young professionals are settling in Malta. Most impressive is that they are working hard to preserve the past while improving for the future.
- There is quite a young feel to Malta. It is drawing young professionals from all over Europe. It encourages those who are digital nomads to settle there with incentives. As we were in the Three Cities, Valetta, Rabat, and Portsmouth, we observed many young professionals gathering, especially for the bustling nightlife.
- Restaurants are packed, and there are many to choose from, and they stay open late. We were turned away from many restaurants as they were booked for the night, and this was during Covid. Malta is an up-and-coming destination to visit.
- The Maltese tend to use less personal space, sitting or standing close to one another. Maltese tend to be touchy and affectionate people. Hugging, kissing, and back-slapping in public are common.
- The Maltese use a variety of gestures in conversation. Quickly lifting your right-hand thumb, index, and middle fingers means how are you?
- Malta is well-known for its hot climate, safety, and hospitality.
- The Maltese have a good sense of humor and enjoy conversing. They love to help and are generous with their time.
- Swearing can be offensive to your Maltese counterpart.
- The fork and knife are placed parallel on the plate when you finish your meal.
- Malta has been at the crossroads between Europe and Northern Africa for centuries. This is reflected in the Maltese people, culture, and lifestyle. Arabic cultures (mainly those from Northern Africa) have imprinted on Maltese culture.
- Malta is a hierarchical society that is determined through education and economic status. This plays a significant role in social interactions, as what is considered proper behavior depends on your status, degree of familiarity, age, and social connections.
- There is an expectation people will be modest and avoid boasting about one’s wealth or putting themselves above others.
- Malta was a patriarchal society. Women have gained more prominence throughout society. Men are generally expected to be the principal providers for their families, while women are expected to care for the household and children.
- When many Maltese people talk, they tend to be rather loud. They would rather shout than be a step closer to each other. Don’t mistake loud voices for an argument.
- Greetings in Malta with someone you don’t know is a handshake. Address the person by their title and last name. First names are only used if invited to do so. Maltese who are familiar will pat backs, arms, and shoulders. Eye contact is common and often during conversation.
- Maltese do tend to get rather clannish. They are passionate people, and when discussing politics, religion, or sports, they hold tight to their loyalties and fight back hard to hold their ground.
- Most Maltese speak excellent English. This was our experience.
- The Maltese are deeply religious people and are mostly Roman Catholics. It is believed that Catholicism was brought to Malta by St Paul in A.D. 60 when he shipwrecked on the island.
- In the tradition of Tbaħħir, olive leaves or small olive branches are burned around the house to expel any evil that might enter.
- The signature soft drink in Malta is Kinnie. It is made from orange bitters and wormwood extracts. It is pretty refreshing and yummy.
- Rabbit stew is the country’s signature dish.
- A meal often includes pasta, meat, vegetables, and dessert or fruit. A bowl of soup called Minestra begins some meals. Stuffed poultry and baked pasta dishes are common. Lampuki pie is a seasonal pastry-covered fish casserole containing spinach, cauliflower, chestnuts, and sultanas. If Lampuki pie isn’t your thing, consider trying the fish stew called Alijotta. It’s a sort of fish and tomato bouillabaisse that gets its flavor from a mix of herbs, garlic, citrus, and the fish bones added to make the robust broth. Seafood, in general, is huge in Malta and a popular dish is stuffed octopus, squid, and cuttlefish with a tomato sauce. A roulade of beef known as Bragoliis served with gravy. The cuisine is seasonal.
- Cheese often appears in a wide range of Maltese dishes; it’s mild ricotta made from sheep’s milk. But for something more flavorful, look for Gbejniet, a savory goat’s milk cheese. It’s sold in fresh, cured, or dried forms and may be seasoned with pepper or other herbs.
- Malta has incredible bakery products; hot pastizzi are among the favorite finger foods. Pastizzi is Malta’s national snack, a flaky pastry filled with ingredients such as peas, ricotta, anchovies, corned beef, or apples. The thin dough is stretched and rolled with layers of fat in between, which is used to achieve the typical flaky texture of the finished product. We adored the ricotta-filled ones. Another more filling variety and slightly less fattening, Qassatat are small pies filled with ricotta, peas, or a combination of other fillings. For the sweet end, seek out Imqaret pastry with a date filling; Imqaret is deep-fried and is typically infused with aniseed liqueur and citrus notes.
- The most popular sport in Malta is, without a doubt, soccer (football), as in most European countries.
- During Covid, they are pretty adherent to wearing masks indoors. You will see many people wearing them outdoors as well. All stores, restaurants, and sites will collect your contact info for contact tracing.
- Public restrooms and roadside facilities are rare and far in between. Many places you expect bathrooms, such as gas stations, do not have them.
- The Maltese do love their dogs, and you will see many walking their dogs in dense cities. Often very big dogs like Pit Bulls, German Shepards, and other large breeds. There is a lot of dog poop everywhere; it seems no one cleans up after their pups. Be careful where you step, everywhere!
- Smoking cigarettes is a prevalent habit in Malta. It seemed everyone smoked.
- It is a very safe country with very low crime.
Gozo Tourism Office
When to go to Malta
Malta’s climate is the typical Mediterranean, with mild, rainy winters and hot, sunny summers.
Malta is an archipelago located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. It consists of three main islands, Malta (Malta), Gozo (Ghawdex), and Comino (Kemmuna), as well as some tiny uninhabited islands.
Rainfall in Malta is not abundant and amounts to 23.5 inches per year. The rains follow the typical Mediterranean pattern, so they occur from October to March, while they are scarce in the other months; in summer, it seldom rains.
In the capital, Valletta, the average temperature ranges from 54.51 °F°C (12.5°C) in February to 81°F (27 °C) in August. Here are the average temperatures (from 1981-2010).
- Summer 66-89 °F (19-32 °C)
- Spring 54-83 °F (12-29 °C)
- Fall 58-83 °F (12-28 °C)
- Winter 50-68 °F (10-20 °C)
Our Favorite Malta Resources
This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!
Malta was part of a two-week trip, including Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. It is a perfect combination due to its proximity. They are also very diverse experiences. This was our first trip to these locations. The guides and tools below helped build that excitement and made for a beautiful trip.
There were not many options for Malta, and we were not expecting to fall in love with this book. It is a passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice that Malta has to offer and what hidden discoveries await you. It is small, like the country but packed with information. Explore the alleyways and wonders of Valetta and the Three cities. Discover the rich history of Mdina, and play in the Blue Lagoon. Take the ferry out to Gozo. Let this beautifully illustrated guide be your travel partner. Great photography and lots of details to aid in planning. Discover this fantastic travel guide here.
This great travel companion is full of expert advice and independent reviews on what to see and do, plus detailed itineraries and suggestions for exploring this fascinating country. Whether you’re looking for world-renowned swimming holes, serene hilltop villages, ancient temples, or captivating cities, everything you need to know is clearly laid out. Find this guide here.
Our favorite websites
2. U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs Malta Country Info
We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. The U.S. Federal Government addresses the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency U.S. and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in Malta. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.
3. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource
This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Malta.
Our favorite maps
Easy-to-read maps with practical road and travel information. These maps are meant for the adventure traveler and are very durable. Compact in size. Detailed highlights and weather info. Major sites and landmarks are well-marked. Waterproof and tear resisted, it holds up well. Great for planning your route before your trip. Though we default to Google maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here.
Our favorite apps
Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app will instantly display all your travel options, and booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find it on your local App store.
Duolingo-Language Lesson Audio lessons that help improve your listening and speaking skills. Find it on your local App store.
Rick Steves Audio Europe This App includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find it on your local App store.
Google Translate We use this often to practice proper pronunciations of Maltese words. That said, most Maltese speak excellent English as it is their official language. In encounters with older residents, though, their English was rough. As we always encourage, learning the basics of greeting and thanking people in the local language is essential. Google translate was an easy app to use. If needed, you can enter text in English, which will speak back in Maltese to aid in communicating with locals.
Do you have a favorite Malta travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or
Check out our blogs post on Malta
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Our Malta Photo Gallery
Our Top Recommended Travel Products and Resources
Our favorite travel insurance site!
If you book a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover COVID-19 medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world
They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover COVID-related transport as well.
Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.
To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours
Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always check Expedia and Booking.com to verify prices. At times, one is sold out of rooms while another at the same place has rooms. As well we often find some European hotels, especially smaller ones, on Booking.com but not on Expedia. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network with access to all lodging forms should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.
As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.
With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.
Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.
We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.
(Airport and sightseeing service)
A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.
Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.
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