Trips to Malta
Malta is an archipelago country, comprising of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Here stunning coastal scenery and inviting beaches and turquoise seas offer a sun-drenched climate tempered only by a warming sea breeze. Gozo is a vibrant and welcoming tourist location.
Visitors to this idyllic escape soon learn too that it is a country with a rich and fascinating history, home to breathtaking churches, ruins and temples, in addition to seven UNESCO protected Megalithic Temples, which are amongst some of the oldest free standing structures in the world, older than both the Pyramids and Stonehenge.
Geography and Climate
The three largest islands are Malta, Gozo and Comino with a total population of around 400,000 inhabitations. Malta is the cultural, commercial and administrative centre, whilst Gozo is a more rural base, characterised by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture. Comino is smaller still, largely uninhabited and with only one hotel.
The climate here is subtropical, typical of the Mediterranean and strongly influenced by the sea with very mild winters and hot summers. Characterised by pleasantly sunny weather, the summer months see a daily average of around 12 hours of sunshine (twice the average of cities in Northern Europe), ensuring hot dry weather which is often mitigated by cooling sea breezes. Indeed, it is said that the islands have one of the best climates in the world and some of the most optimal daylight hours in Europe.
The spring and autumn seasons are cooler and breezier, except when the occasional the Sirocco wind from Africa brings with it unseasonably high temperatures and humidity. Bathing in the sea is quite possible well into the winter months, with the peak beach season often lasting until mid to late October.
The annual rainfall is low, averaging around 568mm a year.
The islands are encircled by azure blue Mediterranean waters and geological processes have carved out a fascinating, unspoiled coastline. Sandy beaches are always popular with visitors but so too are the stunning rock formations, salt pans and the twisting inlets and coves that not only make the island picturesque, but also renowned for water sports, in particular scuba diving.
Food and Drink
Maltese cuisine is a result of a long relationship between the islanders and the diverse civilisations who have occupied the island over the years, offering visitors a delectable mix of Mediterranean cooking with British, North African and Italian influences.
Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons, offering dishes such as fish pie and platters of olives, pastries and sheep cheese. Time-honoured dishes here are full of flavour and colour with a diversity ensuring visitors can eat a widely varied cuisine. Food has been important historically in the development of a national identity in particular the traditional fenkata (stewed or fried rabbit).
Visiting any local fish market will soon show you how varied the fish catch is that has a huge influence on the food here. Depending on the season you will see bass, stonefish, bream, red mullet and an array of shellfish.
Favourite dessert delicacies are kannoli; tubes of crispy fried pastry filled with ricotta as well as Sicilian style desserts and Arab influenced sweet mixes of crushed almond pastries.
Maltese cooking has also adopted some elements of British fare too – local bars and cafés commonly serve a British breakfast and beer is popular and sold as a half or pint as in the UK instead of traditional European litres.
Malta may not have the longstanding wine reputation of its larger Mediterranean neighbours, but Maltese vintages are beginning to hold their own in international competitions and many wineries will offer tours for interested visitors.
History and Economy
The culture of Malta is strongly influenced by its long and colourful history, which dates back to the dawn of civilisation. With its prime location, it has been given great strategic importance as a naval base and a long succession of powers have ruled the island.
In its early history it went through a golden Neolithic period, the remains of which are the numerous temples which adorn the islands. Later, the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Byzantines all left their traces on the islands. In 60 AD St Paul was shipwrecked on the island while on his way to Rome and brought Christianity to the islands. The islands were later conquered by Arab conquerors in 870 AD who influenced the language of the Maltese and a majority of the place names.
An important chapter of the history of the islands and one that had a strong influence on its culture is when the Sovereign Military Order of St John of Jerusalem ruled over Malta from 1530 to 1798. The Knights took Malta through a new Golden Age, making it a key player in the cultural scene of the 17th and 18th centuries but also brought much turmoil and strife. Later, the islands were ruled by the British from 1800 to 1964 when the islands became independent.
The islands were a key location in the British Empire; a strategic stronghold in the region and a stepping stone for British expansion in the East.
Today the strength of Malta's economy is still its favourable geographic climate as well as material exports such as limestone. Tourism is also of great importance to the local economy and has seen substantial growth in recent decades with over 1.2 million visitors annually.
Malta's uniquely timeless and adaptable landscape makes it a widely popular venue for filming locations too and the scenery has served as a distinctive backdrop for a range of times and places including ancient Rome to 19th-century Marseille and 1960's Beirut.
Image Credit: Malta Tourism & Clive Vella
Must see places
Discover our favourite destinations in Malta.