Is Malta Worth Visiting? And Why We Can’t Wait to Return!
Created by Colleen Sims * 25 August 2023 * Updated 25 August 2023
Malta was on our maybe we should visit list for a couple of decades. We’ve wanted to go but it was never the right time. However, things fell together for us in November and December 2022 and we jumped at the chance to visit.
We didn’t know if Malta would be worth visiting in winter; but the flights were very cheap. We had no plan for what to do because I really only thought that Malta was a summer beach destination. We simply booked an apartment, hired a car and set off.
What we discovered was a gem of an island. So packed full of treasures that we only managed to scratch the surface. We’re already planning our return visit.
So… Is Malta Worth Visiting?
Yes. Malta is more than worth visiting. Malta is a country that can tick boxes for all kinds of visitors. It’s such a small island and yet it has such wide appeal :
- Are you looking for a summer family holiday?
- Are you looking for a little culture and a weekend break?
- Are you more sporty and hoping to discover some hiking or cycling trails?
- Do you love water sports, diving or snorkelling?
- Do you love ancient history?
- Do you love sightseeing, island hopping, and exploring?
Is Malta perfect? No it isn’t. But is it worth a visit? Absolutely.
What is Malta Famous For?
I thought that Malta was famous for it’s postcard-worthy beaches but it’s actually more famous as a small island with a really big heritage.
- The UNESCO World Heritage city of Valletta, the country’s capital, offers architecture and culture unique to the islands. The Knights of St John left their mark on Malta and changed the course of European history. They made Valletta their home and the city is so beautifully preserved that Valletta alone, is worthy of a visit.
- Beyond the Knights of Malta, the islands are famous for their ancient history. On the neighbouring island of Gozo we discovered Temples older than the Pyramids and both islands are dotted with ancient churches and hilltop fortresses.
- Malta is a haven for water sports; we’re not divers but it is recognised as one of the top European scuba diving destinations and also perfect for snorkelling in the crystal clear waters.
- During World War II Malta’s strategic position made it a target for an unprecedented and prolonged bombardment. So great was the resilience of the Maltese people that the entire Island was award the George Cross for Valour; it is this cross that has been incorporated into the Island’s flag. Much of the war history has been preserved and you can visit the National War museum in Valletta to see more.
- In recent years Malta has become popular as a film-set and many major movies have been shot here as well the hugely successful Game of Thrones.
Queen Elizabeth II and Malta
Beyond the headline grabbing lists of things to do and see, we also felt that it was Malta’s charm and character that we loved and it seems that we’re not alone in thinking this.
In 1949, shortly after her marriage to Prince Philip, the then Princess Elizabeth moved to Malta. Prince Philip, a naval officer, had been posted to Malta and the couple made their home at Villa Guardamangia, in the outskirts of Valletta.
Queen Elizabeth is quoted as saying that her time in Malta was peaceful and private and that her days on the island were some of the happiest and most carefree times in her life. It has been quoted as the only place that she has called home.
When her father died in 1951, the new Queen Elizabeth returned to the United Kingdom, but Malta continued to hold a special place in her heart and she often talked about her life there.
In June 2020 the couples Maltese home was purchased by the Maltese Government and entrusted to Heritage Malta.
Is Malta Worth a Visit : Here’s 27 Other Compelling Reasons to Book Your Flight
I feel like a character in a Monty Python Sketch; apart from the history, and the beaches, and the queen and the movies and the Knights… what else is there to do on Malta that makes it worth a visit? How about this :
1. Discover the Rich Tapestry of Malta’s History
Malta is like a living museum, with a history dating back thousands of years. Find traces of ancient Neolithic people and temples, discover the cities of the Knights of St. John, as well as Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, French, and British, all of whom have left their mark on Malta.
2. Explore Malta’s World Heritage UNESCO Sites
Malta has three World Heritage UNESCO listings and a few more under consideration; a testament to the island’s historical significance. No trip to Malta would be complete without visiting at least one.
Valletta, fortified by the Knights and dating back to the 16th century is a UNESCO site. The ancient Temples of Malta and Gozo are also listed, as is Hal Salflieni Hypogeum, a series of underground burial chambers thought to be around 4500 years old.
3. Pre-Historic Ġgantija : Malta’s Megalithic Temples
After our visit to the National History Museum in Valletta we decided to visit Ggantija on Gozo. I had never heard of this temple but I’ve heard of Stonehenge and yet these temples are older. Malta’s megalithic temples are considered to be some of the oldest free-standing structures on earth and are a testament to a civilization that existed more than 5,000 years ago.
You can wander the site and clearly make out buildings, structures, and even marks where doors where hung. Ggantija whetted our appetite for more; next time we visit Malta we’ll try to visit the other temples at Tarxien, Mnajdra, and Hagar Qim Skorba, Hagrat and Kordin III.
4. Explore the Gem that is Valletta
We loved Valletta. We we next visit Malta we’ll base ourselves in the city and spend much longer exploring.
Take a walking tour through Valletta’s narrow, cobbled streets, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Visit the baroque masterpiece of St. John’s Co-Cathedral, or the Grand Master’s Palace and the Grand Harbour (one of the worlds most spectacular natural ports).
Street vendors and Michelin star restaurants, cafes, shops, museum and galleries are dotted throughout Valletta. It’s a fabulous city and the perfect place to visit for a weekend getaway or a base for a longer stay on Malta.
5. Wander the Streets of Three Cities
Opposite Valletta, and equally worthy of a visit is Three Cities. As Valletta grew so did these suburbs. Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, are together known as Three Cities, and like Valletta itself, they serve as a living history of Malta’s former greatness.
The fortified Three Cities sits directly across the Grand Harbour from Valletta. You can lose yourself in the view of their skyline from Barrakka Gardens in Vallatta.
It’s really easy to move between Valletta and Three Cities; a quick ferry ride across the harbour is all you need.
6. Immerse Yourself in Mdina, Malta’s Silent City
Mdina, is a beautiful walled city in the centre of the island, which quietly whispers the grandeur of Malta’s glorious past. At times the cities narrow streets reminded me very much of our home in South West France, with honey coloured stone buildings and brightly painted shutters.
It is thought that the area around Mdina was settled around 6000 years ago. The Phoenicians fortified Mdina, the Romans made it home for their governor and St Paul made a home just outside Mdina, in Rabat. Then came Normans and Arabs, The Knights of St John, the French and the British; each of them leaving their mark.
There is so much history within this small fortified city, known locally as the Silent City, that is should be on every Malta itinerary. With regular buses from Valletta, this beautiful area is definitely worth a visit
7. Malta’s Pristine Beaches : Jewels of the Mediterranean
I thought that Malta would be all about the beaches; after all a million people flock to Malta in the summer months and the azure waters of the Mediterranean attracts visitors from around the globe.
The islands are dotted with pristine beaches and rocky shorelines. Indeed, so clean are the waters around Malta, that even by strict EU standards they excel; The European Standards Agency declared 82 excellent beaches in Malta in 2023. Malta has also been award 12 coveted Blue Flag Beaches.
Whilst perfect for sunbathing, Malta’s beaches also offer snorkelling, diving, kayaking and windsurfing. Some of Malta’s beaches are rocky, but often they offer a Lido for safe swimming.
Mellieha Bay, is a favourite beach for families, while the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island is one of the Malta’s top destinations. Malta’s 12 Blue Flag Beaches are :
- Fond Għadir (Sliema)
- St George’s bay (St Julian’s)
- Qawra point
- Buġibba beach
- Għadira (Mellieha Bay)
- Golden Bay
- Għajn Tuffieħa
- Paradise Bay
- Westin Dragonara Beach
- Ramla (Gozo)
- Ħondoq ir-Rummien (Gozo)
- Marsalforn (Gozo)
8. Take to the Waves in Malta’s Crystal Clear Waters
Not only are Malta’s beaches world class, her seas and shoreline are a dream for water sport enthusiasts. Having snorkelled in Thailand, Galapagos and Indonesia we’re very keen to try out the waters here.
Malta offers some of the best diving spots in the world with beautiful shipwrecks and colourful reefs, you can dive year round and their sites are suitable for all levels of divers.
There are a range of dive sites from heritage wrecks, recognized archaeological sites, open water and caves. Malta’s underwater landscape is enriched by an array of caves, tunnels, and wartime shipwrecks that have become artificial reefs Cirkewwa Reef is one of the more popular dive sites, along with Blue Hole (maybe the most famous dive site on Gozo), and also on Gozo, the Inland Sea. If you’ve not tried scuba diving before there are some excellent tours for first timers.
9. Delve into Malta’s Markets
We love a market. And whilst Malta doesn’t boast markets like those we visited in Marrakech or Phnom Penh, there are still markets which serve as a vibrant hub of local life. Browse through the stalls adorned with fresh produce, handmade crafts, and yes of course, plenty of tourist fayre.
The Marsaxlokk Fish Market is a great place to visit, offering a glimpse of the day’s freshest catch. Valletta has a Sunday Market, with a diverse array of items; including the sunglasses that we bought to help shield against the December sunshine.
In Valletta you should also make time to visit Is-Suq tal-Belt, a recently refurbished indoor market, and in summer look out for small local craft and artisan markets that pop up during local festivals.
10. Take a Gastronomic Adventure through Malta’s Cuisine
Malta has been influenced by all the people that called Malta home and her food is no exception. Malta’s cuisine is a reflection of her history, blending Mediterranean flavours with dishes influenced by Italian, North African and Middle Eastern traditions as well as modern global influences.
We took a food tour to really delve into the Maltese food culture, suffice to say that there is a wide range of glorious delicacies waiting to be tasted. Our guide also sent us to Mgarr for a fabulous Sunday Lunch.
For the Gluten Free amongst you sadly a lot of the cuisine is off limits; the Maltese love their pastries. BUT they are very gluten aware and I always found something excellent to choose from on the menu. And there is a growing number of Vegan and Gluten Free cafés and restaurants.
11. Wine and Chocolate Tour. Seriously Good.
I tried to think of a catchy heading for this section but… it’s wine and chocolate. It needs no other introduction.
Malta has been producing wine for thousands of years (the olive oil is pretty good too).
Surprisingly there is also a thriving chocolate industry on Malta and you can combine both of these delights on a Wine and Chocolate Pairing Tour. It’s worth visiting Malta just for this!
12. Hire a Car and Lose Yourself in Malta and Gozo
You don’t need to hire a car to get around in Malta. Public transport is excellent and inexpensive and there are a host of tours to suit all pockets. However, we did hire a car, giving us freedom to explore at our own pace and really get off the beaten track.
Once you escape Valletta and the suburbs, the traffic is quieter and we found driving on Gozo really quite pleasant. Of course it was quieter in November and December, no doubt the roads will be much busier in peak season. Perhaps exploring by car is an activity best done outside of these busy summer months.
We purposely took the smaller roads and drove through quaint villages and found lovely coastal hikes that we wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed. We also found ourselves clearing the road of a fallen wall too!
13. Visit Picturesque Fishing Villages
Exploring some of Malta’s fishing villages is just another reason why Malta is worth visiting.
Nestled on the south-eastern coast, Marsaxlokk is one such traditional fishing village renowned for its colourful Luzzus (traditional Maltese fishing boats) and charming waterfront. The village has managed to retain its old-world charm and the Sunday’s fish market is a great place for a visit.
Enjoy a coffee in one of the waterfront restaurants and savour the views of the bay.
14. Visit at Least one of Malta’s Galleries or Museums
We like to spend time exploring Museums. It’s a great activity to escape the hot sun in summer and the rain in winter. It’s also surprising how much of an insight you can glean for a few hours in a museum.
We spent a few hours in the National Museum of Archaeology and Muza, the National Art Museum; both are well worth visiting.
If like us, you like a good museum take a look at these Maltese Museums on TripAdvisor and find your favourite.
15. The Azure Window: A Lost Natural Wonder
The Azure Window, known locally as the Dwejra Window, was a natural limestone arch on the western coast of the Island of Gozo. It was a was a famous landmark, appearing in several films and Game of Thrones.
In 2017 natural erosion caused this stunning limestone arch to fall into the sea. Today it has become a popular spot for divers, who explore the remnants of the arch under the water.
16. Discover Gozo : For At Least a Day
If you have time, then make time for Gozo; it should be on every visitors Itinerary. Gozo is easily reached by ferry and offers a quieter escape and a slower pace of life than the busier mainland and holiday coastal areas.
It’s bucolic countryside, dotted with historic landmarks and sleepy villages, provides a glimpse into the Maltese rural way of life.
In December it felt like we were alone at times, driving through rolling green hills and exploring the majestic cliffs and secluded bays along the coast. We visited Gozo several times and on our next visit, we’ll probably base ourselves on the island for a week to see more.
17. Wonder at Malta’s Blue Grotto
I had no idea what the Blue Grotto was, I think I was expecting an underground cave. Instead The Blue Grotto is a natural wonder of six caves reflecting the blue blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Most folks take a boat trip to the caves and on a sunny day I suspect it would be very pretty. Boats ride through the caves offer a up close view of this natural phenomenon and folks say that you can see pink, orange, turquoise and green reflecting off the water onto the limestone walls of the caves.
18. Island Hop Malta’s Archipelago
The Maltese archipelago consists of Malta, her sister island Gozo and the smaller island of Comino. Each island offers its own unique flavour and it’s really worth visiting at least one during your stay.
Gozo is definitely worth a visit and depending on your timescales, allow a day or two to explore the island. Comino offers an unspoiled landscape and is home to the very popular Blue Lagoon.
Ferries, tours and boats offer the visitor plenty of options to visit these islands, whilst also offering fabulous views from the sea of the Maltese coastline.
19. Wow! A Day Trip to Sicily
Malta isn’t part of Italy but historically it has been influenced by its neighbour. The island of Sicily is just a short ferry ride away from Malta and if you have enough time they why not make this exciting day trip.
Sicily presents it’s own rich tapestry of history and culture and whilst it is not possible to explore Sicily in a day, this short island hop is the perfect excuse to enjoy lunch on Italy’s foreign shores!
20. Experience the Genuine Warmth of Malta’s Locals
I know it sounds cheesy and every guide will tell you how great the Maltese are but we genuinely felt welcomed on Malta. People seemed interested in where we lived, why we had visited and they were also were very happy to recommend their favourite shops or restaurants or destinations.
We found that folks went the extra mile to make us welcome, shopkeepers greeted us with a smile, the locals offered directions, we found this welcome part of the Maltese appeal.
Maybe it was because we were there in winter and there were fewer visitors? If this is so, then it’s a great reason for you to visit at that time of year, but I think it’s part of the Maltese culture. Try it for yourself; engage in conversations, seek recommendations, and get chatting.
21. Visit the Shrine of Ta’Pinu
The Marian shrine of Ta’Pinu, is a place of great devotion for the Maltese people and has been recognized and celebrated by several Popes, including Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI and most recently Pope Francis.
The original chapel dates back to 1545 but in 1883, Karmini Grima, a local woman heard the voice of the Blessed Virgin Mary calling her to enter and asking her to recite three Hail Marys. She later told a friend and to her surprise he explained that he too had heard the same voice.
Over time locals noticed that friends and family were recovering from terminal illness or injury after saying prayers to the Madonna. Word spread of the miracles and pilgrims started to visit and in 1931, today’s magnificent church was consecrated.
It’s a beautiful building, on a stunning site. Off from the alter there is a huge collection of votive offerings (ex-voto) decorating the walls, which include stories, photos and various objects such as crutches and plaster casts. For many people Ta Pinu is the equivalent of Lourdes and they will visit Malta just to pay homage here.
22. Promenade beside the Sea at Marsaskala
We stayed in an apartment overlooking the harbour of Marsaskala. This little town is a charming place to visit and offers a great many shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s a real working town and not just a tourist destination although it is popular with the Maltese.
There is a promenade which runs along both sides of the harbour and you can walk for miles in either direction. Take the path on the left and you’ll wander out of town and find yourselves on the rocky coast where you can explore Marsaskala’s salt pans. Take the path to the right and you can wander and wander along the pavement, just gazing out at the glorious blue sea.
You can take the bus from Valletta (the number 91) and it’s worth spending a day in this delightful little town.
23. Get Swept Away by Malta’s Festivals
Malta’s is embracing it’s international popularity with numerous festivals and events, many having grown out of more traditional island celebrations. Visitors can enjoy religious feasts honouring patron saints to contemporary events like the Malta Jazz Festival and the Malta International Fireworks Festival.
Malta’s cultural calendar is punctuated with several festivals worth visiting, celebrating music and art. Check with the Maltese Tourist Information or visit the Festival Malta website to learn what’s on when you visit.
24. Hike the Untamed Beauty of Malta’s Natural Landscapes
Of course we love a walk. Whilst Malta doesn’t have named trails like the Camino de Santiago there are numerous hikes that you can take on the island. I like to use sites like Alltrails to find hiking routes such as the one at Dingli Cliffs but we also like to just follow our noses too.
Gerry decided that he wanted to hike across a country in one day, so we started at Għadira (Mellieha Bay) and followed a small road to Popeye Village. It turned out to be a really pretty walk, and we weren’t alone. Once at Popeye village we kept walking along the cliffs for glorious views of this part of the Maltese coastline.
25. Language Advantage?
I’m not sure that this is really a reason to visit Malta but it certainly helps a couple of Brits like us. Maltese is the official language on the islands but English is widely spoken. Being able to communicate in English was a huge bonus and I’m sure helped us delve deeper into understanding Malta more.
It’s easy to strike up a conversation with people when so many folks speak such excellent English.
26. Stunning Sunsets : The Sunrise is Pretty Good Too
Is this a reason? Maybe not but I am a sucker for sunset. I’m also a happy girl watching the sun rise through trees or above water and I’ll wait for ages to capture the perfect photo.
If like me you love to watch the passage of the sun then you’ll love Malta. Time it right on the ferry from Gozo and you’ll capture the perfect orange glow. Or set an alarm for your morning coffee and watch the sunrise from your balcony; it’s also pretty special.
27. Bask in Malta’s Year-Round Climate
It would be wrong to say that there is year round sunshine on Malta. The islands experience four seasons and winter is definitely cooler and wetter. When we visited though we had plenty of sunny days; indeed so much so that we are considering returning for several months over winter. But we also had some rainy days.
However, it is fair to say that Malta offers something for everyone year round. It boasts a mild Mediterranean climate with more than 300 sunshine-filled days each year. And even on the rainy days you can find something to do.
If you’re wanting to visit Malta and would prefer to avoid the peak summer season then take a look at other times of the year. It’s worth a visit at any time.
Is Malta Worth Visiting?
We loved Malta. We’re planning a return visit. There really is so much to see and do beyond the beaches. We want to return to Gozo because we felt we only scratched the surface of this tiny island. We want to go when the sea is warmer and explore some of Malta’s famous snorkelling spots. We’d like to go in early spring, when locals say the wild flowers are amazing. And I’d like to go back for an extended time and spend my winter in Valletta; this post will explain why we loved Valletta so much! Yes Malta is very much worth visiting.