When you arrive in Malta you don’t know exactly where to position yourself, in Europe or in Northern Africa. Because of its location in the Mediterranean Sea, close to the Arab countries Tunisia and Libya, but even closer to Sicily, Malta has influences from both cultures from their language (the Maltese language sounds both Italian and Arab, I know, a weird combination – due to the fact that it descends from an Arabic dialect spoken in Sicily between the end of the ninth century and the end of the twelfth century) until their way of living, architecture and food. Once you get past this, you will fall in love with the beautiful places and be concerned with your Malta itinerary and how to spend one amazing week on the island.
The island is rather small – 316 km2 – but has a lot of things to offer – history, lovely cities, smaller islands, clear blue waters – just enough to fill to the maximum one week of staying here or two weeks of blended relaxation and wandering around places filled with history.
When to visit Malta
I have visited Malta in early September of 2014 and the weather was just perfect from my point of view, warm enough to get a lovely tan, but chilly enough in the evening to get a proper night’s sleep.
Now it depends on your personal preference, but from June to August temperatures can get pretty high. Also, this period is considered the high season and that’s when most tourists visit the island. Moreover, the temperature can get pretty high stopping you from making the best out of your Malta itinerary.
How much time to spend in Malta
We spent one week in Malta and we had plenty of time to see most of the major attractions, but also to chill by the pool and relax.
Of course, if you want to see more there is always something out there and you can choose to stay more. But from what I see choosing between spending 5 days in Malta or a week in Malta time’s just enough.
Places to stay in Malta
The island can be suitable for people looking to have fun and enjoy shopping who should opt for St. Julian if you tick this box.
Families looking to relax and enjoy the lovely Mediterranean Sea should book a hotel in Mellieha or Qawra. These are quiet villages where you can find hotels ranging from 2* to 4*, perfect for relaxation.
On the other hand, couples in search of a blend of the two should head to Valletta or St. Julian which offer 5* hotels in the middle of the city, close to touristic sites or to buses/boats that can get you to the right place.
One thing to add is that Malta is not the right place to be if you are looking to enjoy the sea to the maximum. And that is because there are few places where you actually have sandy beaches.
We have been only to one sandy beach on the main island – and if you want to be close to the one you can choose to stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel next to the Golden Sands as the name says it – and to the Blue Lagoon on the Comino island.
That being said, you also need to know that each hotel has a swimming pool and most of them have rooftop pools.
Also good to know is that the island does not have any water since it is very rocky, but use bottled water from the desalination center where they modify seawater in order to be drinkable.
Have more time to wonder around Europe? Why not do a South Italy itinerary as well?
Getting around Malta
Getting around Malta was relatively simple for us, getting around by bus which always came in time. Not the same was some of my friend’s experiences, who told me they were constantly waiting for the bus and even had to walk a lot at a certain point in their 5 days in Malta because the bus was not arriving.
Getting from Malta airport to town
With the above in mind, I guess the easiest of the 3 options you have for getting from Malta airport to town is by taxi.
Taxies from the airport charge 15-20 EUR to Valetta. Of course, prices will be different for different destinations on the island.
Another option of getting to town is by bus: X40 bus will take you to Valetta for only 1.5 EUR/ one way.
Getting around during your Malta itinerary
Overall it is very easy to travel on the whole island, there are buses linking all the villages and you can find the timetable at the bus stop.
And there is always the option of renting a car and driving around the island for a more flexible Malta itinerary option.
Renting a car starts at a pretty low price, but you will need to remember to drive on the left side of the road and be ready to look for parking spaces (especially in larger towns).
Top things to include on your Malta itinerary
Since we have always tried to mix the relaxation part with visiting, we have managed to see most of the local attractions, both in an organized manner (with the travel agency) or by ourselves.
Get lost on the streets of Valletta and see the Fortified 3 cities
There are a lot of small, Italian-style streets in the fortress of Valletta and you can choose to walk up and down, steal a little bit of architectural inspiration, take a lot of beautiful pictures and stumble upon history at each step.
Valletta is Malta’s capital and also the border between West and East, being part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Of course, when thinking about places to stay in Malta, you can always take the capital into consideration because there are plenty of charming places to stay in Valetta.
You can walk around the city’s fortifications, visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the Magisterial Palace (where the President of Malta has its office) and the Barrakka Gardens. And in the end, you have a lot of Mediterranean-style restaurants from which to choose, where to sit and enjoy seafood and a nice glass of wine.
Once you’re done with Valletta, head over to the ferry leaving from Barrakka Gardens to the “Fortified 3 cities“: Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea, and Cospicua. The Cottonera is the collective name for the 3 medieval cities, with Birgu as the oldest and the most popular of the three.
If you’re passionate about history or the order of the Knights, you just cannot miss visiting these places strongly linked to them.
And I truly think that you have just enough time in a week in Malta to include them all on your Malta itinerary.
Take a walk through Mdina and Rabat
I liked Mdina very much, maybe because we have visited the old fortress village on a quiet day, hence we had the chance to enjoy it to the fullest. Or maybe because no cars are allowed inside, making it very peaceful.
Mdina was the capital of Malta until 1530 and owes its architecture to its Arab period. Also, here is where some scenes from Game of Thrones were shot and that’s why you might have recognized these city walls.
We strolled around the city’s narrow stone streets and sat down for a coffee and an ice cream at a restaurant on the city walls, from where you could see Rabat in the distance.
How to get there
If you’ve chosen to rent a car that will be easy and you will be in Mdina in no time.
If, however, you chose to explore the island by bus as we did, and start from Valletta bus number 53 destination Rabat will get you there the fastest.
If however, you travel from Buggiba/Qawra or St. Julian’s you will need to take bus number 186.
If you’re staying elsewhere, and for any other destination, make sure to check out the Malta Public Transportation Journey Planner.
Visit Popeye’s Village
And spend a wonderful day at the water park.
The village has been built in 1980 for a musical movie and it is now used as a touristic attraction (they organize even weddings if you are interested :))).
We haven’t stayed here, only stopped for a few pictures (the view is really wonderful), but I think it can be great fun especially for kids.
Take a ferry to Comino Island and to the Blue Lagoon
The lagoon is breathtaking and it is no surprise that scenes of Troy (yes the Brad Pitt movie) and The Count of Monte Cristo have been filmed here.
The 2-hour boat ride is worth it, even if you catch a stormy day as we did, and risk to be hit by a wave in the face and maybe puke over the board.
But once you get to the destination and have a few hours to enjoy the clear blue water, it will all be worth it.
We have also taken a small boat and went through the grottoes around Comino, where we have seen pink corals and people jumping off of cliffs in the crystal waters.
One thing to have in mind nowadays is that the island can get really crowded, thus finding a more secluded spot could be challenging. Even so, with a little bit of perseverance and curiosity, you can find the right location.
Take the trip to the Blue Grotto
And swim in the very salty azure water.
Of course, you must know that there is no beach and the cliffs are very slippery and steep, therefore maybe think twice if you are not very confident about your swimming skills.
As an option, and for a fee, you can take a boat that will take you inside of the Blue Grotto – a complex of seven caves found along the southern coast of the island.
Take a walk on the streets of any town in Malta during the summertime
Here you will see all sorts of colorful flags on display everywhere. Yes, I like the narrow streets as they are, but these flags offer them a more colorful touch.
Moreover, you can go out during the evenings, when, in the Summertime, the Maltese people make fireworks and go out for the “Festa” (it is all about keeping together the community, meeting each other and oh yeah, having fun during the hot season).
“Cross the sea” from Valletta and pay Sliema a visit
The small harbor where you can admire small Venice-like boats (some even more colorful), Sliema is one of the busiest commercial hubs in Malta.
Originally a fishing village, Sliema is now home to many and a place you can choose to stay in Malta, or just to visit for a stroll through the Plaza Shopping Center or The Point Complex.
Sliema has also one of the most popular spots for bathing in the sea to the Northern side of its rocky coastline.
Take a one day trip on the sea to Sicily
We personally did not do this, because the time was too short in our opinion and Sicily definitely needs more days to be visited, but since you are here, you can choose to do so, since the distance is rather small and you could get a few good hours on the Italian island.
The second-largest island in the archipelago, Gozo is one of the best places in Malta and was home to the famous Azure Window which unfortunately collapsed into the sea in 2017.
Apart from that, Gozo island has a lot to offer and will charm you with its peacefulness, The Cittadella in Rabat and its beautiful Cathedral, Calypso’s cave, the carnival celebrated in February, the 2 photogenic lighthouses.
Spending one day away from the main island would be a great idea.
Looking to spend some time on the beach? Here is where you will find Gozo’s beaches.
Marsaxlokk Fishing Village
Take a day trip and explore the colorful authentic Marsaxlokk fishing village.
The colorful traditional Luzzu Boats will surely catch your eye and you won’t want to leave without taking plenty of pictures to bring home. These are more than just fishing boats and their tradition dates back to the Phoenician times, being painted in bright colors with the eye of Horus (an Egyptian symbol of protection) on them.
Since this is a fishing village, this is where you will want to feast in a seafood meal just after swimming in St. Peter’s natural pool.
Fort Delimara is another popular attraction of Marsaxlokk built by the Knights of Malta.
The Red Tower (St. Agatha’s Tower)
The Red Tower or St. Agatha’s Tower was built between 1647 and 1649 and was the last large bastioned tower to be built in Malta.
Nowadays the tower has been repaired and is open to the public. I can easily say this is one of the most picture-perfect places not to miss in a week in Malta.
This are in a nutshell the things I recommend for Malta, please feel encouraged (don’t be shy, it would be very much appreciated) to add here any additional attraction.
I personally liked the little island very much as a one time trip (and from what I have seen the English people agree because most of the tourists around there were from the UK) and would recommend it as a wonderful summer destination!
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