Ask anyone who has ever been to the Maltese Islands and, whether they’re young or old, they’ll wax lyrical. There are so many adventures and activities to be found there, and all on an archipelago with a land area that’s smaller of the Isle of Wight. Where else can you stand and find so much within an eight-mile diameter?
- Beaches, boats and bays.
There are two hundred and fifty kilometres of coastline to explore, and most of the year they’re bathed in the beautiful sunshine that the southern Mediterranean enjoys.
- A classic European capital.
Valletta, with a population to match that of Cardiff, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its skyline is dominated by a striking dome rising from a glistening harbour and its old streets house museums, theatres and galleries galore.
- A party town by the sea.
Paceville’s club scene reverberates with life and music. However tempting as this may be to teens and twenties, I think my hot-pant days are behind me.
- Remote rural walks and mountain biking.
Trail and paths explore terrain where, in winter sunshine, a green abundance sprinkled with flowers laps at golden stone.
- Cliff-jumping and rock climbing (not necessarily in the same trip).
There are limestone crags and sea cliffs, offering lines from easy grade 3s to high 8s for those in the know, and the chance for all ages to jump into deep blue seas, whether from two feet, beside a family beach, or twenty.
- History and heritage to die for.
Expect everything from Megalithic temples (at nearly 6000 years ago, these are some of the oldest man-made religious structures in the world); the medieval citadel of Mdina; caves, catacombs and underground shelters from World War 2 when King George VI awarded the population of Malta, collectively, the George Cross for courage and bravery.
- Quiet villages of golden stone.
Scattered across the landscape, buildings glow rose with the setting sun, and a luminescent light and tranquillity provide a peaceful artists’ paradise or a rich rural retreat for a writer.
- A church for nearly every day of the year.
With over 360 churches, chapels, shrines and religious sites modern-day pilgrims can pay homage to the place St Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked, and enjoy giant domes and beautiful Basilicas which bely the size of this small nation.
Some of the world’s best dives sites can be found in the spectacular underwater scenery of the azure blue seas around Malta and Gozo.
- A cultural calendar bursting with events.
Whenever you look, you can find festivals and family fun, whether that’s a mid-summer carnival or a life-size nativity village at Christmas time.
Malta offers all this with the added bonus of English being both an official language for legal documents and a well-spoken second language so that if your foreign language skills don’t make the mark at which you’ve set your cap, you can still solicit a coffee, a carpenter or a conversation without accidentally opening the door to a delivery of Dodos.
However, it’s one thing to holiday in a place and lose your heart, and quite another to look investigatively through eyes that would like to stay forever. And it’s one thing to read every book and research every village on-line with careful calculations, a highly-sharpened pencil and a clear head, but for a final pinpoint there’s nothing like feet on the ground.
We tied our laces and booked our flights.