From heavenly beaches caressed by cobalt blue seas to curious archeological and historical sites, Malta offers a host of gorgeous attractions. In just one week, we managed to squeeze in all of the islands’ top sights. Granted, we wouldn’t have seen all we wanted to hadn’t we ditched the buses for a more efficient means of transport—our rental car. But that move was certainly worth our while. Here are Malta’s jaw-dropping attractions that should definitely be on your bucket list.
This spot of paradise lies bang in the middle of the Malta-Gozo channel. By far one of Malta’s most instagrammable spots, the blue lagoon really is stunning with its aquamarine waters contrasting against the dramatic rock backdrops. The lagoon’s sandy bottom can tempt even the most trepid swimmer. Beware though, this beauty spot attracts masses during the peak summer months. So your best bet on finding a spot on the little bit of sand available is to arrive as early in the morning as possible. The lagoon itself is pretty spacious though, so you should be able to feel more comfortable in the water than on land. Are you the more adventurous type? Then use this as an opportunity to leave the crowds behind and explore the numerous caves. You may even be tempted to swim through the cave tunnel that leads from the lagoon to the open sea. Don’t forget to take your snorkel with you! Oh! And how to get here? Catch the ferry boat transfer from Sliema or Ċirkewwa.
Not as blue as the blue lagoon, but equally fascinating is the Grand Harbour, one of the world’s largest natural ports. You can discover its creeks and marinas by going on a harbour cruise that sets off from The Strand at Sliema. Otherwise, you can take most of it in from the famous Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, Malta’s capital. Admire its fortifications and the monstrous ships and cruise liners entering or leaving the port. Quite a sight! If you’re around at the end of April hang around for the Malta International Fireworks Festival.
The Three Cities
Just opposite the Grand harbour lie The Three Cities: Birgu (Vittoriosa), Senglea (Isla), and Bormla (Copiscua). These fortified cities built by the Knights of St John in the 16th century are replete with historical sights and provide visitors an overview of authentic Maltese life. Birgu is the one that deserves most of your attention.
With their imposing sides reaching up some 250 metres above sea level, the Dingle Cliffs are probably the most romantic spot on Malta. Offering unspoilt views over the sea and a countryside feel, lovebirds flock here to watch the sun set and breathe in the fresh sea air.
Just a bit further south from Dingli Cliffs lies the Blue Grotto: a spectacular sight just off the little harbour or sea inlet of Zurrieq. Simply admire its immense, natural archway from a dedicated viewpoint above, or take a boat from the Zurrieq harbour that will take you into the cave to marvel at the phosphorescent waters.
Three Beaches: Golden Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa, Ġnejna Bay
This trio of beaches situated in the northwest of Malta are some of the island’s most photographed spots. Hike around the area, or enjoy the bluish-green waters below the clay slopes that separate Għajn Tuffieħa Bay and Ġnejna Bay. Għajn Tuffieħa is the most unspoilt and probably the least populated during the peak of summer. It’s the steps that do a great job of deterring many bathers. But if you’re up for it, it’s certainly worth the descent and ascent. Take a few moments to enjoy one of Malta’s most striking panoramas before you head down.
Do you want to see the third largest dome in the world? Here it is, in the central town of Mosta, an impressive structure that’s visible from numerous viewpoints in Malta. The inside of the dome—decorated in a beautiful blue, gold, and white colour scheme—is also worth experiencing. But the dome’s fame is not only due to its beauty and immensity. A 200kg bomb fell through it during an air raid in World War II. To the luck of the 300 people attending service that morning, the bomb didn’t explode. Phew! A replica of this menace now stands on display within the church.
Also known as the ‘Silent City’, Malta’s former capital sits majestically on a promontory in the middle of the island. It dominates the skyline with its church domes and thick-walled bastions that house quite a few palaces and Baroque buildings for a city that’s much smaller in size than Valletta. Get all the necessary tourist things done, and walk to the bastions at the edge of town to view half of Malta. Can you spot the Mosta Rotunda we mentioned earlier? Sure you can! Then stick around till evening, when Mdina dons a mysterious aura, a soft glow emanating from the wrought-iron street lamps, infusing the narrow streets’ shadows.
Unfortunately, Popeye’s not here anymore. But the film set for the 1980 musical production starring Robbin Williams is. It’s a pretty cluster of coloured, wooden houses that you can admire from the cliffs above or via a walk around the village. A seaside theme park with a difference.
Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra
Malta and Gozo are home to seven megalithic temples, the oldest free-standing stone structures in the world, all of which have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. But the temples of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra, together with the Hypogeum, Tarxien Temples, and the Ggantija Temples in Gozo, are the most famous and best preserved. These two make a fascinating pair, perched on a cliff overlooking the islet of Filfla to the west of Malta. Dating back to around 3600-3200 BC, the temples are impressive as you can actually walk around their large stones.
The Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum, a 6,000-year-old underground burial chamber, is the only underground prehistoric temple in the world. To see this marvel, you must book a tour that lasts around 45 minutes. Best to think well in advance as it can take two to three weeks to get your entrance ticket.
Close your eyes and picture a fishing village surrounding a bay dotted with colourful boats. Marsaxlokk, in the southeast of Malta, is a must-do. Jostle your way around the Sunday market that’s brimming with all sorts of items—particularly fish, admire the typical ‘luzzu’ boats, or eat at one of the fish restaurants. This is the place where you can get a slice of true Maltese life.
If you manage to make it to the island of Gozo, your priority is the ancient fortified city known as Citadella, the island’s main landmark. Even though this mini city is as old as ever, it looks pretty well-maintained due to a recent major revamp. Simply wander its narrow streets and ditch, and enjoy the breathtaking views over Gozo.