Malta trip review and travel info

August 2014

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Malta trip itinerary
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Suggested places to see in Malta

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Malta travel tips and trip review illustrating a tour to Malta of two weeks, visiting Malta, Gozo and Comino, discovering beautiful corners of Mediterranean sea and visiting lot of interesting museums.


Malta is an archipelago of three major islands in the Mediterranean sea between Sicily and Africa that, despite its small size, has an history among the richest and most interesting in Europe, starting with the most primitive peoples who built the megalithic temples, through the Knights of Malta and their fortified cities, to get up to the vicissitudes of World War II. Malta is a Catholic country having towns and villages with churches dating back to the seventeenth century, all well preserved, while the museums are very well organized and valued. The architecture is interesting as well, especially in the beautiful Mdina, where a maze of narrow streets wind through ancient palaces built of local limestone bricks. But history, art and architecture are not the only attractions of Malta: although enormous buildings have ruined the beautiful coastal landscapes, now dominated by real monsters that can accommodate hundreds of thousands of tourists, there are still some areas where the nature is quite preserved, like the small island of Comino and some inlets in Gozo. Therefore, Malta is the perfect destination for those seeking a cultural vacation, but still wishing some break to the beach from time to time, while the younger ones will find the nightlife interesting enough. We can not really recommend Malta as a sea-only destination, either because the country has much more to offer (museums, nice towns, prehistoric sites), either because at the same time most of the coastline has been altered with too big hotels.


How to arrive in Malta? Malta is linked to outside world with many flights onto major European cities, while a ferry service provides connections with Sicily (in particular with Pozzallo) and with other major ports in the Mediterranean. Where to stay in Malta depends mainly on what you are looking for from your holiday: if you prefer beaches and the sea, we recommend Gozo, Comino and possibly (but do not expect exceptional beaches) the northern part of the island of Malta. For museums and the cultural aspect, it might be more handy an hotel in Valletta or in an adjacent town, such as Floriana or Vittoriosa. For nightlife and young people interested in parties or nightclubs, St. Julians might be a good option, but if you want to experience the local life of the fishermen, you might consider the village of Marsaxlokk. In any case, you might consider splitting your stay in Malta between different locations (for example, southern Malta, northern Malta and Gozo) so you can make the most of the time in each area, avoiding long and tedious trips by bus or car to get each time to the more distant attractions.


Although Malta is an archipelago of three small islands, we found moving around quite complex and problematic, certainly not suitable for the summer tourist flow and for the beauty that the country offers. Renting a car in Malta is not recommended due to Maltese driving style (in two weeks we saw 3 accidents) and also because, for who is coming from countries having right-side drive, driving in Malta is on the left. The organized tours to Malta rather leave something to be desired in terms of quality of service and professionalism (see later in this guide), while the buses in Malta are very slow and may require many changes. To say just one example, to go from St. Paul Bay to the temple of Hagar Qim, a distance of about 20km through non-urban areas, we needed to change the bus twice, for a total journey time of 2 hours and 20 minutes (4 hours and 40 minutes considering roundtrip). On the other hand the cost of the bus ticket in Malta is only 1,5 Euro and lasts all day. A possible alternative may be using the classical open-roof tourist buses: there are a couple of operators on the islands, which offer a bi-hourly schedule from morning till mid-afternoon. The ticket costs around 15-20 euros, it is valid for all day and you can get off whenever you want, continuing the tour with the next bus. For those who do not want to waste time with public services or group tours, the only possible option is to travel in Malta by taxi, taking care to agree on the fare before departure and agreeing return schedule and pickup time: the costs are not excessive and for families or large groups, this possibility can be even cheaper than shared excursions. Alternatively, you may book a car with driver from Malta airport to Malta in advance, at prices much lower if compared to taxis using a taxi meter (of course, the same option can be used to book also transfers from and to any place in Malta and Gozo).


In Gozo there are no airports and apart from a few rare (and expensive) service by helicopter or seaplane, the only way to get to Gozo is by ferry from Malta or by hiring private boats. The shortest route between Malta and Gozo is via Cirkewwa ferry port along the northern edge of Malta island, and you get get to Cirkewwa by various buses or taxi. The ferry to Gozo provides also car transportation service and the ride takes about 20 minutes. Alternatively, there are other ferries that leave directly from Valletta, with a stop in St. Julians and / or St. Paul's Bay, but the navigation is much longer. Similarly to Gozo, Comino is also reachable only by boat, with a few minutes ride from either Gozo and northern Malta island. Many tour operators offer trips to Comino ranging from few hours to full day, but in high season you will find yourself wrapped up in mid-size boats that will unload the tourists at the edge of the Blue Lagoon, without even a chance to take a walk on Comino or to circumnavigate the island. If you want to better enjoy this beautiful corner of the Mediterranean sea, the only way is to do it with a private boat and you will find further details in Comino trip review page.


There are many local operators that offer group tours to Malta by bus, boat, jeep and other type of transport, which may be desirable in order to visit Malta in a easy and "worry-free" way. However we found the organized excursions to Malta and Gozo of quite low value, where the priority seems to be given only to the number of tourists who can be collected every day, rather than on the quality of services offered or on the time spent visiting each attraction. The tours are often conducted in a hurry, in order to serve as many people as possible, and you will find yourself wrapped up in tiny boats or jeeps, sometimes in the central rows, where you can't see anything. We therefore recommend, when possible, to charter private tours in Malta, Gozo and Comino, by hiring taxi or boat for the number of hours you want, and agreeing with driver routes and things to see (this is always the best option in any country, but in Malta, especially in high season, it is just the only way to see the islands with the eye of the traveller and not with that of a tourist). In particular, we advise against day tours in Gozo or Malta by jeep, as we found the itinerary very limited, with badly optimized schedule.


If you are wondering what is the best time to go to Malta, you should know that the right time to go Malta depends mainly on what you would like to do during your vacation, rather than on a rain pattern. The months from November to February are, with the exception of the Christmas season, low season, as cool temperatures (but never less than 7-8 degrees centigrade) make sea and beaches unappealing. The cool climate of these months, however, allows you to explore the beautiful cities, wandering through museums and alleys under a temperature that is much more comfortable if compared to that of the summer. In addition, even if you can't really swim, you can still enjoy beautiful scenery of beaches and sea, without any crowd. The months from April to June and from September to October are considered mid-season, but they are actually the best times to visit Malta if you love the sea, as there are fewer tourists (the sea is warmer in fall than in the spring ) and the temperatures are still acceptable to visit the cities. Although the months from July to August are peak season, this is probably the worst time to visit Malta, as the islands are assaulted by hordes of European tourists focusing their holidays only in summer, while the heat makes uncomfortable to visit cities and museums. In Malta, there is very little rain and it is concentrated mainly in winter.


Malta is the smallest country of the European Union and its total area is just over 300km square, however, the islands are a surprising concentration of history and culture that also offer some beach where you can relax from time to time. Taking into account the fact that public transportation is rather inefficient, organized tours are not always satisfactory and the rental car is not recommended, the minimum stay in Malta should be two weeks distributed in 5 days in Gozo, 1 day in Comino and 8 days in Malta, which is enough to visit the main museums and the most picturesque cities, spending also some time at the beach. Shorter stay in Malta should be used only to visit one island (Malta or Gozo and Comino), while day tours to Gozo claiming to show you the island in a few hours only, are just a big waste of time and money, since the island has much more to offer.

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Tour a Valletta Tour to Valletta with excursion to St. John's Cathedral and various museums <<-- GO
Trip to Valletta, capital of Malta, discovering the unique architecture, the winding alleys and and museums, such as the Grandmaster's Palace, the National Museum of Archaeology and St. John's Cathedral which houses also a wonderful Caravaggio painting.
Tour a Vittoriosa Tour to Vittoriosa in Malta and to War Museum <<-- GO
Vittoriosa is one of the most interesting cities of Malta for the beautiful architecture and the museums, such as the Inquisitor's Palace and Malta at War Museum. From the harbor of Vittoriosa, where many yachts and small boats are moored, there is a beautiful view onto the city of Senglea.
Tour a Malta Tour to Malta in Mdina, Rabat, St. Julians and Hagar Qim temple <<-- GO
Journey to Malta visiting some of the most interesting towns on the island, such as the picturesque Mdina (the old capital before the founding of Valletta), Rabat, St. Julians, Marsaxlokk, Floriana, as well as places of interest such as the temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra.
Tour a Gozo Tour to Gozo visiting the beaches (Ramla, San Blas) and the Azure Window <<-- GO
5-days trip to Gozo, with an excursion to the beautiful orange-sand beaches of Ramla Bay and San Blas Bay. Gozo jeep tour visiting the Azure Window, the ancient salt pans, the Basilica of Ta Pinu and at the other attractions on the island.
Tour a Comino Boat cruise to Comino with excursion to the Blue Lagoon <<-- GO
Excursion to Comino from Gozo by private jet boat, avoiding the big vessels full of tourists. The tour to Comino includes a swim in the Blue Lagoon, a complete circumnavigation of the island visiting some caves on the way, and a short hike over the island.

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