Malta – the name alone conjures up images of crusader knights and the George Cross. But what you don’t tend to think about are Malta’s good-looking little sisters, Gozo and Comino. In this part of the Med, you’re actually getting three islands for the price of one…
There’s no doubt about it, Malta is the big name in these parts. Nowadays, you’re just as likely to hearabout its A-list credentials and after-dark scene as you are its famous sights. The Hollywood swords ‘n’ sandals epics Troy, Gladiator and Alexander were filmed here. And international DJs often grace the hot new clubs in Paceville and St Julian’s.
But while it may be sporting a glossy new sheen, the island still remains a magnet for lovers of the past. In terms of headline attractions, Valletta is the island’s star turn. Walking the streets you’ll feel like you’re wandering around a giant open-air museum –temples, churchesand Baroque confections are every which way. Most of them are down to the Knights of St John, who sculpted the city back in the 16th century. Your trip back in time isn’t confined to the capital, though. Check out Rabat, where St Paul the Apostle lived back in AD60. And, in Mosta, see the Rotunda of St Marija Assunta, one of the biggest church domes in the world. Just save a little time for Mellieha Bay, the island’s biggest – and best – sandy beach.
‘Pomskizillious’ and ‘gromphibberous’. That’s the tongue-twisting description of Gozo offered up by poet Edward Lear. The eccentric Brit thought the English language fell short of the mark when he came to describe the island’s beauty. So he invented a couple of words of his own. And you can see why. Just 25 minutes from Malta, Gozo has got the kind of scenery that’d leave even the most eloquent onlooker lost for words.
It’s all untamed beaches, rugged cliffs, and luminous swirls of turquoise that curve off into oblivion. On top of that, the waters hide a labyrinth of caves and lagoons that divers can’t get enough of. The biggie on that front is the Blue Hole in Dwejra. It’s a natural rock formation featuring arches, drop-offs and chimneys. Coast aside, Gozo packs quite a few must-sees into its bijou boundaries. Check out the world’s oldest buildings, AKA the Ggantija Temples. And make time for a wander round the Pomskizillious Museum. This toy museum pinched its name from Lear’s description of Gozo, and it’s stuffed to the seams with dolls’ houses, railway sets and the like.
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If you think Gozo’s small, wait until you see Comino. Sandwiched between Malta and Gozo, it’s just a couple of kilometres squared. In fact, from the sea, it looks like nothing more than a rocky outcrop.
Cars don’t feature – probably because there are no roads – and there’s just the one hotel, which shuts up shop between October and April. But what draws day-trippers here first and foremost is the Blue Lagoon. A sheltered inlet, its bright turquoise water and hidden caves make it a massive hit with divers and snorkelers.
And when they’ve had their fill of the water, there’s a stretch of soft white sand where they can dry out in the sun. The lagoon aside, Comino is blanketed in a thick layer of wild herbs and flowers. Combine that with a strong wildlife presence and this speck of an island is a walker’s dream. To see it at its rural best, visit in springtime.
GASP at Valletta’s Palace of the Grand Masters.
Home to the president’s office and parliament, this Renaissance-style building is filled to bursting with portraits, coats of arms and suits of armour.
Step back in time with a trip to ancient Medina in Malta. Ringed with stone walls and crammed with Medieval and Baroque buildings, it offers up a fascinating snapshot of centuries past.
Tread the cobbles inside Victoria’s citadel in Gozo. They’ll lead you to a tiny cathedral, whose remarkable trompe l’oeil painting depicts a phantom dome that was never built.
Venture inside Calypso Cave of Ulysses fame.
Was Homer’s brave hero really held here for seven years by a needy nymph? Afterwards, check out nearby Ramla Bay, Gozo’s best beach.
Swoop through an underwater paradise in the crystal waters of Comino’s Blue Lagoon. This long, narrow bay has a floor of pure white sand that’s chock-full of marine life.
If you want more information about your holiday in Malta, Gozo and Comino, visit firstchoice.co.uk.
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