How can we not succumb to the charm of Malta? A delightful archipelago of barely 300 km² made up of three confetti islands - Malta, Gozo and Comino - at the crossroads of the Mediterranean routes. At the crossroads of East and West, each civilisation has left its mark on the smallest country in the European Union. Malta is at once tinged with Latin warmth and Eastern softness, but also with Anglo-Saxon rigour. Its mysterious past with the knights of the Order of Malta, its crystalline waters, its medieval citadels, its sumptuous baroque palaces and its magnificent churches are all arguments for seducing history buffs and idleness aficionados alike.
In Malta, pleasant beaches
The island of Malta will make the happiness of the amateurs of idleness thanks to its sunny beaches. However, you should be aware that there are few fine sand beaches. They are mostly found in the wildest part of the island, i.e. in the west. Gnejna Bay and Golden Bay are superb. To the north, the coast is more rocky, but it still has the beautiful Mellieha Bay, which has the longest sandy beach on the island. St Julian's also has small sandy beaches, but they are usually artificial and close to buildings, which is much less charming.
Malta is therefore first of all its sublime capital which can be easily discovered in one day. Valletta is very easy to get around on foot, as most of the streets in the city centre are pedestrianised. It is a pleasure to walk around this capital with its honey-coloured walls which give it a unique luminosity and to admire the fortified citadel from which you can see the sea as soon as you approach the ramparts.
Valletta, cultural capital
The first inhabitants of the archipelago are said to have arrived from Sicily around 5000 BC. The megalithic temples of Hagar Qim and Ggantija, which you will enjoy visiting, are a direct legacy. In 870, the Arabs conquered Malta, which they dominated for 200 years, marking forever the Maltese language, very close to Arabic. The knights of the Order of Malta put a lasting end to the conquests by seizing the island in 1530, making Valletta the fortified city we know today.
As for museums in Valletta, the choice is vast. The Palace of the Grand Masters, seat of the Maltese presidency, or the National Museum of Archaeology, where you can see the famous statue of the Sleeping Woman from the Bronze Age, is particularly recommended. Don't miss the co-cathedral of St. John, its ten or so refined chapels and the only painting that Caravaggio signed.
On the way out, enjoy an espresso on the terrace of the famous Caffe Cordina, the meeting place for chic Maltese, open since 1837. Afterwards, treat yourself to Maltese specialities for lunch. Try the delicious local fish, lampuka, or the rabbit stew that the locals love. Archaeology enthusiasts will go as far as Paola to visit the hypogeum, an underground labyrinth that served both as a temple and a burial place around 3000 BC. Back in Valletta, take a stroll in the magnificent gardens of Upper Baracca from where the panorama of the city and the sea is exceptional. Stay here to watch the sunset over Valletta.
Malta beyond Valletta
Too often tourists are literally swept away by its capital. They stay there without taking the time to discover the rest of the island. This is really unfortunate because Malta has so much to offer. Starting from the capital, it takes a maximum of 1h30 to get to the furthest point of the island. Mdina, the old capital, is a small medieval citadel with incredible charm. You will enjoy getting lost in its alleys, visiting its old keep and its monumental cathedral. Without forgetting the historical show Mdina Experience which tells the medieval past of the city. In Rabat, the neighbouring city, accessible in 5 minutes on foot, lose yourself in the catacombs of Sainte-Agathe and descend into the cave where Saint Paul himself came to pray on his arrival in Malta around 60 AD. Then head to the town of Mosta to admire the huge dome of its church, which is almost 39 m in diameter.
Want to have some fun? Head to the north coast to party in the dance bars of Paceville after having dined by the sea at St Julian's. The next day, relax on the golden sands of Golden Bay before heading south to the stunning Blue Grotto Marine Cave. After the sea walk, you really must visit the prehistoric Copper Age temple of Hagar Qim, which is within walking distance of Blue Grotto
Gozo, the sweetness of life
But Malta isn't just an island. It's also Gozo and its legendary sweetness of life. There is a special atmosphere of British-style relaxation mixed with a sense of pride among the locals. They pride themselves on a more rural and less hectic lifestyle than their Maltese neighbours.
To the traveller who discovers it for the first time, the island, beautiful and luminous, appears of a luxurious serenity. It is true that in Gozo, the wilder coastal approaches have a lot of charm. For example, the ridge leading from Victoria to Djewra Point offers a succession of wonderful landscapes.
As the island is traditionally a holiday resort for the Maltese, its dazzling houses are the constant object of care of their owners. They are grouped around the central squares of the villages. Well-arranged benches, flowers, lampposts, a café terrace, everything is done to make these squares a pleasant centre of life for the inhabitants of the village. The only visitors disappointed by Gozo are the partygoers... Lovers of Paceville's wild nights are quickly disconcerted by the serenity of Gozo. Apart from the religious feast of Santa Maria - which takes place in mid-August in Victoria - where a jubilant crowd dances every night, the nights are calm in Gozo.
A natural paradise
To get to Gozo, you have to take the ferry in Malta, at Cirkewwa, to reach Mgarr in Gozo. The ferry crossing to Gozo takes about 25 minutes and there are regular rotations between the two islands, making it possible to visit Gozo in one day
Gozo offers a wide variety of accommodation, from small family guesthouses to luxury hotels, but one of the characteristics of the island is the large number of villas andfarmhouses for rent. Whether new or restored, furnished to meet the requirements of tourists, they are often equipped with swimming pools, and only their architecture reminds us that they were once farmhouses. Spending a night in one of these country houses is a must if you enjoy the peace and quiet
More unspoilt than Malta, Gozo is ideal for spectacular hiking. You will happily walk along the paths along the coasts, through small valleys that are still wild, and through pretty sleepy villages. Some routes are a must. Kercem-Djewra allows you to walk along flowery fields, Punic vestiges up to Djewra Point, a huge rock in the open sea like a Gozitan Etretat. Or Gharb-Marsalforn, which starts from the magnificent village of Gharb, crosses the little-used northern coast to reach the pleasant seaside resort of Marsalforn.
Divers will not be outdone; Gozo is a popular site for diving enthusiasts. The best known site is Djewra, but the island also has a number of underwater caves and secluded coves. Fans of swimming and lazing around will appreciate Gozo's wild and calm beaches, such as Ramla Bay in the north, the only large sandy beach on the island.
When ? With pleasant weather all year round, Malta can be visited in any season. Spring, summer and autumn for swimming. Winter for walking. Spring for its warm temperatures and mild prices.
Getting there. Malta is 2h30 from Paris, Gozo is 30 minutes by boat. Count between 150 and 400 € for a return ticket depending on the season.
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