Lisa Owen

South of Italy lies a group of islands that you should check out the next time you’re on annual leave. Collectively referred to as Malta, the trio of islands each has their own identity, charm and engaging sights.

The three inhabited Maltese islands – Malta, Gozo, and Comino – are definitely worth a visit to learn about their rich history, wander through medieval streets, and swim in their turquoise waters.

Here’s what you can see and do on the Maltese islands.

Roam the fortifications in Valletta

You’ll be in awe of the solid fortifications and deep moats surrounding the historical city of Valletta.

The capital city of Malta island dates back to the 16th century, and was established due to the archipelago’s strategic position between Europe and Africa.

The fortifications were built to protect the city. The fortifications have either recently undergone restoration or are in the process of restoration - making Valletta an impressive site.

Only a few metres from the bus terminal lies huge fortifications and they serve as lookout points across the city. Past the fortifications, you’ll find quaint streets filled with cafes, restaurants, gelato and souvenir shops.

From Valletta you can also visit the ‘Three Cities’. The three fortified cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua are accessible by boat from Valletta or you can take the long way around by bus.

Explore Gozo Island

Most people stay on Malta and then take a day trip to the neighbouring island of Gozo. Gozo is only a 25-minute ferry away from the Cirkewwa ferry terminal. The return trip costs €4.65. Ferries leave every 45 minutes.

To get to the terminal from Valletta, take Bus #222 headed for Cirkewwa. You can choose to get around Gozo using the local buses, or the more time efficient way is by taking a hop on-hop off bus. Two bus companies offer this service on Gozo. It’s also possible to hire a car on Malta and take it on the ferry across to Gozo.

One of the highlights of your Gozo day trip will be Dwerja on Gozo’s west coast. Dwerja was made famous by the Azure Window - a rock formation carved by wind and waves forming a window. Unfortunately, the window collapsed in March 2017 in a storm.

It’s still a pretty site though – and Game of Thrones fans will be interested to know it was the filming location of the wedding between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo in Season 1.

There’s more than natural beauty on Gozo – there’s also truckloads of history. Make sure you check out the Victoria Citadel and the 5000-year-old Ggantija Temples. The Ggantija Temples even predate the pyramids!

Go swimming in turquosie waters

You can also take a day trip from Malta to the Blue Lagoon, which is located in the waters off Comino Island. The Blue Lagoon features calm, clear turquoise waters perfect for taking a dip or going snorkelling. Boats leave several times daily from the Cirkewwa ferry terminal and cost €10 return.

Cliff jump into St Peter's Pool

Back on Malta, one of the most popular swimming spots on the island is St Peter’s Pool. It’s a popular cliff jumping spot, or you can just chill by the water with a picnic or go check out the nearby tide pools. Get there early as the swimming hole gets popular by lunchtime.

To get there, take Bus #81 from Valletta to Marsaxlokk. Facing the water from the bus stop, head left past the tourist information office and you’ll see signs for St Peter’s Pool leading down a tarmac road and then onto a dirt path. Simply follow the street signs indicating St Peter’s Pool. The walk will take about 20 minutes. Make sure you download the Malta map on the Maps.me app and you’ll have no trouble finding the pool.

Explore the medieval city of Mdina

Mdina, otherwise known as the Silent City, was the capital of Malta until the 16th century when Valletta became the capital due to its more strategic position.

The medieval walled city of Mdina has been lovingly restored and it is fascinating to walk the imposing fortifications and wander down the narrow alleyways. Make sure you check out the view from the bastions.

Game of Thrones fans will also be interested to know that Mdina was also used as a filming location in Season 1.

Mdina can easily be reached by bus from Valletta. Take Bus #51 from Valletta’s main bus terminal. The driver will let you know when you arrive in Mdina.

Dine on fresh seafood

It’s almost a rite of passage to dine on seafood while in Malta. One of the freshest places to get seafood is at Marsaxlokk. The husbands catch the fish, and the wives run the restaurants selling the freshly caught seafood.

For a fun day out, go for a swim at St Peter’s Pool then dine on freshly caught fish. You may also be there when a local handicraft and food market is held on the bayfront.

Enjoy the nightlife in St Julian's

If you’re after a night out, head to St Julian’s. A lot of the backpacker crowd is based here and it’s the place to go if you’re looking for bars or to go on a pub crawl.

Walk along the seafront promenade

If you’re tired of taking the buses, then why not walk? You can walk for kilometres along the promenade winding along Malta’s various bays such as St Julian’s Bay and Spinola Bay.

Head out early when the sun is not so hot and join the locals on their daily walks or runs.

Things you should know

  • You can’t drink the tap water on the Maltese islands, but bottled water is easily available.
  • There are many buses plying the roads around Malta and Gozo and they are a good way for budget travellers to get around. However, the buses are slow and often run late. It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to get anywhere in Malta so make sure you accommodate this in your schedule.
  • If you plan to take buses regularly during your stay on the Maltese islands, it’s a good idea to invest in a travel card. It costs €15 for a 7-day card giving you unlimited travel on Malta’s bus network. You can pick up your travel card when you arrive at the airport, from Silema near where the cruises depart, or at the Valletta bus terminal. Otherwise, buses cost €1.50 per trip in the winter months, or €2 in the summer months (mid-June to mid-October).
  • If you don’t have much time on the Maltese islands, a more time efficient way to see the sights is on the hop on-hop off buses. Two buses companies offer hop on-hop off buses on Malta and Gozo.
  • There’s no shortage of tour options to cruise around the Maltese islands. All the tour agencies can be found at Silema – which is where the cruises depart from, or there are also many shopfronts in Valletta, St Julian’s and Silema offering tours. Many cruises depart daily and include harbour cruises or boat trips out to the Blue Lagoon. Many tours include lunch and unlimited beer and wine.
  • The summer months of July and August are peak season on the Maltese islands and get very busy. But the archipalego is a year-round destination so if you want to avoid the crowds, travel in the shoulder months.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 70 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

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