When we were going somewhere for a week in late May 2018 to celebrate my husband’s birthday, he only had two requests (yes, I’m the travel planner): he wanted to go somewhere he hadn’t visited before and a bit of sunshine and warm weather was preferable. So I zoomed in on southern Europe and since we’ve been to Italy, Spain and France quite a lot, we ended up going to Malta! Although it had never really been on my travel radar, we had a great week with lots of sights, sunshine and seafood. It really was the perfect destination for a week in pre-summer.
Malta is an island nation and consists of three islands: the main island of Malta (where the capital of Valletta is situated), the smaller and greener island of Gozo and the tiny island of Comino in between. We spent our holiday on Gozo and in Valletta, but since Malta is so small it is easy to get around by car. We also visited Comino on a day trip.
The one and only airport on Malta is located close to Valletta. We had arranged for a rental car beforehand and since we were going to start our holiday on the island of Gozo, we went straight to the ferry harbor in Cirkewwa in the northwest corner of Malta. The main roads on Malta are mostly in good shape but sometimes narrow so we were definitely happy to have a small car.
The drive to the harbor was easy and we were on the ferry without any difficulties. You don’t pay for the ferry to Gozo but for the return ticket (two-way) going back to Malta. The ferries to Gozo leave regularly and take about 30 minutes, just enough to leave the car and admire the view of the islands from the deck.
From the port on Gozo, we drove straight on to the small fishing village of Xlendi where we had reservations at the Hotel San Andrea. Xlendi is situated by a bay with few restaurants, a small beach and cliffs with ladders into the sea. We had a room on the 4th floor with balcony overlooking the quiet cove and the cliffs and loved the view! The hotel itself was fairly basic but had a great location.
Our days on Gozo were spent exploring the island by foot on the cliffs or by car. Even though everything on the island was within a 30 minute drive, there was a lot to see and discover. Gozo is greener than the main island of Malta and has steep cliffs into the sea.
Among other things, we visited the Ġgantija tempels in Xagħra, which is a UNESCO world heritage site from around 3600 bc. Along the coast at Marsalforn, there are salt flats run by local families and amazing sandstone formations. Gozo’s most famous sight used to be the Azure window (remember the Khaleesi wedding in Game of Thrones?) but it unfortunately collapsed into the sea after a storm a few years ago. The area is definitely worth a visit though since you can swim in a shallow lagun and then take a boat tour along the coast below the cliffs and into caves.
The main town on Gozo is called Ir-Rabat (or Victoria) and has a well preserved fort to discover. Don’t miss the roof terrace of the restaurant Ta’ Rikardu inside the fort – the food was great and the view amazing!
At night, we walked on the promenad along the cove and ate at one of the fish restaurants. We usually chose wines from Gozo as well that went well along the fish and seafood. All in all, we had great days on Gozo. Since we were there before the main holiday season, it wasn’t crowded but the weather was great. The water was a bit cold but fine for shorter dips.
On the way back to the island of Malta, we parked our car at the port on Gozo and took a smaller boat to the island of Comino. Comino is a tiny island mostly uninhabited and is famous for its blue lagoon. It really was a pretty sight with turquoise water and white sand. The island had great views from cliffs as well.
However, it was really crowded and I can only imagine how it must be in high season. There are boat tours from Valletta and they seem really popular. We stayed on Comino for a few hours and then took the boat back to Gozo. And then it was time to take the ferry to Malta.
We were on Malta to celebrate my husband’s birthday and therefore had booked ourselves into the very fancy Grand Hotel Excelsior right outside the city walls and the old town of Valletta. It was a great choice of hotel with free indoor parking and we were even upgraded to a larger room with our own sun terrass overlooking the sea. The hotel has a pool and even a tiny man-made beach.
Valletta was the European culture capital of 2018 and we could tell that work had been done to make the city prettier. We spent our time in the old part of the city and enjoyed walking on the squares and in the narrow streets. There are many historic sites from different centuries, everything from the golden, garish St John’s Co-Cathedral to museums and guided tours that focus on Malta’s importance for the allied troops during the second world war. We visited the Lascaris War Rooms where the invasion of Sicily was planned, and had an excellent tour much due to the very knowledgable guide.
One day we drove north on Malta and had a peek at Popeye’s village, which is where the Popeye movie was shot in 1980. It is now a small amusement park. For us, it was enough to see it from a distance with its pretty houses. We went to the Golden bay beach, and also to Mdina, the so called quiet town in the middle of the island. It was very nice to walk around in the old city center surrounded by walls and have a drink at the Fontanella tea garden with an exceptional view.
A visit to the small fishing village of Marsaxlokk near Valletta is a must! We arrived late in the afternoon and had a nice walk along the quay. The traditional fishing boats of Malta are colorful and have eyes painted on them. We had a great fish dinner at one of the many restaurants with tables right by the water.
And food wise, we had so many nice meals on Malta. Lots of fish and seafood of course, but also rabbit. It was mainly rustic home cooked food with the seasonal ingredients in focus, and we had local wines and beers with it. For soft drinks, the Maltese love “Kinnie” which is bitter but refreshing.
We were very positively surprised by Malta! Although we didn’t rush, we saw and experienced a lot of things on our one week trip. The drives were easy (once you’re used to driving on the left side of the road), the distances short and English is one of the main languages.
Weatherwise, we were there at the end of May and had temperatures from about 24 C to more than 30 C. The sea was cool but manageable for short dips. In high season, you get the warm sea but it is probably much harder to walk and drive around in the heat and the crowds.