Malta is a beautiful mythical island nestled comfortably in the Mediterranean. It has all the ingredients for a perfect holiday and is simply waiting to be enjoyed.
The island nation of Malta has its own distinctive history and character as well as some excellent beach resorts. With its tourist sites stretching back several millennia, its charming capital Valletta and quaint fishing villages, the former British colony has plenty to suit all tastes.
Small but densely-populated, Malta is a nation made up of an archipelago of seven islands - three of which are inhabited. Ideally located in the warm Mediterranean Sea, Malta is a mere 37 miles south of the island of Sicily and just north of North Africa.
History, Tradition & Culture
Malta is a country rich in history. Not only measurable history, however: the islands are home to the oldest megalithic monuments known to survive in the world, with archaeologists dating stone structures at Ggantija, Hagar Qim, Tarxien, and Mnajdra to 5200 BC.
But Malta's most famous historical inhabitants were the Knights of St John, or the Hospitallers, a military-religious order, who were given the islands as a sovereign base for their activities in 1530.
The influence of the knights is still visible, in the fortifications that scatter the countryside, and most spectacularly, in the Grand Harbour and capital city of Valletta.
The knights continued to rule Malta until thrown out by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798, who in turn was expelled by the British in 1800.
Having at long last achieved independence in 1964 after two millennia of foreign dominion, Malta is a proud and distinctive democratic nation state, which joined the European Union in 2004.
The culture of Malta reflects the different ethnic groups that have left their imprint on the Maltese islands over hundreds of years. These include other neighbouring Mediterranean peoples and the various nations that have ruled Malta prior to its independence in 1964.
The Arabs introduced citrus trees, flat-topped houses and laid the foundations for the Maltese language. The Aragonese from central Spain left their artistic legacy in the form of the medieval architecture in Malta's historic town centres and the enclosed wooden balconies that characterise its striking town houses.
Perhaps the most enduring cultural legacy left in Malta has been that of the British. The British traditions that live on in Malta include a relatively efficient civil service and a British-style military. Amusingly, Brits also left behind the tradition of the Christmas pantomime!
Arts and crafts are important elements in the grand scheme of Malta's cultural fabric. The arts and crafts industry was once flagging but has been revived by a boost in tourism to the island. There have been various craft villages set up to showcase and sell the best of the arts and crafts the Malta has to offer.
Malta's unique character is reflected in the Maltese language: barely known outside the islands of Malta and Gozo, for centuries subjugated as a purely spoken vernacular to the tongues of various conquerors. While structurally akin to the Arabic and Semitic languages of North Africa and the Middle East, the Maltese language has always been written in the Latin alphabet and incorporates many words from Italian, French and English.
Recommended In Malta
Malta's capital Valletta has a rich past and its warm stone buildings and narrow streets, squares and gardens are a delight to wander around. Built by the Knights of St John, the city has impressive architecture, including the stunning St John's Co-Cathedral and the Grand Master's Palace, and has been designated a World Heritage City. It is the centre of Maltese life, the heart of its administration and is also home to some excellent shops, museums, cafes and churches.
The walled, medieval capital, Medina, known as "The Silent City" is an atmospheric and picturesque place. The ferry between Valletta and Sliema across the bay is a delightful trip, with the fortress city rising above the boat and the deep blue Mediterranean below a cloudless sky.
The charming village of Marsaxlokk and its colourful harbour has some great seafood restaurants, while the domed church, known as the Mosta Rotunda, is well worth a visit. The 19th century dome took a direct hit from a German bomb during WWII, but the bomb failed to explode and slid safely down the aisle during a service.
The island of Gozo has a character of its own and a slower pace of life from Malta. With some pretty countryside, its own prehistoric sites, traditional lace making industry and medieval buildings; it is a charming day trip or a more relaxed holiday destination. Tiny Comino has its dazzling Blue Lagoon and some delightful beaches and wildlife.
Visitors to Malta should ensure that they make a point of seeing the annual Fireworks Festival if they happen to be on the island in May.
Malta is a traditionally Christian country so for those who appreciate religious exhibitions, the island hosts the Last Supper display around Easter. A two-hundred-year-old table is adorned with artistic plates showing designs and coat of arms of significant personalities.
Weather In Malta
Malta's climate is influenced by the surrounding sea and is typical of the Mediterranean.
All of the islands experience typically mild winters with daytime temperatures in the mid-teens. Temperatures really start ramping up in May when 24C is typical and in the height of summer it often reaches the low 30s C. The best weather lasts all the way through October.
Destination Checklist For Malta
- The official languages spoken in Malta are Maltese and English.
- The country uses the Euro as its currency.
- Malta is just one hour ahead of GMT.
- Its international dialling code is +356.