Few places on earth have so much history packed into a small space. Malta sits strategically in the Mediterranean, between Sicily and Africa. Its location has made it an important trading and military outpost. Traveling around Malta, one encounters numerous megalithic structures which predate Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. The Knights of St. John ruled this island from 1530 to 1798, and their presence is still felt on the streets of Valletta and Mdina. Before gaining independence in 1964, Malta was part of the British Empire for over 150 years. While under British rule, Malta’s strategic position in World War II came at a price. The Germans held Malta under siege for two years and tried to bomb the island into the Stone Age. The island was rebuilt after the war. They keep the British tradition of driving on the left, and the locals are helpful and friendly. As you travel across the island, you will find there is something for every type of traveler.

Must See Attractions

Today Valletta is the capital of Malta with a variety of activities, restaurants and sites for every type of traveler.   If you want to travel back in time and get a taste of ancient days, then a visit to the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum and nearby Tarxien Temples are a must.  Venturing into both will take you back almost 6,000 years.   Giving you a glimpse into how they lived, their advanced architecture and impressive knowledge of astrology.

The opulent St. John’s Co-Cathedral is lavishly decorated with frescoes, statues, tombs, a crypt, and gold leaf ornamentation.  Some say the interior is one of the greatest examples of Baroque architecture in Europe.  It also is host to Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John the Baptist as well as other Carvaggio masterpieces. 

St. Elmo’s War Museum takes guests on a journey through Malta’s military past. Memorabilia reaches from the Bronze Age, to World War II, and until Malta’s entry into the European Union in 2004.  Everything from the layout (moving from room to room), to the amount of information (not too much, not too little), and the displays make it a superbly done museum. 

Travel to Mdina and enter through the main gate. Once you enter you will be transported back in time as you wander through the narrow streets.  Mdina was the capital of Malta throughout the Middle ages until the Order of St. John arrived in 1530.  In the 18th century it saw a revival and it remained the place of choice for Maltese nobility and religious authorities. Much of the property you see has been passed down through families for generations.

A short walk from Mdina is the well-preserved St. Paul’s Catacombs. There are over 20 entry tunnels open to the public and the catacombs cover an area over 2000 square meters.

Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples bring to light more ancient history from 6,000 years ago. Both structures were highlighted in Graham Hancock’s Netflix Special, “Ancient Apocalypse.”  It is at Hagar Qim that seven of the Fat Ladies of Malta (statues of Goddesses) were found.  Many of them can now be found at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. And part of one can be seen at the Tarxien Temples.  These are quite impressive sites and well preserved.  Once again you see their advanced building skills and knowledge of astrology. 

A quaint, ancient fishing village, with significant history, Marsaxxalok is the largest bay in the island and has the largest fleet, with brightly coloured fishing boats (Luzzu) dancing in the harbor. Did you know that all Luzzu in Maltese waters have an eye painted on both sides of their bow to ward off any evil out at sea.  Osiris was the Egyptian god of fertility, the underworld and the dead. Here he wards off evil in the company of saints, as most boats are named after saints and carry little shrines. Every spring, the fishermen put their boats in the water and repaint the “eye” for maximum protection.  Here you will find several local fishermen offering boat tours.  It’s an affordable way to view parts of the island. There are also many Restaurants lining the wharf attracting hungry travelers with their ample amounts of fresh caught seafood.  If you are not a seafood fan, don’t worry.  There are plenty of other options to take your hunger away.  You will also find locals selling trinkets and local products.  It’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon. FUN FACT: IN 1989, the famous summit between Gorbachev and Bush Snr. was held aboard a warship anchored in the bay.

A short drive from Marsaxlokk, the Ghar Dalam Cave is a must. Also featured in Graham Hancock’s Netflix Special, “Ancient Apocalypse”. The museum is indeed full of fascinating information and archeological finds.  Learn about how animals underwent dwarfism to adjust to their new environment.  The 145m-long cave is more than 500,000 years old and is home to fossil bones and teeth belonging to dwarf elephants, hippos, micro-mammals and birds.  The caves also show the first signs of human habitation on Malta from 7,400 years ago with remains including pottery, circa. 5,200 BC and Neanderthal teeth.  Remains dating back to the last Ice Age have been uncovered from this geologic wonder and can be viewed in the museum and in the cave.

Comino; Blue Lagoon Day Trip – Book this tour to dive into the lagoon’s turquoise blue water, and to enjoy time on the island of Gozo.  Read our review.

The Malta Experience Private Tour, includes some of the sites mentioned above, with a few added attractions.

Delicious Eats

Designed and built by the Knights of St. John in the sixteenth century as part of the defensive bastions guarding the newly constructed city of Valletta, Rampila overlooks the City Gate and Bridge which was recently remodeled by renowned architect Renzo Piano and features a lovely terrace (tucked between the great defensive city walls) with incredible views over the entrance to the city.  This unique location of the restaurant allows guests to dine in the ramparts of the old city wall. Aside from the atmosphere, hospitable staff, and great view, the food is also a treat for the tastebuds.  It is a must not miss if you are in Valletta.  PRO TIP: We recommend you make reservations.  To find Rampila, take the steps going up next to the wall.  When you reach the top, turn right as if you are heading down the street.  You will see it right away on the corner. 

For the best dining experience on the island, make your way to Rebekah’s in Mellieha. It’s housed in a beautifully, 200-year old renovated house, full of character and the atmosphere is both charming and tranquil.  Focussing on prime local produce and luxury imported ingredients, the dishes are sublime and have bold Mediterranean flavors.The ambience, service,presentation, and food, are all on point. See our recap on IG or FB.

Diar Il Bniet is a fabulous, family-run, authentic farm to table experience.  All the produce is sourced from ‘the house of the girls’ or their farm nearby. Their sharing platter was incredible! Be sure to pick up some of their canned or pickled goodies before you leave.

A trip would not be complete without a stop at Is-Serkin Crystal Palace Bar for what is deemed by the locals as the best pastizzi. A pastizzi is a small, flaky pastry puffs filled with mushy peas or ricotta cheese. They have other items on their menu as well. All affordable and all very good.

Best Places to Stay

The Marriott Hotel and Spa overlooks St. Julian’s Bay. A short 20-minute drive from Valletta, plenty of restaurants and retail line the streets along the bay.

If you want something with a view and a great beach, try the db Seabank Resort and Spa. Quiet, and away from the bustle of Valletta, this site offers all amenities right on the property. Clear blue water is waiting for you right across the street.

Prefer your own private apartment. We would recommend Mellieha Bay 3 Bedroom Apartment ” Bliss on the bay “.  It is a short walk to Mellieha Bay, shops and restaurants.  We recently stayed and found it spacious and having all the amenities we needed.

A special thank you to Amanda Wheels who joined us on this trip and for her contribution to this blog post.

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