To cap off our busy month of travel in April, Alex and I were heading to Malta for five days to attend our friends wedding, and to (hopefully) soak up the first summery rays of the year. As we were there for a wedding, we had a number of events to attend across our stay, so for this blog I will just talk about the different places we visited and things we did (excluding the wedding), rather than the usual story of our trip.
Malta was a country that, before living in London, I never really knew anything about. Since then, we have met a number of amazing Maltese people and have heard countless stories from our friends who had been there about what a great place this was, so could not wait to experience it for ourselves.
As a summary of our trip, Malta was one of the most beautiful places we have visited. The people are so friendly, I have never felt so safe while travelling, and there is so much to see and do. I would hands down, recommend this as a long weekend destination.
For our stay, we hired a car as we had heard that it was the easiest way to get around and see all of the sites. I would highly recommend this. The main island of Malta is incredible to drive around. The roads are all lined with dry stone walls, behind which are generally barren, dusty fields and giant cactus plants. We definitely felt as though we were very far away from the UK driving around this place. My favourite thing we saw while driving was this road sign:
Valetta is the capital city of Malta and is one of the most impressive looking cities I think we have visited, solely that the scale of the fortified old town is absolutely immense.
We travelled to Valetta one morning with a car load of our friends. The lady at the hotel recommended a free parking lot which we were happy about until we realised it was an hour and a half walk into the city. We ditched this and managed to find a carpark just outside the city wall (you had to pay for it, but it was immaterial for parking in the city centre). When we entered the city, we saw straight away there was a big festival on. Valetta City FC had won the cup again that year (how are there actually enough teams on this tiny island to have a football league?) and all of the fans were out in force to celebrate. The whole crowd was dressed up in white and red checked outfits, the streets were adorned with flags, and double decker buses turned into rolling party machines. We loved the enthusiasm.
Since it was getting a bit crazy outside, we decided to head into the main cathedral for some tranquility. The majority of the cathedral was decorated with intricate plaster work, rather than stone carving, which was an interesting change from what we had seen a lot of in the past. I think the person in charge of the decoration was a big fan of gold, as this covered a lot of surface area:
What we missed out on was the firing of the cannons as we were trying to help one of our friends find the bus terminal so she could catch the tourist bus back around the island to our hotel. This happens at 12pm and 4pm every day and according to our friends who did make it in time, it is well worth it. We made it up to the park later on and it was beautiful even without being able to witness this spectacle.
Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra and the Blue Grotto
One of the first places we stopped was the site of two of the famous Megalithic Temples – Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra which are some of the oldest religious sites on Earth, dating back over 3000BC. These temples were located close to the rugged cliff face, exposed to the harshest of conditions, making it even more impressive that they have survived so long. Unfortunately, we did not get any good photos as the temples are mostly covered by large shade cloths to protect what is left from further exposure to the elements.
After visiting the temples, we headed south to the Blue Grotto which was just around the corner. Unfortunately, we were running short on time so had to opt for a walk around the cliff looking down on some of the beautiful sites, rather than taking one of the boat tours. The sight was spectacular. This gave us our first real taste as to how dramatic the landscape in Malta really was.
We visited Selima a couple of times at night as a lot of our friends were staying there. It is the second largest city in Malta and is situated across the harbour from the capital Valetta. The best part about visiting Selima at night was the incredible views back across the harbour to Valetta which is spectacularly lit up. Unfortunately, we only had our phones with us at night, so there are no pictures worth posting, but it is definitely worth a visit, if for the view alone.
Mdina was an old, fortified town about 20 minutes away from where we were staying. Finding a park outside the old town was incredibly difficult and we had to drive in circles for about half an hour before we found a free park. Once we were inside the city, it was worth the wait for a park as it had sweeping views across the mainland. We opted to have lunch at one of the restaurants on the city wall. It was a brave decision as it was incredibly windy that day and we had to spend most of our time making sure things on the table would not blow away. Most of the dishes at this restaurant were served with a side of potato crisps. These were flying about like confetti each time someone got a meal delivered.
Marsaxlokk (fishing village)
One of our Maltese friends recommended we visit this village on a market day. Marsaxlokk (no idea how to pronounce this) was on the southeastern corner of the mainland and has a fish market on every Sunday. This little town was so cute! The harbour was filled with brightly coloured, traditional fishing boats which was worth a visit to see in itself. Half of the market was the fishermen selling the days catch, which offered a surprising and interesting variety of seafood. The remainder of the stalls sold a bunch of cheap junk (to put it nicely) so we didn’t spend too much time browsing.
We were staying at a hotel in Golden Bay so spent quite a bit of our down time here. It is located on the northwestern corner of the mainland, with two beautiful coves. One day we just spent swimming, soaking up the sun, paddleboarding, and jetskiing at the beach at the bottom of the hotel. It was a great, chilled out way to spend a day. I have to say I got a bit of travel anxiety (some may say FOMO) when we decided to do this as I am not used to chilling out on holiday, so even though we ended up having a great holiday, it kind of felt like cheating just hanging around the hotel for a day.
The cliff above the hotel was the perfect spot to watch the sunset. On our last night there, we were lucky enough to catch a stunning sunset – well worth the wait.
Comino and the Blue Lagoon
One of the places in Malta we were most looking forward to visiting was the smaller island of Comino and the Blue Lagoon. These probably account for 90% of the photos you will see from people visiting Malta. We had booked a boat tour with all of our friends who were there for the wedding to visit this. Unfortunately, the tour was cancelled due to high winds. That was fine as I would prefer to be safe, however, the company in question made it absolutely impossible to obtain a refund for our trip which we had paid for in advance online. I definitely do not recommend you book a tour with this company when travelling to Malta. We didn’t end up having time to visit the island on another day which I was really disappointed about. However, from what we have heard, the island is really easy to get to without booking a tour as you can either take a passenger ferry or car ferry across.
Overall, Malta was an amazing place to visit. The people are so friendly (above example excluded), the scenery is like nothing else I have ever seen, there are a lot of different things to see and do within a very small area, and it is sunny!