The Maltese Islands: Facts Worth Knowing
- May 2, 2020
There is a lot to learn about Malta...
Malta has its own unique history and geography and a wonderful culture that is famous for being, warm, welcoming and steeped in tradition juxtaposed with innovation! If we had to choose seven top facts worth knowing, here’s what we’d tell you:
The Three Islands – Gozo, Comino & Malta
Even on a short trip to Malta it’s possible to visit all 3 of the Islands in the archipelago. Malta has great land and sea transport links, so it’s easy to complete a whistle-stop tour in a day. Each island has its own special personality and there are naturally dozens of beaches to relax upon, so spend as long as you like. Malta is the largest of the 3 and home to capital city Valletta. There’s shopping, sight-seeing, al fresco dining, nightlife, traditional markets, festivals, outdoor theatre, indoor theatre, museums and nature to enjoy on Malta’s “mainland”. You’ll be spoilt for choice for beaches whether you prefer large sandy tourist strips or rocky coves. Golden Bay and St. Peter’s Pool are two very contrasting but popular choices.
In Gozo, which is just 14km at its widest point, you’ll see a slightly more relaxed pace of life, and can explore sandy terrain by quad bike, on horseback or by kayak. There are two red sand beaches, and several sandy shores. If you enjoy diving or snorkelling, Gozo is a beautiful place to do it.
Comino is very small, just 3.5km across. The Blue Lagoon is the most famous part of this virtually uninhabited island. No cars are permitted, so it’s a place to visit by boat and explore on foot, and offers some fantastic photo opportunities.
Malta’s population is small in comparison to other European neighbours. This can be surprising considering how much Malta has to offer, but in fact, Malta is the world’s tenth smallest country! With just under half a million residents (2019) it is fairly densely populated and you’ll find Valletta its capital, is buzzing with life.
When you visit Malta you can enjoy not one but two capital cities. Valletta is Malta’s “official” capital and was the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Although some parts of Valletta are incredibly modern, such as the City Gate, most of the city is Baroque or Neo-Classical. There are some beautiful churches and cathedrals, and iconic buildings such as the Grandmaster’s Palace. You can find all kinds of restaurants and shops from traditional to modern.
Victoria is Gozo’s capital city. You will find restaurants and main attractions as well in this
city, but it is mostly popular for its fair share of cute cobbled streets lined with traditional houses with beautiful balconies and painted wooden doors. There really is something to see and do around every corner in each city.
The Glorious Malta Weather
Maltese weather is almost idyllic! Not too hot in the summer but just right, and not very cold or wet in the winter. It means that most of the year you can enjoy late evening strolls and time at the beach, and can take long walks without the worry of getting heat exhaustion, unlike nearby Greek Islands and Cyprus which can reach up to 48 Celsius! Sure, you may need a rain coat every now and again between October and April but you’re unlikely to get soaked.
The native language in Malta is Maltese although English is also an official language and is spoken by 88% of the population. Italian was also once an official language of Malta, and as Italy is Malta’s closest neighbour, 66% of Maltese people can speak Italian and 8% of people use it as their first language.
Malta’s Fascinating History
Malta has one of the most fascinating histories. It is a territory that has changed hands several times, has a strong military history, and has a rich religious culture from the Knights of the Order of St John. It has been under Roman Rule, was part of the Ottoman Empire, has been occupied by the French, and was part of the British Empire until 1964. Most recently, Malta officially became part of the European Union in 2004.
Most citizens of Malta observe the Roman Catholic religion. There are several important religious holidays in the Maltese Diary including the Feast of the Shipwreck of St Paul. It is estimated that there are 365 churches around the Maltese Islands and 4 cathedrals. The churches are generally beautiful works of art decorated with ornate relics. Christmas is a very important time for Malta too and it is celebrated heavily.
So, with so much going on in Malta and its three islands, where could you stay? Valletta is without doubt the best place to stop over as it’s where there is most happening and it’s most easy to travel to and from. There are some beautiful hotels in Malta, and as a former family residence, the beautiful Casa Ellul Palazzo has been sensitively refurbished to link the old and the new together in stunning boutique suites featuring baroque architecture and luxury modern finishes.