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Published: January 12th 2017
Malta is positively heaving with tourists during the summer months, but still a surprisingly popular destination in winter. The islands of the archipelago are rich in the history and unique culture of the Maltese; what a thrill to be finally able to visit! From Barcelona bargain hunters can snap up a cheap fare to Malta with a stopover in Rome, my visit to the Basque region of Spain providing the catalyst for this exciting new travel destination. Due to it's strategic location Malta has long been attractive to foreign powers as a naval base, with the islands having lived under many different rulers down through the millennia. Featuring a temperate climate, Malta can be the perfect getaway from harsh northern hemisphere winters, and I'm glad to be able to base myself in the resort town of Sliema for a week long visit to this magical country.
As mentioned, the journal left off in Barcelona where I had the privilege of seeing in the new year. I woke early, packed my stuff and headed out to the airport for a new years morning flight via Rome. After arriving in Malta I discovered the bus wasn't running regularly on New Years Day,
but I rustled up a few other tourists from the bus station to share the taxi fare to Sliema. The hostel was free of staff, but some friendly travellers helped me get sorted and I became ensconced in a travel community within minutes. I headed out for an excellent meal to celebrate the new year at a fine restaurant overlooking the harbour, feeling happy to return to the hostel full of friendly travellers in surprising numbers. To be fair it was New Years Day, but I was expecting the hostel to be much quieter in the middle of winter. The next morning a friendly Aussie guy and a Canadian girl were off for some adventures to the Blue Lagoon, but I declined as I wanted to focus on exploring around Sliema for the first day.
I had an excellent day exploring the coast and taking photos, and chatted to the travellers at the hostel that evening. After consulting with staff we decided to book a hire car for the duration of the visit. It was an excellent decision, and at just fifteen euros a day a cheap and convenient one. The team were up early next morning, heading off
to the hire company to do the paperwork before taking possession of our new wheels. Driving is on the same side of the road as Australia and we were grateful for the fact, as it's difficult to navigate through the maze like streets in the towns of Malta. My mate quickly proved the worth of his new fangled offline maps app, and I really don't know how we could have packed in the sights without the use of the car and his app. On our first day we headed north to link up with the ferry, which runs hourly for cars and their human cargo across to Gozo island. There's so much to see on Gozo; it took a full day of exploration to pack in the attractions on the second largest island in Malta.
A highlight of Gozo is the Azure Window, a geological formation millions of years old and the top attraction on the island. We took a little known trail along the rocks to the base of the rock formation, and enjoyed unique views of the stunning natural wonder. Gozo features a citadel, churches, and sublime views from several viewpoints for visitors to enjoy as part
of a day trip to the island. We headed back on the 6:00pm ferry, and were tired and happy travellers back in the hostel later that evening. Considering they are small islands, it's surprising how many attractions Malta has on offer. We maintained the vigorous pace set on the the first day for our entire visit to the country. I'm sure visitors get around adequately on the bus, but hire cars are cheap and there's so much to see. I recommend travellers should take advantage of the hire car prices if possible to make the most of your visit.
We commenced the next day with a visit to the medieval fortified city of Mdina. It's beautiful, full of history, and a great place to snap away with your camera. The administrative city of Rabat is within walking distance from the fortified city, where we enjoyed a great morning which included paying a visit to the museum. The coast of Malta is rugged and beautiful, and there always seems to be a coastal lookout nearby where you can make the most of the views. The views are consistently stunning despite very strong winds that blow through the island in winter.
The following day we headed in to the capital Valletta, and were able to secure a park near the centre of the city. The views of the port from the high walls overlooking the coast are spectacular, and I decided to pay a visit to the museum in honour of the defence of Malta by the Royal Air Force that took place during the Battle of Malta in WWII. The base of operations was underground in Valletta with the museum an interesting and informative attraction.
Malta also features several prehistoric temples in an island country where civilisation stretches back thousands of years. We paid a visit to Hagar Qim and Mnajdra dating back to around 3600 BC. The site of the temples is on a wild and desolate coast with no protection from the wind, there must have been an important reason for the choice of location at the time but it escapes me! Other highlights of our island adventure included the Blue Grotto caves and St Peters pool in the south of the island. The colours are beautiful at both destinations, but in the middle of summer the colour of the water must be wondrous to behold. I
was blown away by the diversity, beauty, and history of these amazing islands and never thought it possible for so many wonderful attractions to be packed in to such a small destination. It seemed every day we had a mix of history and natural beauty to keep us inspired, although the wind was beginning to take on a fierce howl as the end of the trip approached.
There was still a full day of travelling to enjoy, and we headed to the north of the island to make the most of the spectacular coastal views, with a highlight the scenery from the cliff face at Coral Bay. There aren't many people living in the north of the island, but the views are out of this world. In the company of a motivated and industrious young Aussie we managed to pack in so much siteseeing in just a week; it was a memorable travel experience in the company of engaging fellow travellers. I had a terrific visit to the islands and found the Maltese friendly, relaxed, and engaging. There's loads to see and do in Malta basking under a mild mediterranean climate, basically all of you should be here now!
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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