Fourteen days on an anonymous island in the sun, rich in history and heavy on tourism.
To us Malta was terra incognita. It is a small island in the middle of nowhere really. Compared to the other islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta has in recent decades not been of any political significance like Cyprus. The island state has not even given birth to any renowned figures on the world stage, in culture, sports or whatsoever. The development on the island has not been hampered by the Mafiosi grip that constantly holds Sicily down. Unlike Corsica, Malta have not had its violent or even peaceful freedom fighters. As far as I can tell, Malta has for decades been one of Europe’s most anonymous countries.
The first time we heard of Malta as a tourist destination was in the UK almost fifteen years ago. The British had apparently over the years been using Malta as a destination for charter tourism, not surprisingly given the British colonial history on the island and indeed military presence right up to the present day.
What we did know of Malta is its century’s old history, or more precisely dating back to the times of the Crusaders and not least The Knights Hospitaller as the Maltese order was called.
Were we surprised? Did we discover anything unexpected?
No. Indeed, and in retrospect after having spent a fortnight there: Going to Malta because of its long lost past makes the trip definitely worthwhile. And I might add: it is largely for that reason Malta is worth a visit.
To be on the fair and friendly side I hastily add: The second reason is the island’s buses. The third reason is the major reason for most people coming here, the warming sun and the crystal clear waters. We truly enjoyed ourselves the entire family. We visited the two old cities of Valetta and Mdina, we took buses between them. And we went to Sicily on a day trip.
Malta is roughly 95 km south of Sicily and 2983 km from North Africa. The republic consists of six islands, three of them are inhabited. These three are Malta, Comino and Gozo. Malta is the largest with 246 square km and 350,000 inhabitants. Gozo has about 30,000 inhabitants on 67 km2.
Mellieha and being a tourist
We stayed on the island of Malta, in the place with the only proper sand beach, Mellieha Bay. In fact we only used the beach one day and spent the rest of the days in the pools of our hotel. Going with children also involves doing what children like, so we spent a day in a water amusement park, with all kinds of pools, slides and both a sea lion show and a dolphin show.
Water park images
Malta is a tourist magnet with many small towns especially along the north coast from Mellieha to Valletta, the strip we bussed several times. Some of the towns might in a romantic tone be described as small, located in kind of alcoves along the rugged seashore. They were however jammed with crowds speaking various British accents.
We went on a speedboat to the island of Comino, between Gozo and Malta. The ride was exciting and the children were allowed to hold the wheel for a while. We were definitely not the only ones going to Comino that day.
Images from Melliaha
The boat ride to Comino and more
Buses of Malta
The colourful buses of Malta are truly a tourist attraction of their own. They were our means of transport on the island; they were frequent although not particularly comfortable. Riding some of these buses brought up memories from home in Norway around 1970, when we children were allowed to sit near the front on top of the engine that was built into the bus. Considering the bumpy road surface I bet they must have some seriously good mechanics in Malta.
Valletta, the capital
The capital Valletta, named after the Knight’s Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, has many old age remains. Entering the streets of Valletta through the fortress walls at the City Gate is like entering into history. The windows were particularly interesting. Not least noteworthy were the steps leading down to Fort Saint Elmo. The steps are so low as to enable the knights to walk them wearing their heavy armour.
A few video glimpses of the popular old capital of Malta. The city of Valletta is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Medieval town of Mdina – a must to visit
Mdina is the old capital. It is perched on a cliff right in the middle of Malta. The town is surrounded by a medieval wall and is very picturesque.
A horse ride through the old town of Mdina, Malta
Staying two weeks in one place is not my kind of travel. Fortunately we grown-ups were able to go on each our day-trip to Sicily. That is a separate story.
See a lot more pictures from this vacation on Malta.
We used this guidebook: