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Blessed with over 300 days of sunshine a year and beautifully clear waters, the Malta archipelago is a sun-seekers' paradise in the southern Med. Look beneath the sun-drenched surface and you’ll discover a rich 7,000-year history that’s given Malta a wealth of globally important historic sites.
It blends dramatic scenery with sandy beaches and unrivalled historical sites – then adds vibrant nightlife, some of the best diving sites in the region and a growing food scene that mixes Italian and Arabic flavours. Once seen as the go-to destination for retired Brits, Malta has shaken this tired image to become a favourite with in-the-know Med fans and cultured city breakers.
Capital city Valletta was European Capital of Culture in 2018, and has reinvented itself as a cosmopolitan city break destination with sleek bars, glitzy boutiques and upmarket restaurants.
Its compact centre packs in a host of historical sites and is easily walkable. And if it all looks oddly familiar, you're probably a Game of Thrones fan – Valletta's medieval, fantastical appearance made it one of several Maltese locations used in the series.
When you stroll around the Old Town you'll frequently find yourself looking down on The Grand Harbour, a natural bay that is at the heart of Malta’s maritime history. Taking a trip across it in a colourful wooden boat to the largely unvisited Three Cities district is a quintessentially Maltese experience, and will give you an insight into local life.
Just north of Valletta you’ll find the lively districts of Sliema and St Julian’s. Choose Sliema for an affluent local vibe, and St Julian's for a winning mix of laid-back waterfront life and big nights out – the town's Paceville district is famous for bars, nightclubs and casinos.
Need a change of pace? Explore Malta’s interior to discover some of the oldest stone buildings in the world. Built between 3600BC and 2500BC, these prehistoric temples are sites of global importance – they are much older than the standing stones of Stonehenge. Mnajdra and Hagar Qim are two of the most popular temples.
So far, so grown up – but there’s plenty for kids in Malta too, from crowd-pleasing water parks to the quirky charms of Popeye Village (aka Sweethaven Village). The latter was built for the 1980 Walt Disney production of Popeye and has been converted into a small amusement park.
Away from the organised attractions, there are 12 blue flag beaches. The popular Golden Bay is worth a visit, and is the base for several daily boat trips – including one to a little-known swimming grotto that visitors often have to themselves. It’s also one of the best beaches for sunsets, so grab a drink and soak up the last rays. Ghadira Bay, Malta's longest beach, is ideal family territory, with shallow water and masses of activities on offer. Fancy heading off the beaten track? Try Peter’s Pool, a rocky swimming spot tucked away on the Delimara Peninsula in southeastern Malta.
Take the short ferry ride to Gozo and in just 30 minutes you’ll be surrounded by beautiful beaches, limestone cliffs and quaint little villages that feel a world away from the glitz of Malta. Capital city Victoria is a convenient base if you’ll be travelling by bus, and the grounds of the recently renovated Citadel offer breathtaking views over the rest of the island. For a more comprehensive tour, hire an electric bike from Victoria (and we do recommend an electric one – Gozo is hilly).
It's also easier to visit the tiny island of Comino from Gozo than it is from Malta, so arrange a boat trip and spend a morning exploring the Blue Lagoon, celebrated for its shallow, turquoise water. Kayak tours are a fantastic way to see it.
We recommend April, May or June, when the days are warm and sunny and the crowds are fewer. In April you can expect temperatures of about 20°C, and by late June the mercury can be hitting 30. The sea will also be warming up at this time of the year, although you won’t catch many locals at the beach yet. Easter sees the island come alive with religious processions and celebrations, so is a great excuse for a long weekend away.
Peak season begins in July and ends in the middle of September. Temperatures at this time of year can get very hot and accommodation is at a premium.
Exploring the archipelago’s rich history can be done any time of year. There isn’t really an autumn in Malta – the weather tends to change from summer to winter in a matter of weeks, but even the winter can be pleasant. Sunshine is not guaranteed and you might get rain, but it’s a great chance to pick up some cheap deals and see the islands at their quietest.
A huge celebration of masked dancers, multi-coloured floats and outrageous fancy-dress, Malta’s carnival is one of the island’s biggest and boldest parties. For the wildest, head to capital Valletta.
Malta’s culture remains deeply rooted in religious tradition and there’s no better way to witness this than Holy Week, a series of processions, services and respectful celebrations. Takes places all across Malta.
Malta’s compact size makes it easy to get around whether you hire a car or choose to take public transport.
Malta International Airport is the only airport serving the Maltese islands and is located roughly 6 miles southwest of the capital of Valletta in the town of Luqa. From the airport you can get a taxi to all major destinations on the island. The airport is also served by four express bus lines: X1, X2, X3 and X4. These buses are fully air-conditioned and have space for luggage.
If you plan to use buses, it’s best to base yourself in Valletta, Naxxar, Sliema or St Julian's. Most bus routes originate at Valletta bus station, and times vary from every 10 minutes to hourly. You can buy single tickets as you board the bus that will cost you just a few euros during peak season and even less the rest of the year. For the best value for money, buy blocks of tickets or seven-day passes in advance from ticket offices or Agenda bookshop outlets. You'll be able to use them on buses on both Malta and Gozo.
If a visit to Gozo is on your agenda, the ferry is fast and efficient, taking just 30 minutes. It goes every 45 minutes all year round and costs just a few euros. You can take a car on the ferry too, but that'll cost you several times more.
Even though the public transport in Malta is well organised, hiring a car is easy and cheap and will allow to explore at your leisure. See our Malta car hire page to find the best current deals.
Maltese and English are the official languages of Malta; you’ll find the latter widely spoken across the islands.
Thinking about renting a car? In Malta, they drive on the left. Just like home!
The archipelago is predominantly Roman Catholic and has 359 churches. When visiting a holy site, make sure you are dressed respectfully.