Located in the middle of The Mediterranean Sea lies Malta: a land full of history, beautiful architecture and surrounded by the most beautiful blue waters – here in this blog post I will provide you with a sample travel itinerary and all the vital information you need to ensure you have the best trip in Malta!
Where is Malta?
Malta sits in the middle of The Mediterranean Sea between Italy and North Africa. More precisely it is located between the Italian island of Sicily and the Arab countries of Tunisia and Libya in North Africa. Due to it’s location, for centuries the land was influenced by both European Crusaders and North African Moors, both keen to gain control of this strategically placed hub. Over the years Malta thus essentially evolved to become a fusion of North Africa and Italy in terms of the language, culture, landscape, cuisine, architecture and the people. This fusion is what makes Malta so unique.
The country of Malta is actually an archipelago as it is made up of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. All the islands together have a combined area of just over 300 square kilometres, with the largest island of Malta only being 15km by 20km big!
The Maltese language is a mix of Italian, Arabic and English. English however is widely spoken and is one of the official languages of Malta as it was ruled by the British from 1800 to 1964.
Having myself lived both in Sicily and in an Arab country in the past, I loved how Malta manages to perfectly get the balance right between the two. At some times you’ll swear you are in southern Italy, whereas other times you completely feel like you are in North Africa.
What to do in Malta?
Even though Malta is a small country there are so many things to do here such as:
- exploring the historic towns and cities
- visiting the beautiful beaches
- going on boat trips
- doing adventure activities such as scuba diving or snorkelling.
Despite there being so much to see and do here, Malta however still remains a bit of a hidden gem in the Mediterranean and is relatively unexplored by a lot of tourists. Malta often gets overshadowed by more touristy destinations such as Italy or Greece which means it is not too busy here which is perfect. For this reason, Malta really makes a perfect place for a trip, whether it is a long weekend away, a road trip or a week long break.
Popular places to visit in Malta include:
The Blue Grotto,
The Blue Lagoon of Comino,
The Three Cities.
When should you visit Malta?
Due to it’s location in the southern Mediterranean, Malta is blessed with sunny days all year round. Infact it is one of the sunniest places in Europe! This makes it a perfect winter sun destination, or suitable to visit any time of the year!
That being said, early summer (May/June) or early autumn are the best times to go, when the weather is warm, crowds are less and the sea is a perfect temperature for swimming in. In spring and especially winter the water may sometimes be a little cool to swim in. In peak summer months, Malta gets very crowded and prices are more expensive with accommodation options often doubled in price (although still a lot cheaper than other Mediterranean destinations).
How long should you spend in Malta?
Many people visit Malta for 3 or 4 days and you can certainly explore a lot of the country in this time. You definitely want a day to explore the historical capital Valletta and the old capital Mdina, a day on the island of Gozo and a day to explore the west of Malta minimum. If you are here in the summer you might want to add a few more days to relax, explore more places and discover some of the stunning secret beaches Malta is famous for – there are so many hidden corners to explore in Malta!
Transport in Malta
Renting a car in Malta
Lots of people rent cars when they visit Malta and equally many people don’t so it is personal preference whether you choose to or not. If you choose not to you can still easily get around without a car hire. Although with a hire car you have flexibility and freedom, allowing you to make your way around the coastline and explore all the beaches at your own pace. You can also take a hire car across to Gozo on the ferry. You may find the driving a bit erratic in Malta, especially if you haven’t been to Sicily or North Africa before! Make sure to take out the best insurance when you hire the car here.
As Malta is quite small you may think it is not worth it to hire a car, especially if you are only here for a long weekend as you’ll most likely stick to the main towns and tourist sights which are easily accessible by public transport and tours. But if you are in Malta for longer than 4 days or you want to discover lesser known parts of Malta such as hidden beaches and you want to avoid tour and crowds then it would be a good idea to hire a car. Car hire in Malta is quite cheap – you can get standard cars for as low as €15 a day in the off-peak season.
Hire a driver/day tours
If you don’t want to hire a car and want someone else to do the organising for you, you can hire a driver for the day although this can work out considerably more than a hire car. Many drivers in Malta charge around €25 an hour, which does make it quite expensive! Alternatively you can do day tours. Click here to have a look at some of the popular day tours in Malta. If you are only going to do one tour during your trip, make it the Blue Lagoon and Comino Boat Cruise – a whole day boat trip where you can see lots of caves and go swimming and snorkelling in The Blue Lagoon.
You can easily make your way around Malta on the public buses if this is how you would like to explore the island. Malta has a very comprehensive bus network and the buses go all around the island. For the best information on the public buses here visit the Malta By Bus website – it is really good at explaining everything you need to know about Malta’s bus system.
The public buses in Malta are very cheap and convenient which makes them a great way to get around and explore if you are on a budget. Do bear in mind it will take considerably longer to get around by bus though as opposed to rental car, so I wouldn’t advise using the bus if you are really limited for time and want to see lots of different places. That being said, the buses do run fairly regularly and mostly run to schedule although they can sometimes run a little late. Do be aware if travelling here during the summer the buses will be VERY crowded!
A bus ride costs €1.50 (or €2 in peak summer months) or if you take the direct buses they cost €3. You will need to pay with cash on the bus so make sure you have the correct change available! Alternatively you can buy a travel card that makes each journey cheaper – you can buy this online or in one of the kiosks at the bus stops or in some shops. In Valletta the buses depart from the main bus terminal – it is quite large with three terminals (Terminal A, B and C).
Accommodation in Malta
Especially if you don’t have a car, base yourself in the capital city of Valletta. There are lots of restaurants in Valletta and it is lively in the evenings. Plus it is easy enough to do day trips from here as the island is quite small. Unless you specifically want to stay on Gozo for a couple of days I would base yourself in Valletta for the duration of the trip. There are lots of hotels and cheap Airbnb options in the Old Town of Valletta.
Money in Malta
Malta uses the Euro €. However not everywhere accept card so make sure to bring cash too! Boat rides, buses and many convenience stores accept cash only so make sure to have plenty available.
How to visit Malta on a budget:
Malta is one of the cheaper Mediterranean countries to visit. If you are a backpacker and are keen to visit Malta on a strict budget you could probably get away with spending just €45 a day (more in peak season) all costs included, provided you stay in a hostel or travel with a friend and split costs.
Even if you are not looking to travel to Malta in the cheapest way possible, here are some useful tips to remember that will significantly lower your costs:
- travel to Malta off-peak for cheaper flights, accommodation and car rental costs. Accommodation costs double in the summer months.
- avoid expensive meals – for lunch you can always visit a modest cafe or buy a couple of pastizzi or a sandwich to take away from one of the stalls one day and eat it whilst enjoying beautiful views.
- take buses around Malta.
- stay in an Airbnb (very cheap here!) or cheaper guest house.
- travel with a friend so you can save costs (for example on accommodation and car hire costs if you do decide to hire a car).
Malta Travel Itinerary Blog: What to do in Malta
Here are some options of itineraries to do in Malta. Of course you should adapt the itinerary depending on your requirements and whether you have a hire car or not. Feel free to pick and choose and alter the itinerary according to how long you have here.
Valletta is the capital city of Malta. It is so quaint and full of cute cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways – it almost seems hard to believe this is a capital city as it is small and has such a lovely laid-back vibe! Spend half a day wandering round and admiring the elaborate ancient Baroque architecture and the romantic balconies.
The streets are very picturesque and make for some incredibly beautiful photographs. Although Valletta can get quite crowded during the day, particularly in the summer so try to get out early and explore before it gets too busy!
Just like most things in Valletta, the streets feel a lot like Sicily: Italian but with a hint of North Africa. You almost feel like you’ve stepped back in time wandering around the charming historic city that is now a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Valletta is a compact city and is it easy to walk around so there is no need to get transport here. And walking up the many steep streets will certainly keep you fit! When you need a break, head to Caffe Cordina for a lovely cafe setting.
As well as wandering round the picturesque streets be sure to visit these places in Valletta:
The Upper Barrakka Gardens were originally used by the Knights of Saint John who built Valletta. They are incredibly beautiful and offer stunning panoramic views out across the city and harbour. The Lower Barrakka Gardens also offer beautiful views out across the harbour.
St John’s Cathedral
St John’s Cathedral in Valletta is a must-visit. The inside of the 15th Century church is absolutely spectacular – it is covered in gold and intricately detailed Baroque paintings adorn the walls and the ceiling. If you go into the side chapel on the right you’ll find the iconic Caravaggio painting of ‘The Beheading of St John the Baptist’. It is €12 to enter St John’s Cathedral but is absolutely worth it.
Take the ferry from Valletta to nearby Sliema (cost is €1.50 each way). Sunset is a great time to go. Many of the Game of Thrones scenes were filmed all over Malta, and some were at Manoel Fort which is just off Sliema – but you can’t visit unfortunately except on a very few occasions!
You can also take a boat across to The Three Cities from Valletta on a typical Maltese boat known as a dgħajsa.
If you thought Valletta was picturesque then wait until you see Mdina! Mdina is a beautiful fortified small medieval town – it is the oldest part of Malta and the former capital founded 4000 years ago by the Phonecians. Mdina is also know as ‘The Silent City’ of Malta because as soon as the capital moved from Mdina to Valletta, Mdina became almost like a ghost-town. The enclosed walled town is very small, and the streets are so quiet and peaceful, in contrast to the busy streets of Valletta. Like in Valletta, be sure to just spend time wandering around the quaint narrow cobblestone streets here and admiring the Baroque architecture. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, some scenes were filmed here in Mdina so be sure to look out for them!
Mdina is located in the centre of Malta on the top of a hill (which is why it was originally chosen as the capital) so the views across to the rest of the island are stunning! If you are a fan of rooftop cafes, head to the Fontanella Tea Garden and enjoy the impressive views out to the countryside whilst enjoying food and drinks here.
Mdina is absolutely worth a stop on your Malta itinerary and you can get here by public bus from Valletta (buses 51, 52, 53, 54). The bus will head to Rabat and will take 30 minutes on the express service or 1 hour on the regular bus. Get off the bus in Rabat and walk for half a kilometre to the entrance gates of Mdina.
The small town of Rabat is also is definitely worth heading here afterwards too. Both Rabat and Mdina are lovely places and one of the highlights of Malta for many visitors.
Visit Marsaxlokk on Malta’s south east for half a day. Marsaxlokk is another must see in Malta even if you are only here for 3 or 4 days. The trip from Valletta takes about 45 minutes. Head down to the harbour to see all the colourful boats, and make sure to eat seafood here as this is the place to go for the best seafood in Malta!
You absolutely MUST visit nearby Gozo Island on your Malta trip. The island of Gozo is located north of the island of Malta (but it still makes up part of the country Malta) and has some of the most amazing shades of blue water I have ever seen! Infact many people even prefer the smaller island of Gozo to the island of Malta due to the incredible water, the historical sites and landscapes here and the much more laid back way of life.
Whilst Gozo is quieter than Malta it is still a popular place for tourists. Lots of visitors choose to stay overnight in Gozo or base themselves here as opposed to on the island of Malta, particularly those who come here for scuba diving as Gozo is a great place for diving. Equally many visitors to Malta choose to base themselves in Valletta and just visit Gozo on a day trip. Gozo makes a perfect day trip from Valletta, but make sure you leave early to maximise your time there as there is so much to do and see in Gozo.
How to get to Gozo from Valletta
It takes around 1.5-2 hours altogether to reach Gozo from Valletta if coming by public transport. You will need to take the number 41 or 42 bus from Valletta bus terminal. The bus will terminate at Cirkewwa, which is where the ferry crossing to Gozo is located. Stay on the bus until the end – the journey should take little over an hour. Note that 2-3km away from the ferry crossing on Malta you’ll see the Popeye Village. If you have the time try and visit!
Once you are off the bus take the ferry across to Gozo – the crossing will take around 30 minutes and ferries leave often throughout the day. A return ticket for pedestrians will cost you €5, and €15 if you are taking a car onto Gozo. You can pay by card and the views across to the islands on the ride are particularly stunning. You will arrive at Mgarr Marina on Gozo.
What to do in Gozo in one day
If you are only in Gozo for one day, chances are that you won’t be hiring a car to explore the island. In which case you’ll still need to find a way to get around as the island is still fairly big. You can take public buses, but it might be quite time consuming, in which case it might be better to take the Hop On Hop Off bus as it will take you to all the main tourist sights in Gozo.
Tickets can be purchased online or on the ferry across from Malta and cost from €15 during off-peak season. This is much cheaper than hiring a driver or taking taxis. The hop-on hop-off bus stop is right opposite the ferry terminal and buses leave every 45 minutes from 09.45 to 15.45. There are several different stops and you can get off at whichever stop you like, spend 45 minutes there, and then hop back onto the bus and visit a different stop. Click here to see the route the bus takes. If you do miss the last hop on hop off bus back to the ferry terminal you can get a normal bus or taxi back to the ferry terminal. Ferries to Malta run until late night.
The best stops and things to see in Gozo are:
Xewkija – beautiful dome shaped 17th Century Catholic Church of St John the Baptist.
Ta’Pinu – Spectacular Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu (pictured above). The views are breathtaking from here. Please dress appropriately and respectfully if you plan to visit.
Victoria – Citadella.
Ramla – Roman ruins near to a beautiful sandy beach – often called the most beautiful (and busiest!) beach on Gozo.
Ggantija Temples – neolithic temples over 5500 years old.
Dwejra – Azure window ruins. Sadly the iconic natural Azure Window arch (pictured below) collapsed into the sea in early 2017 so you won’t be able to see it. There are lots of beautiful cliffs surrounding the area though so you can take a boat ride from the Inland Sea at Dwejra to admire the impressive cliffs from the water, or you can scuba dive in the famous Gozo Blue Hole.
THE BLUE LAGOON
You can also take the ferry to The Blue Lagoon, located just off the island of Comino – the smallest island in Malta’a archipelago. The Blue Lagoon is a must visit and is one of the most beautiful places in Malta! It is such a beautiful relaxing place and swimming in the Blue Lagoon is incredible as the water is so incredibly clear and vibrantly blue! It does get very busy here though especially in the summer!
You can either visit The Blue Lagoon as part of a day trip boat cruise (available from March – October) or visit independently. There are several companies you can organise the boat tour with (Hornblower, Captain Morgan, Sea Adventure are some good ones), and this is a great option if you want someone to do the organising for you and you don’t want to get the public bus for over an hour to the ferry port (many of them organise hotel pick-ups). The day trips are quite reasonably priced, starting at around €20 for the day, and they let you swim in and explore The Blue Lagoon for several hours.
If travelling independently you can take the bus from Valletta to Cirkewwa, the same place where you take the ferry for Gozo and then get the ferry from here.
If you want to escape the crowds at The Blue Lagoon, about half a kilometre away is The Crystal Lagoon that is a lot quieter. Bear in mind that Comino is a very rocky island and there isn’t much shade here, so bring appropriate shoes and plenty suncream and a sun hat! If you want to visit a sand beach on Comino, walk across to Santa Marija Bay.
Remember to also bring your swimming costume, a beach towel, snacks and a bottle of water (food and drink is more expensive here!).
Make sure to explore the west of the island of Malta too! Do a boat tour of The Blue Grotto here – the views back across to the island of Malta are stunning.
If you have an extra day:
You can take the ferry to Sicily and do a day trip here if you fancy! You can get the ferry from Valletta to Pozzallo (near Ragusa) which takes just under 2 hours. There is also a ferry to Catania but this takes over 4 hours so don’t take this unless you plan to spend a couple of days in Sicily at least, or visit Sicily after Malta so you only have to do one ferry crossing. Depending on the season and when you book your ticket the ferry will cost will vary, so always book in advance to get the best deals.
What food should you eat in Malta?
Being an island, the seafood is always very fresh and really good here in Malta. Also being so close to Sicily you can definitely see the resemblance Maltese cuisine has with the Sicilian cuisine, which means you can also be sure the food is very tasty here! Sicilian snacks such as cannoli (a typical Sicilian tube shaped dessert filled with a sweet ricotta filling) are also very popular here.
One very typical Maltese snack you must try is pastizzi. Pastizzi is a pastry snack filled with ricotta or mushy peas and is similar to an empanada. You’ll see pastizzi being sold in cafes but if you head to one of the many pastizzi street stalls in Valletta you’ll be able to get them for much cheaper at only a Euro each! They make perfect on the go snacks if you don’t have time (or money!) for a sit down breakfast or lunch.
Alternatively try some of these very popular local dishes in Malta:
Maltese style rabbit,
bigilla, (broad beans with garlic),
lampuki pie (fish pie),
qassatat (pie with ricotta and/or spinach).
Like in Italy and North Africa, in Malta restaurants are open late for dinner.
How to get to Valletta from the Airport
Malta International Airport is about a 20 minute drive away from Valletta. To get from the airport to Valletta if you don’t have a hire car there are a few options:
You can take one of the flat-rate taxis for €20 into Valletta from the airport. When you get out of Arrivals you’ll see a booth where you pre-pay for your ride. Note you can pay in cash only! There are no Ubers here in Malta.
Alternatively a cheaper option is to take a shuttle van with a few other people. This costs €14 per person and does a couple of stops depending on where the other passengers need to get off. This option is cheaper than taking a taxi if you are a solo traveller, but if there are 2 or more of you it will work out cheaper to get a taxi.
You can get the X4 bus from outside Arrivals at the airport. The bus leaves every 20-30 minutes and runs from 6am to 11pm. The bus costs just €1.50 (€2 in peak months of June to October). If your accommodation is near the main Valletta bus terminal this is a much cheaper way to get to Valletta although bear in mind it will take longer than the taxi or shuttle van.
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