It may be small compared to many of the countries that make up Europe. But what Malta lacks in size it most definitely makes up for when it comes to historical and cultural tourist destinations. This Mediterranean island country tends to be overlooked when it comes to European travel hotspots. Yet it should definitely be on your radar when it comes to a unique and adventurous getaway.
So what exactly does Malta have to offer? Aside from its prime location…situated in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, this archipelago offers more historic sites than any other country in Europe. Choose from medieval walled citadels, awe-inspiring Baroque churches, and of course, beautiful secluded bays and beaches. And with the all around pleasant weather, it’s the perfect destination for exploring the country sides for hidden historic sites or taking to the crystalline waters for a day of snorkeling. But what can you really see and do on Malta? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular destinations you can seek out while traveling around this European gem…
Best Time to Visit
With its Mediterranean climate, Malta has relatively pleasant weather all year round. So when to visit Malta really depends on how hot you like the weather and what you intend on doing while you’re there.
The summer months on Malta see generally dry weather with warm temperatures, with the hottest month being July. January is the coldest month with the winter months of November and December being the wettest, although there isn’t much of a rainy season on Malta. In fact it’s well known for being sunny most of the year. If you’d like the weather to be a bit cooler for your explorations though, the winter months are a more ideal time.
What to See and Do While on Malta
Malta has over 7,000 years worth of history to discover during your travels. And that definitely means plenty of historic sites and monuments to see. Prehistoric temples, Roman catacombs, medieval villages, and some of the oldest stone structures in the world are all here on Malta. Malta’s eclectic history and culture comes from being ruled by so many different empires, including the Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Normans, Arabs…and the British. A lot of British influences can be found in the more modern parts of Malta, but that’s only a small part of what makes this island chain so unique. Let’s take a look at what you can expect to find while exploring Malta…
Take a Tour Around the Elegant Capital City of Valletta
Valletta was designed to honor the King of Spain when the Maltese Islands were granted to the Knights of Malta in 1530. The fortified city was to look aristocratic in nature so that it would rival all other great European capital cities. And the results came with beautiful architecture and a grid plan than allowed for orderly public squares.
The city is relatively small compared to the much larger metropolises in mainland Europe. And it’s actually quite walk-friendly if you’d like to see the city on foot, which is a great way to take in the sights. Make sure you visit the Saint John’s Co-Cathedral (a 16th century church), the Grand Master’s Palace (once the residence of the king of Malta), the Upper Barracca Gardens (for its beauty and even more beautiful harbor views), and the Museum of Archaeology (with artifacts dating back some 5,000 years.
Get Medieval in the Hilltop town of Mdina
This enchanting medieval town is full of history and will make you feel as though you’re in a fairy-tale with its unique architecture and design. To walk through the Main Gate in order to enter the city is truly like stepping back in time. With old sandstone structures and car-free pedestrian streets, you’ll find plenty of historic gems throughout the city. One of the must-sees in Mdina is the Cathedra of Saint Paul. This impressive cathedral was built by a local Maltese architect in a Baroque design. It’s lavishly decorated with marble columns, gilded details, and beautiful paintings on the ceiling.
You’ll also want to make sure you get a glimpse of the icon of Madonna, a famous work by the celebrated Maltese painter, Mattie Preti. Mdina also has plenty of grand palaces to visit. Check out the Palazzo Santa Sofia for one of the best preserved medieval building in the city. There’s also a 13th century palace called the Palazzo Falson. So no matter where you venture here, you’d bound to come across plenty of great historical sites and culture.
Marvel at the History of the Prehistoric Tarxien Temples
This site is not only the most well-preserved, but also the largest prehistoric cult site in Malta. It was excavated in 1914 and is thought to be a site built during the mysterious prehistoric time period knows as the “Temple Period” which dates back to around 3600 to 2500 BC. The site consists of four megalithic structures decorated intricately with animals and spiral patterns throughout. The South Temple is the most decorative of the four, but all of them are definitely well worth exploring for their impressive historical significance. Stone reliefs and sculptures were found here during the excavation and can be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.
Take a Dip in the Blue Lagoon of Comino
With all of the historical sites to explore, a relaxing swim is definitely going to be high on the list of things to do to help you unwind. And one of the best places to do that is at the Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino. With its calm, crystal-clear turquoise waters and smooth, white sand beach, the Blue Lagoon has been called Malta’s “giant swimming pool” because its waters are very serene and inviting. Aside from swimming, those looking for a bit of adventure will enjoy their time on Comino as well. It’s an ideal location for snorkeling, diving, and wind surfing.
Explore Ruins From the Bronze Age at the Mnajdra Temples
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an archaeological site located along a rugged and isolated stretch of Malta’s southern coastline. The oldest structure at the site, the South Temple, is thought to have been built around 3150 to 2200 BC. The Mnajdra Temples are historically important, as they represent a time during a significant era of prehistoric human development. Take plenty of time to roam around the site and take in all of the impressive structures that were built so long ago. One of the highlights of the temples is the South Temple’s “Solstices and Equinoxes” doorway. It was used to mark the position of the rising sun for the solstices of each season.
Take in the Breathtaking Views at Dingli Cliffs
Those looking for a true off the beaten path experience while visiting Malta will want to look into finding the Dingli Cliffs. This location definitely isn’t on the tourist maps. In fact, there’s not even a marked bus stop for it. So if taking a bus, you’ll have to ask the bus drive where to get off. But the effort will definitely be worth it. Once you traverse the walking trail to the top of the cliffs you’ll be met with an amazing, picturesque view of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the nearby sloping hillsides and farmland. It’s definitely going to be a picture-perfect moment atop the cliffs. So take the time to relax and take in the awesome views while you’re up there.
Discover the Hidden Gems on the Island of Gozo
If you’re looking for a more scenic, idyllic Maltese experience, Gozo Island will be just what you’re looking for. It’s less developed than the more densely populated main island of Malta, but there’s still plenty to see and experience here. Its quiet beaches, small villages, and quaint countryside landscape make for the ideal getaway idea for those looking for a quieter experience while on Malta. You’ll also find plenty of medieval and archaeological sites here too. While you’re on Gozo, be sure to explore the sleepy fishing villages and pristine beaches that are great for swimming.
For as small as this European island nation is, Malta definitely has plenty to satisfy travelers of every kind. It’s a great destination for history enthusiasts and also for those just looking to satisfy their curiosity by taking in all of the great historic sites the islands have to offer. But it also offers a Mediterranean charm with a relaxed vibe, which is always something to look forward to when you decide to visit Malta and make all of the fun and exciting Maltese discoveries and memories for yourself.