This Country Has More Cars Than People
It also has the most churches in Europe per capita.
I have to be upfront about this; this may be a biased guide to Malta because of the special place that it holds in my heart.
After living on the island for five months, it became more than a home to me. Regardless, spending five months living anywhere will result in a full and accurate guide.
Here’s a little more about Malta. . .
Malta is a southern European island country that sits only 50 miles south of Sicily, Italy. The island is small (122 sq. miles) but densely populated with over 450,000 people. Making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
Its capital city, Valletta, is less than a square mile in area. That makes it the smallest national capital in the European Union and one of the smallest in the world.
The country has two official languages being English and Maltese. However, it’s English with the younger generation.
Malta is a very popular tourist destination. With a great Mediterranean climate, nine months of the summer season, and sunshine a majority of the year, it makes a great place for a vacation.
Malta joined the European Union in 2004 and the Schengen Zone in 2008. The country’s currency is the Euro. Many summer festivals are commonplace in Malta. Celebrating about anything you can imagine.
First impressions. . .
The first time I took steps on this tiny island, I was not too impressed — and I’m assuming you may not be either. The ride into the populated part of Malta is not too pretty.
There are no clear blue bays, colorful fishing boats, or anything you see in Google Images.
It is not until you reach the Sliema/St. Julian’s area that you start to be impressed with this country. When I finally got there, that is when I knew Malta was going to live up to expectations.
Coming from the airport, I took public transportation to save a little bit of money.
The public bus in Malta costs about two dollars for a ticket that gives you access to ride for two hours.
This, however, was a mistake with a bunch of luggage. Instead, I recommend spending the extra money on a shuttle that will take you directly to your destination in about a fourth of the time.
It will generally cost you $8–10.
Transportation in Malta is frustrating. I can imagine, especially, if you are only visiting for a limited time, this would infuriate you.
Bus schedules are merely suggestions. More than half the time, busses will run behind schedule. Luckily, you can do most attractions in Malta by walking to each one; especially if you stay in the right area.
Hostels in Malta are kind of hit or miss. There is a fair share of good ones, but also some not-so-good ones. No matter where you stay, you can expect to pay in the range of $10–15 per night. Usually including some kind of free breakfast.
In general, if visiting for a limited time, the closest you can stay to the Sliema/St. Julian’s area will be best.
There are also some beautiful places to stay in the country’s beautiful capital, Valletta. But, there, you are a little further from the action.
The Maltese is a very traditional culture. They like to carry-on family traditions. They remain one of the most religious countries in Europe.
The older generation, although not as fluent in English, will likely be able to communicate with you. However, they may come off as a bit grumpy.
This is not the case. Maltese, in general, are some of the most laid-back people I have ever met. Respect their culture, and they will respect you.
Beaches in Malta
Malta is known for its clear blue Mediterranean sea and gorgeous limestone beaches.
There are several popular places that are always packed in the summer months. Yet, if you are visiting in the off-season, these beaches are generally empty. And the water is not too cool. Still swimmable.
St. Julian’s Beach
The artificial sand beach outside of the club district, Paceville. It is normally crowded. To the point of all-day beach parties during the summer months. A great place for the younger crowd.
All along The Strand, there are places to take a swim that aren’t as busy. And still within walking distance from the two most popular cities in Malta.
These beaches offer great views of the dome in Valletta. Plus, they are great photo opportunities.
My favorite beach in Malta. Usually busy in the summer months. One of the few real sand beaches on the island. Toward the north tip of the island (about an hour-long bus ride).
Beautiful blue bay offers numerous hiking trails right around it (ask a local where to find them).
Right next door to Golden Bay. This beach is a bit more hidden from tourists. Still, it still attracts a decent crowd. To get there, keep walking west from Golden Bay for a quarter of a mile or so.
New York’s Best
A very Americanized establishment. Offers about anything you could want like a normal family restaurant in the U.S.
Every meal here is around $6–10. Free WiFi!
Everywhere throughout the island, you can find small sidewalk shops with cheap snack food. If frugal, these snacks could suffice as a cheap meal under $4.
Make sure you try a pastizzi which is an infamous local pastry filled with ricotta cheese (under $0.40).
Day trips and things to do in Malta
Here are a few day trips and things to do in Malta during your vacation:
The sister island to the north of Malta is Gozo. It’s about a 30-minute ferry ride from the North of Malta.
The ferry costs $4.40 for a roundtrip fare and is the perfect inexpensive day trip.
From the ferry terminal in Gozo, take a bus to the center of the island, Victoria. From there, the main bus station will have a bus available to take you wherever you want to go.
Gozo, although smaller than Malta, is a more beautiful, relaxed version of what Malta is. Rent a scooter and cruise around this island all day.
There is an abundance of beautiful hikes around the island.
This desolate island in-between Malta and Gozo is smaller than both and home to only 4 people (yes, 4 people).
The ferry from Malta is more expensive at an $11 roundtrip. This is in large part due to the island’s main attraction — The Blue Lagoon. Likely if you’ve seen a picture of clear blue water in Malta, it is probably here.
Still, it’s well worth your time and money to come here.
To the West of Malta is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen land meeting sea. It is an hour-long bus ride from the Sliema/ St. Julian’s area.
Dingli Cliffs are one of the best places to take in a sunset that I’ve ever experienced. Also, there are wonderful hikes on this part of the island.
If you’re a climber, there are great rock climbing areas. This is a must-see in Malta.
St. Peter’s Pool
Potentially the best cliff jumping spot on the whole island.
It requires quite a trip to get there. You’ll take about an hour-long bus ride south to Marsaxlokk followed by a decent 30 minute to 1-hour hike.
But is worth it once you arrive. If you go in the summer months, there is a chance that it will be crowded. But at least you will be able to find the places safest to jump easier!
Also, if you’re brave enough, you can dive for sea urchins here. A nice exotic snack!
What is there to say about a place that cannot be described?
This place is, from what I’ve seen and experienced, the epitome of European partying. This is the main club district on the island and I would be hard-pressed to assume that anybody here ever sleeps.
When stepping into Paceville, it feels as if you are leaving Malta and entering a festival.
Free welcome drinks in nearly every club. Cheap drinks the rest of the night. Loud music, a huge crowd, and cheap snack food. This place is insane and even if you aren’t into this scene, you must go at least once.
I’ll admit, it took me a while to warm up to such a place, but now I can honestly say I want it back.
More attractions, bars, and restaurants. . .
- Hagar Qim (some of the most ancient free-standing temples in the world)
- Blue Grotto (a collection of beautiful caves, cliffs, boat tours, and excellent fishing spots)
- Valletta (a must-see, the capital is a tourist attraction itself)
- Smart City (beautiful seaside city to the south of Valletta)
- Casey’s Bar (cozy, live music/karaoke bar offering open mic nights on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s)
- Ryan’s (club outside of Paceville — usually a lot of locals come here)
- Guze Bistro (traditional Maltese cuisine in Valletta — not necessarily a budget place)
To wrap up. . .
Malta is a place that is important to me.
I may be a bit out of line to say that this tiny island is an excellent vacation destination. To many, it won’t be. But in my opinion, with a sunny, warm climate and the sea within walking distance; with cheap prices all over the island; what’s not to love?
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** This article was originally published at www.adamcheshier.com **
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