(Way back in Spring we had our last overseas adventure. I’ve been delaying blogging on it because I’m struggling to find decent software to edit my photos. Any suggestions?)
Recently I’ve been torn between taking more regular, cheaper, more local European trips, and saving up for something a bit more exotic (Asia has been giving me the eyes for quite some time…). The former has certainly been the theme of the past year. While there are a lot of cheap, sunny, honeypot tourist destinations that don’t excite my attention, there are a few golden nuggets too. Croatia and Malta were two gems we narrowed it down to for a Spring getaway, and the latter became was our latest travel pick. Initially looking for a package hol, we then found we could get a better deal doing it ourselves, and eventually got flights and a week’s accommodation within our £500 budget (bearing in mind, this was for the beginning of March, but still, not bad – considering the 5 night Cornwall trip we just returned from was only £100 less!).
Malta is right out in the Mediterranean, between Italy and North Africa. It is made up of three smaller islands, the largest being Malta, to the NW of which is Gozo (about half the size), and between the two is the very small Comino. If you arrived there blindfolded, you could be awarded a good guess for thinking you were in Greece or Italy, as it shares the same arid, warm climate and relaxed atmosphere. However, after a few days on the island, Malta’s individual personality and culture start to show through. The colourful boats of Marsaxlokk, and the balconies of Valletta are some of Malta’s trademark, unique views.
We stayed in Sliema for the week, which although is not a particularly interesting town in itself, I still consider it a good central location, with easy access to the capital of Valletta (and a great view of it – which you wouldn’t get if you were staying in the city itself!). Between a coach tour, local buses, and a few days with a hire car, we got around pretty much the whole island. A week is about the right amount of time for this, although it should be mentioned that more activities would have been available to spend our time on if we had gone mid-summer. In Spring, most of the boat trips, canoeing, and snorkeling are a no-go.
A few quick tips on travelling to Malta:
Malta reaches temperatures of 27°C in the height of Summer, although when we visited in early March, the weather was variable – we had some beautiful warm “shorts days”, but these were contrasted with colder days with a barrage of chilly coastal wind. If you’re travelling off-season it’s good to be prepared and bring plenty of layers – as well as some sunglasses!
Don’t be tempted by cheaper hotels in Gozo. This smaller island neighboring Malta is beautiful, but we had our fill of it in a day. There are very regular ferries between the islands, but these do take time and cost, and you’re much better off visiting Gozo for a single day trip, rather than visiting Malta for multiple ones. This not only comes from our experience, but that of several friends who went the Gozo way!
Local buses aren’t bad – but it’s not a quick way to travel. If you’re keen to see the whole island, renting a car is a great option. We had some reservations about driving in a foreign country on the wrong side of the road – but the benefits far outweighed these. We really enjoyed getting lost off the beaten track – ending up on some very narrow clifftop pathways, and encountering more than one “private no entry” at the end of a long dead end. But it was hugely fun and gave us a lot of freedom. I’d be very tempted to do the same on future travels elsewhere.
Don’t worry about language. Literally everyone speaks English, and don’t seem to have any grudges against doing so for you (unlike the vibes I get in some other countries).
Bring your own toiletries! I guess it comes from importation costs of island living, but certain items are not cheap. A shampoo and conditioner set me back €10!
This is the first of a series of posts on Malta. Stay tuned for more details on our favourite Maltese spots!