Frankly, Malta and Gozo were quite low down on our list, for no reason other than our own ignorance. Until we received an invite to our friends’ wedding in Malta. What better reason could there be to check out a place we hadn’t really much thought about before?! And what an unforgettable, stunning beach wedding it was!
We decided to stay for a week and happily took the opportunity to explore this little Mediterranean island and its sister island Gozo. We loved what we found!
Beautiful landscape, charming towns, historic sights, blue sea and wonderful food are only a few reasons why Malta and Gozo should be on your list!
Easy exploring by car
We stayed at Hotel Argento, which is only a couple of minutes’ walk from St Julian’s Bay. Not the cheapest due to its location, but clean and spacious. It also has a beautiful pool on the roof top, which was most welcome in the hot summer sun.
As usual we hired a car for our visit, which I would definitely recommend as it allows you to explore at your own pace. Driving is no problem at all, both islands are easy to navigate and catching the car ferry to Gozo is straight forward. Parking in St Julian’s is a little tricky but possible.
So what to do in Malta or Gozo? Here are some recommendations on the top places to visit:
The Blue Grotto
The Blue Grotto near Wied iz-Zurrieq is one of Malta’s most famous sights. The grotto is one of several caves around Wied iz-Zurrieq which you can visit by boat from the harbour. You get a good (and free) view of the Blue Grotto from the viewing platform by the road above.
Valletta is Malta’s tiny but beautiful capital, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city sits on a peninsula smaller than a square kilometre and is most easily explored on foot. Built in the 16th and 17th century, Valletta is packed with history and an great place to just wander around. The top sights include St John’s co-cathedral, the Grand Master’s Palace and the Museum of Archaeology.
If you need to cool off, there are a couple of points just outside the Western city walls where you can jump in the sea and relax on the rocks. Valletta’s streets are mostly traffic free, narrow and steep, and it’s best to park outside the city walls.
Sliema and St Julian’s
Sliema’s waterfront promenade is lovely spot for evening strolls, lined with bustling restaurants and bars, with romantic views over the sea. If you follow the waterfront northwards, you’ll first reach the slightly calmer but very popular Balluta Bay.
From there it is only a few hundred metres to Spinola Bay, the pretty-as-a-painting bay of St Julian’s. Unlike St Julian’s party zone Paceville, the bay is relaxed and romantic, with beautiful sunset views. There are several bars, café’s and restaurants all along the waterfront.
Malta has some pretty impressive historic sites. The megalithic temple complex at Hagar Qim dates back to 3600-3200BC and is one of the best preserved prehistoric sites in Malta. As an added bonus, the temple complex at Hagar Qim is situated in a stunning location, on top of the cliffs with views over the neighbouring islet of Filfa. It’s fascinating to wander around the prehistoric remainders, it’s astonishing how much of the temples has been preserved. Only 700m further on is Mnajdra – a further prehistoric complex featuring three temples.
St Peter’s Pool
St Peter’s Pool is a bit off the beaten track, at Delimara Point southwest of Marsaxlokk, but worth the gravel track ride. Don’t be put off by the sight of a power station as you approach, St Peter’s Pool is located on the other side of the peninsula and a wonderful place for a dip in the sea. If you’re brave you can join the youths diving off the rocks.
The walled town of Mdina is about as picturesque as they come. The former capital of Malta is packed with beautiful historic buildings, alleyways and churches. The perfect place for an afternoon stroll, a late lunch or a drink overlooking the sea.
The little town of Mosta is worth a stop just to have a look at the Dome. The design of the ‘Rotunda of Mosta’ is based on the pantheon in Rome and simply stunning.
Just a short ferry ride from Malta’s port lies its smaller sister island Gozo, with lots more to explore:
The beautiful Azure Window was one of Gozo’s most iconic sites but sadly has recently collapsed into the sea following a storm.
Sea salt production is traditional in Gozo and the chequerboard rock-cut salt pans on the north coast west of Marsalforn are a fascinating sight.
Basilica of Ta’ Pinu
The large pilgrim Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu is located in a strangely isolated spot but pretty to look at.
Ramla Bay is one of the biggest and most popular beaches on Gozo. The azure blue sea is wonderfully shallow and warm.