Mixed Bag in Malta

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Full of history and beautiful scenery, Malta is on the verge of hitting a tourism sweet spot, but it’s not quite there yet. For me, Malta was supposed to be a week where I relaxed and went to the beach. I can’t say I did much of either…

Malta is comprised of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta is the busy hub while Gozo and Comino reflect a natural beauty.

I stayed in St. Julian’s in Balluta Bay, which was hosting a festa, or Saint’s Day celebration when I arrived. The church and streets were decked out in festive decorations and there were fireworks throughout the first weekend (day and night).

Gozo

Gozo is absolutely beautiful with neolithic temples and beautiful natural scenery. As part of a tour, I visited Ġgantija, which is more than 5,500 years old and older than the Pyramids of Egypt. It is believed these are the second oldest man made religious structures in the world.

We also visited Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs, the tallest cliffs in Gozo. The beautiful rocks against the deep blue water was breathtaking.

If I were at this spot three months ago, the Beautiful Azure Window would have been here. But the nature that brought it here was the same nature that took it away. Still lovely but missing a window into Gozo.

There is another natural azure window in Gozo. Perhaps Game of Thrones and others will make this famous too.

There are also some salt mines with beautiful scenery on Gozo.

All in all, I enjoyed seeing Gozo, even if the tour I took wasn’t my favorite. The natural beauty was around each corner and worth seeing if you make it to Malta.

Valletta

Valletta, Malta’s capital, was named the 2018 European Capital of Culture and the construction to get ready for this big event is evident.

Each day at noon and 4pm, there’s a firing of the cannon into the Valletta harbor. It hearkens back to a time when the soldiers listened for the blast to know what time it was.

Malta played a large, strategic role in winning the war in Italy in World War II. I visited the Lascaris War Rooms in Valletta and saw where Eisenhower helped plot the attack in Sicily.

Limestone Quarry

Malta has a ton of natural limestone and we visited a quarry to see the harvesting process.

They carved lots of figurines out of limestone and reflected female fertility through the wide hips as seen below.

Ħaġar Qim

Ħaġar Qim is another temple that dates back more than 5,000 years to the Megalithic period. It has had limited restoration but is more impressive than the temples on Gozo.

Blue Lagoon

Similar to in Capri, Italy, Malta is home to its own blue lagoon where you get on small boats and explore with entertaining boat captains (it’s a bit cheaper than Capri). It is definitely worth a visit. The water is absolutely stunning.

And there are beautiful caves at many turns.

Marsaxlokk

We also checked out Marsaxlokk, a tiny fishing and market town full of brightly colored boats. The boats (Luzzos) colors symbolize sky (blue), sun (yellow), land (green) and has an eye on it to protect the fishermen.

Ghar Dalam Cave

The Ghar Dalam Cave had humans living in it 7400 years ago. With remains of dwarf elephants and hippopotamus, it proves that  Malta was once linked via land to Sicily.

Here you can see fragments of animal bones.

Malta’s beaches

Similar to much of Europe, Malta does not have huge swaths of sandy beaches. There are rocky areas and small spots of sand, like this one from my second hotel. As a Florida girl, I am spoiled with beautiful sandy beaches and decided to forgo the sardine seats and lack of view and went to the pool instead.

Malta in a Nutshell

If you look at my photos of Malta, you’ll see a ton of beauty and it will probably entice you to go. If you do go, you will see all of this and you will also experience some growing pains.

Tours – I did two tours. One was great, the other was pretty bad. It started off with my pickup telling me that “Women are so difficult,” after I asked where I was supposed to go next and continued mostly in German being squashed in the back of a not-so-safe feeling 4×4.

Food – Since Malta is about 60 miles from Sicily, I mistakenly thought the food would be similar. I can’t say I had a great meal there. Most were mediocre. Some were downright bad. Given they grow so much produce on the Island, I expected better. I also expected good gelato… not so much

Growing Pains – Malta is much busier than I thought it would be. It has decent, but not great infrastructure. I think in a few years, it will probably be an awesome spot to visit once the folks embrace hospitality a bit more and there’s roads and tours to support it.

To go or not to go? – Would I recommend Malta? It depends on what you’d like to see. If you want to see history and beauty and don’t need a well-developed tourism infrastructure? I think you’d enjoy it. I also would recommend you visit Sicily first, as it has the history and beauty along with the warmth and great food of the Sicilian people.

Have you been to Malta? What did you think? Any tips for our readers?

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