A central Med spot, a generous helping of UNESCO big-hitters, and a few easy-to-reach island neighbours… Malta is a holiday favourite for good reason.
Small but mighty
Notching up a not-so-grand total of 300 square kilometres, Malta ranks as one of the smallest countries in the world. But don’t be fooled by its dinky stature. What this Mediterranean island lacks in landmass, it makes up for in everything else.
Centuries of history
Take its history, for starters. Thanks to a sought-after postcode halfway between Europe and North Africa, Malta has been occupied by everyone from the Ancient Greeks to the Knights of St John. As a result, walking through places like Mdina, the Medieval old capital, and Valletta – the Baroque city that takes the title today – is like stepping into the History Channel, only everything’s 3D.
That’s not to say Malta only does dusty relics, though – one look at the coastline reveals its other big draw. Mellieha, a sheltered bay on the northwest coast, is home to Malta’s biggest sandy beach. And a little further south is Qawra, where flat, rocky platforms make for prime sunbathing turf.
Carry on further down the coast and Sliema makes an appearance. Once a fishing village, it’s now a hub of trendy cafés, restaurants and shops. And its seafront promenade runs right up to neighbouring St Julian’s, where Malta’s cashed-up twenty-somethings hang out.
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Rocky Malta might not be the first place that springs to mind for beach holidays, but Mellieha Bay’s sandy, sheltered inlet breaks the mould. Beyond the sand and seafront bars, Mellieha’s main town’s set at the top of the hill, which you can see from the waterfront. The countryside around it’s threaded with walking trails and historic sites, too, like the castle-esque Red Tower overlooking the bay. And for a taste of a city break, Valletta and St Julian’s are less than an hour’s drive down the road.
Families are in luck in Bugibba, with practically everything tailored for those travelling with sprogs in tow. The snaking seafront promenade’s packed to the rafters with every-flavour restaurants and cafés, so views of St Paul’s Bay are easy to come by while you eat. There’s a constant buzz along Triq it-Turisti, too, with the lion’s share of souvenir shops and boutiques plying their trade here. When evening rolls around, bars fling open their doors for the ever-growing gaggle of hotel guests.
Set on the east side of St Paul’s Bay – about 15 kilometres from Malta’s capital, Valletta – Qawra doesn’t shout too loud. It’s the kind of place where you can go from Brit pub to traditional restaurant without getting lost in the crowd. But then it’s hooked up with close neighbour Bugibba, a real firecracker of a resort that fizzes with bars and clubs. Between them, you’ve got your holiday pretty much covered.
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