I am beyond blessed (should I have hash-tagged that??) to have already been able to travel to so many amazing places, but Malta is still number 1 on my ‘Most Magical Places I’ve Been To’ list. Here are the top 5 reasons why.
It’s a group of 3 islands, the main island of Malta, Gozo, and Comino located in the Mediterranean Sea, near Italy. A ferry transports you between Malta and Gozo, and Comino is largely uninhabited. The history of Malta is the oldest in the world, dating back to the beginning of civilization. Temples dedicated to the goddess of fertility from the golden Neolithic period remain today, as do the mysteries of the ancient civilizations knowledge and ability to construct such masterpieces without modern day technology.
We rented a car from the airport, which I highly recommend. The country is very drive able; however, they do drive on the left side of the road, and therefore the steering wheel is also on the left. Luckily, I had Kyle to drive but it still made navigation quite a bit more challenging. Everyone speaks English in Malta and the signs are all in English so that does help a little.
We made it to our lovely hotel, checked in, and went out for a walk along the easily accessible sidewalks around the water. There are stairs down to the shore, though it is rocky, with pools build from the rock for swimmers and loungers to use without having to navigate out into the ocean.
Because Malta is so small, we easily drove around both islands while stopping for the sights in one day each. The trip from the main island to Gozo was my first ever ride on a ferry, and I loved it. The view from the boat definitely didn’t hurt things. After arriving in Gozo and checking into the hotel, we walked along the water and checked out the small shops, where we purchased towels for our trip to the Azure Window the next day, which brings me to number one on the list.
1. Azure window*
The Azure Window (as seen in the featured photo) is the crown jewel of Malta. Absolutely no trip there is complete without visiting it. Jumping into the Blue Hole on the way to rock is amazing, swimming in the amazingly clear, beautiful blue water around and under the window is amazing, and standing on top of the arch is also amazing. The view from any where around the window is absolutely breathtaking. No picture can come anywhere else close to doing this justice – you have to see it in person.
You can leave your towel and swim suit cover up on the rocks on the way down to the Blue Hole but make sure you keep your waterproof shoes on (I wore Keen sandals and they were perfect). The beach is rocky and the shoes are for both your comfort and safety. You will not regret having a waterproof camera for this either!
Don’t miss the the Inland Sea Dive site just on the other side of the parking area – it’s a great spot for a swim. There are also old salt mines that you can walk around near the parking area. I hadn’t seen any like that before so I enjoyed it. There are a couple of snack/drink vendor carts as well as souvenir cart, and a small cafe. Plan to spend at least a few hours here enjoying the sites.
Once our skin started to get toasty we tore our eyes from the incredible view and drove up to the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, which was really great – lots of great indoor and outdoor history there. Then we drove over to the Calypso Cave, which is alleged to be the cave that Homer referred to in The Odyssey, where he was kept as a “prisoner of love” for 7 years. Sadly, due to geological movement, the cave has now been permanently closed, but the views from the top are still pretty great.
*Sadly, in March of 2017 a violent storm caused the Azure Window to collapse into the sea. Though this beautiful structure is now gone, Malta, including Gozo, is still an extremely beautiful place to visit.
2. Ggantija Temples
The next day in Gozo, we went to the Ggantija Temples, which I highly recommend. The history there is something you’ll never see anywhere else in the world. The temples date back to between 3600 and 3200 B.C., preceding both Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Many mysteries still remain regarding this ancient civilization and how they were able to construct the temples and transport such large pieces of stone. Do not miss seeing these temples!
After that, we ferried back to the main island of Malta, where the last 3 top sites are.
Marsaxlokk is Malta’s fishing village where all of the brightly painted boats are that you’ve probably seen in photos of Malta on the web or Instagram. Watching the fishermen come in from a long day in the Mediterranean is a great way to spend an hour or two. Restaurants line the water front and you’ll find plenty of fishermen fishing right from the sidewalk. We had dinner that night at a restaurant called Three Sisters after walking along and seeing their little whiteboard folding sign explaining that the three sisters husbands go out fishing each day and they serve the fish that they catch in their restaurant each night. It was an excellent choice and the Three Sisters did not disappoint!
You must go here. A reservation is required for a tour as they only take small groups at a time given that some of the spaces inside are small. You really can’t see anything without a tour, so make the reservation and show up on time! You’re given a pair of headsets and an audio player for the majority of the tour. The history that you learn here is astounding. The Hypogeum, like the Ggantija Temples, is also a UNESCO site. No pictures were allowed inside, so I have none to share with you but I promise you do not want to miss this one.
5. St. peter’s pool
We drove to this pool on the morning we were leaving, so we didn’t have a ton of time but we knew we couldn’t miss it. The drive up there was a little on the insane side. It’s all private property and it feels like you’re going no where on tiny little one lane dirt roads. Then when you finally find where you can park and start walking it’s very unclear where you should go. We ended up walking down on the rocks to where you could see the pool but had to go all the way back around and down a completely different trail to get to where you were supposed to go. Was it worth all of the confusion, wrong turns, and early wake-up? Absolutely.
We got there early – like maybe 9 AM and there was only one other person at the pool. Let me just tell you – it. was. amazing. Jumping off the top into the gorgeous blue water terrified me but I loved it nonetheless. Once you jump in you swim over to a ladder attached to one side of the pool and climb out onto the rocks. I could have spent all day there, and I’m sure some people do. I have no idea how many people end up making their way up there and how crowded it gets later in the day. I’m so glad we didn’t miss this place though! It seems we did a terrible job capturing an accurate picture of the pool, the main part can’t be seen from this photo – you’ll just have to be amazed when you get there : )
6. (Bonus!) Pretty Bay Beach
Too close to call between an honorable mention and a distinct 6th, so here’s your bonus! This beach is very near St. Peter’s Pool. The water here is a very distinct blue, not clear like the rest of Malta, but still very beautiful. The beach is sandy and not at all rocky. There’s a little cafe all the way to the left of the beach for drinks and snacks that you can take back to your towels. Our hotel was just across the street so this was the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The shipyard being so close was a little surprising but don’t let that scare you away from a lovely, sandy beach.
Other Honorable Mentions:
St. Paul’s Catacombs and the Parish Church of St. Paul and Grotto of St. Paul were very cool to see. As were Fort St. Elmo although it was closed when we were there so we were unable to go inside.
Working your way back from the fort into the city is full of adorable streets with fun little shops, cafes, and pubs, as well as historic government buildings.
You can also take a ferry to Sicily, though we didn’t have time on this trip.
Another thing we missed was The Blue Lagoon, which lies between Comino and Malta. While we did go by it on the ferry we, didn’t go down to swim there, so it is definitely at the top of the list for next time. From the reviews, it seems that if we had gone there it might have knocked Pretty Bay Beach down to ‘Honorable Mention’ status : )
Another fun fact is that the TV show Ancient Aliens has an episode on the mysteries surrounding Malta. Whether or not you believe aliens helped the ancient Maltese people build their civilizations, it’s still interesting that Malta is mysterious enough to be featured on the show!
Malta is still a lesser known tourist vacation spot, which is part of what I love about it. There are so many amazing sites to see but also so much history to learn about. Don’t pass up an opportunity to visit these great little islands.
Have you been to Malta? What are your favorite spots? If you haven’t been do you want to go?
Where we stayed: