Malta: cultural blend of Italy, England, Greece and Morocco with gorgeous and breathtaking cliffs

 If you’re not the biggest fan of colder temperatures, an escape to a Mediterranean island seems perfect. How does 23 degrees Celsius in November sound? Most tourists visit Malta during summertime due to many beaches that offer swimming holidays. Me, not so much interested in swimming. Neither in simply laying on the white sand and doing nothing. Swimming after the stroke is bit difficult, though I still can. Nevertheless, I always was and still am more an adventure-seeking tourist. Walking around new cities, exploring new places … That’s me. I always try to go somewhere I haven’t been before, since the world is big and new countries are calling me. Malta was next on my bucket list. Only a two-hour cheap flight from Treviso Italy and we found ourselves in a complete new world.

Travel makes you modest. You see what a tiny place you ocupy in the world. (Gustav Flaubert) Photo taken on Gozo, Malta

   Malta is combined of three islands: Malta, Comino and Gozo. It is a small country, amongst the ten smallest, to be precise. However, Malta is an important country all from the Antique times due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea. This Mediterranean country offers visitors an interesting cultural blend. As you explore Malta, you’ll notice the Italian, English and North African elements in the food, language, culture and architecture. Malta may be a blend of Morocco, Greece and Italy, yet is unique in its own. Even though Malta is small, it has much to offer. I would know that sometimes smallest countries hide biggest jewels (as I am a Slovenian). Once in Malta, I advise you to purchase a one-week bus ticket, which will cost you around 23 Euros. You can buy it on the airport. Buses will basically take you everywhere. You can also rent a car, if you do not mind driving on a left side. Buses are cheap but due to heavy traffic, it will cost you a lot of time to travel around. Therefore, I recommend staying around the capital Valletta.

   Valletta might be tiny, but it’s full of charm. It stretches just one kilometer by 600 meters so it is perfect city to walk around and explore. If you want to taste the charm of the city, spend a day in Valletta getting lost in its narrow streets and climbing its steep hills. The stroll it’s not the easiest one, since the streets go up and down and up and down. At least you will shred the extra weight you’ll gain by eating all the delicious food. At that point, let me recommend the most popular Maltese snack called pastizzi, a savory pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas. While wandering around the narrow streets, you’ll notice plenty of restaurants, boutique hotels and tons of pavement cafés. Valletta has so much historic architecture that UNESCO designated the whole city a World Heritage Site, Valletta was also 2018 European Capitol of Culture. The city is surrounded by water on three sides. For the best panoramic views over the harbor, head to the Barrakka Gardens. There are two of them – the Upper and Lower gardens. The Upper Barrakka Gardens were built in 1661, if you head to them at 12 or 4 p.m., you can catch the cannon firing from the Saluting Battery underneath the gardens. The lower Barrakka Gardens look similar to the Upper Gardens with the same Greek-style temple, but are a bit quieter. Valletta’s charm comes from the narrow streets and from distinctive, brightly colored, square Maltese balconies. Travelling Malta, you’ll come across many churches (all together there are over 350 on the island). In Valletta, you’ll find majestic St. John’s Co Cathedral.

   For another trip back in time, visit the old capital Mdina. Driving through the Maltese countryside near Rabat, you’ll spot this white city dating back 4000 years stands atop a hill. I highly recommend a walk through the streets of this medieval town. Mdina is surrounded by a wall and it is one of the prettiest cities on the island. One can easily fall in love with the charm of the city – honey-colored walls, blue or red doors and windows. The silent city is closed for traffic; you can get lost by exploring the walled streets. There are no normal shops, only tourist gift shops and tourist-oriented restaurants and cafes. Mdina is also known for its glass. Game of thrones fans might recognized Mdina as one of the many shooting destinations on Malta.

To get to Mdina, you must take the bus to Rabat. The main attraction in Rabat is of course Mdina, but if you have time, you can visit St. Paul’s Catacombs – underground Roman cemetery that span over 2000 square meters. If you feel like walking and are a fan of cliffs as I am, go to the Dingli cliffs. The cliffs stage the highest point of the Maltese Islands at around 253 meters above sea level. The cliffs propose a majestic sight and offer breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. Walk down the panoramic road that will lead you past radar tower to the lonely little 17th century Chapel of St. Mary. Magdalene.

  You love colors, tradition, seafood and have more days to spare on Malta? Take a bus southwest to a colorful Marsaxlokk. In this fishing village time moves much slower. Traditional Maltese boats are painted in bright red, green, yellow and blue and have traditional eyes of Osiris on both sides of the boats. It seems as Malta is some kind of melting pot of different cultures. These wooden fishing boats are called luzzu in Maltese and are an attraction themselves. However, the main reason for visiting Marsaxlokk is actually another nearby sight. St. Peter’s pool is the most popular rocky bay. A 30-minute walk up the hill at the tip of Delimara Point in Marsaxlokk will take you to this stunning natural pool. For the shortcut follow a dirt path crossing the field. Hiking to St. Peter’s pool is an ideal way to spend a day away from the busy tourist’s spots. At least in November that is, however I believe it gets crowded in the summer months. The sea at the Pool is crystal clear with an amazing azure and light green colors. The flat rocks around provide a nice contrast between the blue water and the yellow cliffs. Picture perfect place.

   As much as I love exploring metropolises, my soul feels most calm and free in the nature. A day on Gozo was just what made me fall in love with Malta. This small Island next to the main one is one place you cannot miss. A 20 minute sail with a ferry from Cirkawwa on the Northwest brings you on much smaller island Gozo. The boat goes every 45 minutes, once you get across the water, you’ll arrive at Mgarr, a harbor town on the east coast of Gozo. From there we took a bus to Victoria, the biggest city on the island, known also as Ir-Rabat amongst the native Maltese. In the heart of the town lies the Citadella, the ancient fortified city. The Citadel is visible from almost all the Island, rising steeply above the surrounding countryside. Take a bus or even walk to Sannat. There you will witness the most fabulous and breathtaking views on Gozo. The quiet village of Sannat is home to Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs. This is the place where the sky meets the sea. My mind was blown away by this spectacular nature. In my opinion, the cliffs are an impressive cross between the White Cliffs of Dover in England and the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. However, with blue sky and not as many tourists. Gozo is (or rather was) best known by the Azure Window. Until the March 2017, this was a 28-meters-tall natural arch. Due to stormy weather, it collapsed. The place of the ruins is still worthy of visiting. The surface reminds me of the surface on the moon. It is majestic.

If we would have more time, we would probably also visit the smallest island of the three – Comino with a popular blue lagoon and perhaps Popeye Village on the main island, the film set of the 1980 musical production Popeye. It was a short, but sweet visit. I loved my time in Malta; the friendly people, medieval towns, castles, warm weather, charming cities.

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