Home to Crusaders, Knights Templar and a strategic island fortress between Europe and Asia for centuries, today’s Malta is a beautiful holiday destination. Comprising three islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino, Malta enjoys a Mediterranean climate and some of the clearest water in the region. The island offers great beaches, fabulous cuisine and historical architecture. Here are 7 reasons to explore Malta during colder climes
1 Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum
Located in Paola, in the south east of Malta, this subterranean Neolithic burial site dates back to around 4000BC. Hypogeum means ‘underground’ in Greek and this fascinating mix of halls and burial chambers has been cleverly built into the rock on three levels. A UNESCO Heritage Site, it has beautiful ochre paintings which are the oldest and only prehistoric paintings in Malta. Daily visitor numbers are kept deliberately low to ensure the conservation of this priceless heritage site.
2 The Malta Experience and War Museum (double ticket)
An unmissable 45-minute audio-visual show, the Malta Experience takes audiences through more than 7,000 years of Maltese history through a fabulous sound and vision experience. The purpose-built panoramic auditorium is located on St Elmo Bastions, on the quayside in Valetta. Combine it with a visit to the nearby National War Museum, housed within the fortified walls of Fort St. Elmo. Its superb collection of artefacts illustrate the military history of Malta from the early phases of the Bronze Age to Malta’s EU Accession in 2004.
Marsaxlokk is a traditional Maltese fishing village on the south-east of Malta. In addition to tourism, fishing is still the village’s main source of income and it hosts a Sunday market. The seafood is fresher than fresh here, and you’ll probably find a souvenir or two. The early Phoenicians adventurers first landed in Malta at Marsaxlokk, so in addition to its beauty, the village is a site of great historical importance.
4 Valetta Waterfront and Fortifications Walk
The waterfront at Valetta is ideal for people watching: grab a coffee, sit back and watch the cruise liners arrive and disembark. There are a number of tourist-oriented bars and restaurants here, as well as retail outlets. The fortifications walk overlooking two harbours is a superb history lesson as well as visually stunning, built by the Knights of Malta after they triumphed over the Ottoman Turks.
5 Mdina Old City and Cathedral
Game of Thrones fans will already recognise medieval Mdina from the first season of the TV series. The city’s mix of Baroque and Norman architecture, narrow medieval streets and impressive palazzos make for an intoxicating experience. Visit the Roman Villa (Domus Romana), the fascinating catacombs, St. Paul’s Grotto and take a look inside St Paul’s Cathedral. Completed in 1702, it has a beautiful interior and the colourful inlaid marble floor tombs are often uncovered.
6 Day Trip to Gozo
Just a 25-minute scenic ferry ride from her big sister, the tiny island of Gozo is stunning. Limestone buildings against azure blue seas; the walk up to the medieval Citadel is rewarded with a museum, shops and restaurants. Gozo also has a plethora of sandy coves and gorgeous beaches: one of the best is the red-sand Ramla Bay. This idyllic location is overlooked by cliffs and Calypso’s Cave. Some of the best dive sites in the region are in Gozo, while The Kempinski San Lawrenz, a five-star hotel, has a world-renowned spa.
7 St John’s Co-Cathedral
The Knights of Malta’s main church, St John’s is one of the important Baroque buildings in Europe. Don’t be fooled by the military looking austere exterior, the interior is a dazzling array of gold and marble and lustrous paintings. Use the audio guide to give you in-depth information and don’t miss the Oratory which boasts two paintings by the legendary Caravaggio including his largest (and only signed) painting, the Beheading of St John.