How To Make The Most Of Malta
University is out for the summer or nearly, as some people like myself are still doing exams (Hang in there! Summer is around the corner!) and the travel bug inside you is just waiting to be able to scurry away from your hometown to visit somewhere new. Malta might not be your first choice, you might have never even heard about this small island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, but this independent country has managed to make itself a haven.
This picturesque country relies on its beaches, sunshine, nightlife, history and religious traditions to attract travelers to visit it. Malta is made up of three main islands, including Malta itself, Gozo and Comino. Something I find fascinating is that the shape of island looks like a fish and if you wanted to cross from North to South it would only take 45 minutes by car. Malta has its own language, Maltese, which nearly all the locals communicate with. My foreign friends have commented that it sounds Arabic (which is true since its roots are from Semitic languages), but we look European and therefore it may be confusing. But don’t worry – everyone here knows English, so if you get lost or need help you will find someone to help you out. Here is why the country may be an underrated destination.
Let’s get a tan and hit up those beaches!
After two semesters of relentlessly hitting the books, all any student wants is to just relax. And what better way to do so than by laying back on a towel and just let the time go by? Malta offers numerous beaches around its coastline, including both sandy and rocky beaches. The sea there is always calm and safe to swim in, making it perfect for night-time barbeques. Apart from going to the most popular ones, you will find secluded beaches if you want to be adventurous that are also perfect for that recharge of solo time.
My personal favourite beaches are Golden Bay and Blue Lagoon, which are both perfect for those Instagrammable pictures that everyone craves. Golden Bay is found on the main island in the North, while Blue Lagoon, most famous for its turquoise waters, is found on a tiny sister island to the North of Malta called Comino. Only one family lives on this island, and you can only get there by boat.
The island itself is known for its 300 days of sun. We Maltese people really make a fuss if it ever rains, because it rarely does; we are blessed to constantly have sunshine and nice weather perfect for any occasion. Unfortunately, because of this, we suffer from high temperatures in summer. But honestly, isn’t that just an excuse to get a quick dip into one of the nearby beaches?
Care for a drink (or two)?
What kind of holiday would it be if you don’t get to sip a few cocktails or have some drinks at one of the parties that happen around the island nearly every day? Summer is the busiest time of the year for any kind of nightlife scene, and there is always something going on. Be it a boat party, clubbing in Paceville (our local nightlife village of clubs all with free entrance), grabbing a glass of wine from Strait Street in the capital city Valletta, going to a music festival or even a village feast. The latter are very popular amongst the old villages in the country and you can find at least one every weekend.
Every village has a patron saint and village locals get a few days in summer to celebrate. You will find many streets elaborately decorated with damask banners, followed by street processions as well as the band marches, where locals chant anthems whilst drinking beer (most probably Cisk, locally made beer). These feasts are also popular for their fireworks display, and you can say there is a competition between villages over who has the best fireworks display. Quite honestly, we Maltese love fireworks, and use any excuse to fire them up on a celebratory occasion.
Are you a foodie? Then Malta is the place for you!
Think about it, who wants to travel on an empty stomach? Luckily, the Maltese cuisine is diverse and is there to cover your every need. Since it is a country near the sea, there are many restaurants specialising in fish. However, one can find the best fish restaurants in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk.
Bread is also a speciality of ours, with one of the most famous summer snacks being the Maltese ftira. We also have our own favourite pastry, which are the pastizzi , and the most famous are the ones made by this quaint little shop in the old village of Rabat nicknamed Serkin. Yum!
A cure for your wanderlust.
With a blend of small cities and many rural villages, it is surprising that every locality has different characteristics and no village is alike. Every village has its own characteristic and story.
If your interest is art, you can find the famous Beheading of Saint John the Baptist made by the Italian artist Caravaggio, in the capital city Valletta at St John Co-Cathedral. Next year (2018), Valletta is going to be the European Capital of Culture, which is a big honour for us to host.
Given the size of the island, it will only take you a few days to cover its history from the Prehistoric era to the Renaissance, all the way up to the present. So, if your craving is history, then you will get plenty of it; be it the temples of Hagar Qim, which are older than the pyramids in Egypt; the 365 churches that are found in every part of these islands; the palaces and castles; and so much more!
If you want to see nature, despite the increasing amount of construction happening in the urbanised parts of the island, the countryside still dominates a lot of the space. Check out the Dingli Cliffs or the magnificent views you see from the old city of Mdina (one of the locations where Game of Thrones was filmed!).
Great, so now you have an insight of the culture, the activities and all that this island offers. I myself would love to be visiting the country and seeing all these places again for the first time. Also, don’t worry about the locals – we are known to be helpful and welcoming.