There comes a period in a year when we all miss sunlight. Where to go to charge our batteries with picturesque colors and the rays of the sun? In December I’ve decided to travel to Malta and even in my innermost dreams, I did not expect that on such a small patch of land I would find so many charming places.
Most of you may associate Malta with an island being mobbed by young people in the summertime, who come here under the pretext of learning English just to have fun. Therefore, if you want to have some space for yourself, and relax, visit Malta off-season. Looking at the average annual temperature there’s no wrong time to explore that island, everything depends only on whether you want to swim in the sea, or is it enough to you to warm yourself in the sun on a bench?
Who to get there?
In Europe, you can find plenty of budget airlines which fly to Luqa Malta (MLA) airport. If you will make the reservation with advance the round-trip ticket will cost you €40-60.
Malta has a fantastic bus system. Unfortunately, buses do not belong to the most punctual and you have to remember particular when going to the airport! There are 3 types of tickets: one-time, which costs EUR 1.5 in winter and EUR 2 in summer (from mid-June to mid-October). On this ticket, we can change buses many times within 2 hours from the moment it was punched. In addition, we have a choice of two tallinja card cards: 7-day, which costs € 21 and a card (for € 15) entitling us to 12 trips, under which we can change any number of buses within 2 hours. If we exceed this time, next ride will be simply deducted from our card. Interestingly, any number of people can use card for € 15.
Tickets and cards can be purchased by leaving the arrival hall at the airport on the right in one of the stands. In addition, it is worth to visit the tourist information point (you will find it on the left) to take free maps.
Attention! When you see your coming bus, you have to wave otherwise the driver won’t stop at your bus stop. If you decided to buy a single ticket while getting on the bus it’s good to have a small change because if you hand a driver a high-denomination banknote, he will ask you to leave the bus and change money elsewhere. When the bus finally starts to drive, we should stay vigilant to notify the driver (by the button) that we want to get off at a specific stop.
Being in Malta, I decided again to use the Airbnb portal, where people rent their homes. Initially, I considered looking for a place in Valletta, but in the end, I decided to rent a flat in a more atmospheric, quiet and most importantly cheaper town of Senglea (also known as Isla) and I must admit that it was a hit. Only locals, good access and a beautiful view of Valletta, what else do you need?! I paid around 22 euros per person (per night), which was cheaper than staying in a hostel. If you decide to sleep in a private room on Airbnb, you can find even cheaper accommodation.
If you never used that site, I invite you to use my registration link, which will give you € 23 on the first trip (all you need to do is click here:: link to the Airbnb portal.
What to see in Malta?
Isla is a charming town, which in its size looks more like a district than the city. I recommend you to walk a bit along its narrow streets. Everybody is nice, people on the street will tell you “Good morning” treating you like one of their neighbors. Be sure to head to the end of the Isla to the Gardjola Gardens. You will find there several benches where you can relax, but more importantly, you will find a beautiful view of Valletta and St Angelo Fort in Birgu.
When you get hungry, at the bottom near the port you will find a few cheap restaurants (prices start at € 4.5 for a Margherita pizza). It is also worth going to the Vittoriosa Yacht Marina, where huge yachts are moored. If you have time, it’s also worth to walk around Bigru, which is the twin town of Isla. In addition, if you want to go to Valletta, the ferry leaves from the 3 Cities stop (one-way ticket costs: € 1.50, both € 2.80).
Marsaxlokk is a small fishing town. Which is famous for two things: colorful boats swaying on the water, which enchant with their bright colors and the Sunday market in the harbor. If you want to feel like the locals it’s best to go to Marsaxlokk on Sunday when there is a fish market. You can also find here fresh fruits, vegetables, as well as Maltese sweet delicacies, among others biscuits with figs or cannoli. It will be noisy, crowded but this place has its unique atmosphere, and when you’re tired, it is worth to choose one of the restaurants along the promenade and eat delicious, freshly caught fish for lunch. And after the blissful dinner, when you want to shed some unnecessary calories, take a short walk to the Ras il-Fniek, which is two kilometers away and offers a beautiful view of the rocky coastline and azure waters of the bay.
However, if you care about calmness then go to Marsaxlokk every other day of the week. One thing is certain, it is a cute fishing village, which while being in Malta is simply worth a visit.
Mdina, also known as the city of silence, is another obligatory point while visiting Malta. Once the city was the capital, today it remains a place from which you can see whole Malta. The city is crossed by narrow, winding streets, the silence of which is interrupted only occasionally by the clatter of horse hooves dragging small carriages with tourists. The history of this place is incredibly rich. The first inhabitants appeared here 4,000 years before Christ. It was haunted by many nations of the world who wanted to colonize this corner of land from the Phoenicians, Romans, to Arabs (thanks to which it owes its name to Mdina – “a city surrounded by walls”) or knights. It was only in the 1960s that the inhabitants of the island took control of the island again.
When you are tired of walking, go to the neighboring Rabat for a small snack and… another walk. Next to the roundabout near Mdina’s defensive walls, you will find the Crystal Palace restaurant (Triq San Pawl, Ir-Rabat), which is always busy, because many locals come here to eat the famous Maltese pastizzi and also to drink tea with milk. If you prefer coffee or ice creams, there is a café next door, which belongs to the same owner.
In Arabic Rabat is a ‘suburb’ and in fact, most tourists decide to visit only Mdina, and this is a mistake because this city is extremely charming and believe me, you will sigh more than once while seeing all those colorful balconies and beautiful tenement houses.
If you have still some time while going to Mdina, you can get off at the Zuta stop (this stop does not officially exist anymore, however, you can ask the driver to stop there), from which you can easily reach the Dingli cliffs. They rise to a height of 253 m above sea level and it’s hard to refrain from taking at least one picture.
The cliff region is one big wasteland, no one lives there, and parallel to the rock formations, there is a road that is worth a walk to the chapel of St. Mary-Magdalene. Next to this church stands a bench, which has probably one of the most beautiful views in the world. Just sit there for a while and look at the endless sea.
* Little warning the only bus that runs here (No. 201), drives every hour. If we are late, instead of waiting for the next one, we have an alternative, we can walk 1.5 km to the nearby town of Dingli, from where we can catch several buses going to Mdina, as well as Valletta.
Malta is a wonderful island with nice, hospitable residents. We will see here both Italian and Arabic influences. They can be seen in the kitchen, in the language and in the names of the cities. If you liked Lisbon, I pretty sure that Malta will also charm you with its tasty cuisine and total looseness.
P.S. In the next post I will take you to Valletta. A separate entry about this city will appear.