Island Under the Mediterranean Sun
The dark azure water is the first thing you’ll notice as you descend over the island of Malta. The sound of the plane’s landing gear being lowered creates a sense of excitement as you look out the windows to see the stone architecture that glistens gold in the sunlight; which seems appropriate since the Ancient Greeks named the island “Melita” meaning the “honeyed one.”
As you continue to descend you may notice watchtowers on the outer edges of the island, a remnant of the naval history of Malta, who was oftentimes forced to defend itself from invaders since 1500 BC.
Tips for Transportation
Upon arrival at the Malta International Airport, passengers step onto the tarmac from their plane and are escorted into the airport, where bags are collected and passports are validated. Uber or Lyft are not active on the island, leaving visitors with two options for transportation out of the airport: car rental or taxi. Malta’s roads offer a unique test to even the most skilled driver. Besides driving on the opposite side of the road, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, making the task of driving even more difficult for North American travelers.
Hiring a taxi is the best option for getting around the island, which is only 17 miles in length. From the airport, all destinations around the island can be traveled to with a fixed cab price. Tickets are purchased through a representative from the cab company. As you wait in line, the sound of locals interacting with each other in the Maltase language can be heard, which sounds like an aggressive form of Italian.
Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll notice the country’s bus system is an inexpensive and reliable way of navigating around the island. A bus pass can be purchased for daily, weekly, or monthly uses but keep in mind, bus passes can only be purchased from the main bus terminals. On the bus, cash is the only form of payment accepted and bills cannot exceed 20 Euros. I found it best to keep a collection of five or ten dollar bills.
Wandering the Western Coast
One of the most popular areas on the island is the western coast. One west coast city is Mellieha, which offers several local points of interest. There are also numerous beaches in the area. One beach that I loved was in an area outside of Mellieha called Golden Bay. Much like the name, the sand is thick and has a goldish color. This is a great local beach to soak up the culture.
While visiting the west coast of the island you can visit the quaint movie set of the film Popeye, which resembles more of a picturesque Oceanside village than a movie set. Called Popeye’s Village, this attraction was made for today’s Instagrammable moments. While on the west coast, a trip to Comino and Gozo is a requirement. The pristine blue water of the lagoon looks more like what you would expect on a Caribbean destination, the backdrop is provided by the natural beauty of the Mediterranean Ocean. Visitors may access Comino and Gozo on a ferryboat or by booking an all-day excursion, I recommend using Captain Morgan Cruises. Most tour companies offer airport pickups throughout the island.
Explore the Eastern Coast
Head over to the eastern coast where I recommend experiencing the cities of St. Julian’s and Valetta, the capital of Malta. The outdoor cafes are exactly what you would expect from a European city. Cafe Cordina is one of the most well-known restaurants in Valetta. If you enjoy seafood be sure to ask for the catch of the day, which is freshly caught and served for your culinary enjoyment. You will also find a diverse menu with several Mediterranean dishes. While credit cards are accepted throughout the island, I suggest keeping cash on hand. Furthermore, most restaurants include the tip in the total price of the meal. Also during your visit to Valletta, be sure to stop by Saint John’s Co-Cathedral. While it is closed on weekends, it is truly an incredible example of Maltase architecture, its honey-colored limestone shines in the Mediterranean sunlight.
Malta offers so much to see and experience. I recommend booking a hop on/off bus tour through the great company Citysightseeing Malta. These buses offer different routes throughout the island, and the tours are a time efficient way to see the entire island.
Malta is truly an unforgettable experience. After a few days visiting Malta, I can almost guarantee that you’ll want to return year after year to the “Honeyed” Mediterranean country.