The European Island Nation with Breathtaking Landscapes3 min read
Is the desire to discover unique cultures and unparalleled landscapes what fuels your travel plans? Did you know there’s an island in the Mediterranean with ruins older than the pyramids? Malta might not be the most well-known country in Europe, but that’s part of what makes it an exciting destination. This small island nation is located smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, just 50 miles south of Sicily, Italy, and about 200 miles from the northern African nations of Tunisia and Libya. And while you’ll find Italian, Arabic and even British influences (from its days as a colony), for the most part, Malta will feel unlike anywhere you’ve ever been.
The country of Malta is actually an archipelago. The main island (Malta) is just a quick ferry ride from its little sisters, Gozo and Comino. Due to the country’s unique geography, the landscapes on these islands are breathtakingly one-of-a-kind. You’ll find bright golden sand beaches like those of Ramla Bay on Gozo. But around the rocky shoreline of the islands, you’ll also find people lounging by the sea with their towels spread out on the flat, sea-smoothed stones that make up the coast. On these “beaches”, swimmers lower themselves into the sea from ladders built into the rocks.
Malta’s capital, Valletta, was the first planned city in all of Europe; it was first sketched out in 1565. Along with its magical old-world charm, you’ll now find plenty of modern eateries and bars. Take a wander through the streets on stone stairways lined with quaint cafes. You’re never far from a view of the bright blue sea in Valletta. While you’re here, be sure to visit the St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the Barrakka Gardens while taking in the Baroque architecture of the city.
These islands are a history buff’s dream. The standing stones of Hagar Qim’s megalithic temple complex are thought to be nearly a thousand years older than the pyramids of Egypt. You can also visit the Ggantija Temples and Mnajdra Temples, both dating back as early as the 3000s B.C. Parts of the Grand Master’s Palace—the seat of power in Malta since the 16th century—can also be visited while in Valletta. The city of Mdina, also called the Silent City, sits on a plateau in the middle of the main island. The former capital of Malta, this fortified medieval town is full of narrow streets and alleyways which are great for exploring. Be sure to stop into Fontanella Tea Garden while in Mdina and try their homemade cakes.
Like the rest of the island, Malta’s cuisine has been heavily influenced by many different cultures over the years. The country has a few must-try specialties like Fenkata, a rabbit stew cooked in a tomato or red wine sauce. Pastizzi are perhaps the most famous Maltese goodies. These savory pastries are typically filled with peas or cheese and are great for a grab-and-go snack from a street vendor. If you’re more of a seafood lover, this island is understandably rich in ocean delicacies. The best place for fresh fish? Any of the outdoor cafes along the marina in Marsaxlokk. This is the epicenter of the fish business in Malta and you’ll be treated to views of the colorful, traditional Maltese fishing boats while you dine.
Whether you’re coming for the tasty Maltese delicacies, the ancient history or the pristine shorelines, you’re bound to find your own personal paradise on these islands.