Oh Malta! Where to begin with this beautiful gem?! Malta is a tiny island nation in the Mediterranean Sea, positioned between Italy and Tunisia. It hadn’t been on my radar, but when friends relocated there for work, I jumped at the opportunity to visit. Malta is roughly 1/4 the size of Oahu, my home. I know Oahu to be small, and I wondered how much there could possibly be to see and do on an even tinier island? Well. Let’s just say, I underestimated Malta. It’s incredibly gorgeous, with so much to do, and I wished I had devoted more time. Perhaps I got lucky with the weather, but early October seemed the perfect time to go. Not too busy, still warm and sunny, even hot some days. Lovely weather to explore. I was told it can be unbearably hot in the summer.
It’s quite easy to get around Malta with ride shares or buses. But I recommend a rental car if you don’t mind driving on the left. And dealing with parking, which admittedly can be tricky in the cities and towns.
Without further adieu, my top 12 things to do and see in my:
Valletta is THE. COOLEST. CITY. It has southern Italy vibes, which makes sense given the proximity to it’s neighbor. It’s gritty, yet beautiful. The elevated city with sloping streets, provide beautiful views. And this bustling little city is just so vibrant. There are bars and restaurants lining every street and no shortage of places to stop for a drink or a bite. I really enjoyed Kamy Cocktail Bar for artful cocktails and homemade liquors and mixers; Babel Bistro for bites, drinks, and live music; and pizza from Casa Sotto. I could’ve spent a week in Valletta alone and never grown bored. I’d also recommend checking out Lapira Maltese Kitchen, La Bottega, TaNadia, Kaiseki, Kuncett, Wild Honey, Yard 32 Gin and Tapas Bar, Ginscal Agave Bar, Fat City, and Grana; just to name a few.
By the way, I was lucky enough to stay with friends while traveling in Malta, but if I needed to book accommodations, I’d recommend staying in or near Valletta. The Cugó Gran Macina is a five star boutique hotel right across the harbor and looks amazing.
If there’s any place to wander and get lost, it’s Mdina. Malta’s medieval city. I’d spend a full day here, simply wandering the streets, taking pics, shopping, drinking wine, and trying all the food you can handle. I loved the narrow alley-way-like streets. The architecture. Check out St Paul’s Cathedral. My fav discovery was Coogi’s Restaurant. They have an incredible courtyard, but if you can score a seat on their teeny rooftop; do so. The views are incredible and I enjoyed a bottle of Maltese white while basking in the sun. After you leave Coogi’s, find this blue door for cute photo ops.
Marsaxlokk is a teeny fishing village in the south of Malta, filled with colorful boats. Stroll along the waterfront and pop into any number of restaurants or bars to try the fresh seafood or drink wine while taking in the views of the harbor.
While you’re in the Marsaxlokk area, explore the entire Delimara Peninsula including swimming spots, Il Kalanka and my favorite, St Peter’s Pool. There are so many nooks and crannies along the coast, little coastal hikes, and little narrow roads to just drive down and see where they take you!
You can find pastizz (plural pastizzi), a savory pastry, unique to Malta, everywhere, in every city. If you see a food kiosk, simply order at the counter. They’re cheap, delicious, and filling! There are two traditional flavors – ricotta and curried peas. I loved both! The national soda, Kinnie, not so much, but if you like bitter, it might be your jam!
The Blue Grotto refers to a number of sea caverns and caves along the southern coast of Malta, and is an absolute must-see. Take a boat tour to see the caves and the stunning water up close- the views from land aren’t nearly as good. When I was there in October, it was easy (and affordable) to walk up and buy a ticket for a group tour; I’m not sure if other times of year are busier. The wooden boat was simple and comfortable with maybe a dozen other people. We got up close to all the cliffs and drove into caves, so there wasn’t a bad seat.
After the Blue Grotto, head to Ghar Lapsi, just a mile away. Ghar Lapsi is a small bay with crystal clear water and rocks and cliffs, a great place to sunbathe, snorkel, cliff jump or swim! It’s a very popular spot amongst the locals, so expect it to be busy.
As you continue to head up the coast from the Blue Grotto to Ghar Lapsi, the Dingli Cliffs are the next site. Definitely worth exploring the dramatic cliffs and sea views.
If you’re looking for a sandy beach on Malta, Golden Bay is one of your best bets! I’m spoiled living in Hawaii, so I found this beach to be mediocre. But if you want a traditional swimming beach with sand, they’re few and far between on Malta as most of the coast is rocky, so this is a good spot. It’s a fun beach to chill and have some drinks with friends, as it’s quite crowded and has a lively, party vibe. Lots of locals hang here. If you’re feeling ambitious, there’s a nice little hike up the cliffs on the left side of the beach to get a view of the bay.
Right beyond Golden Bay, is Ghajn Tuffieha. I didn’t make it there, but it seems like it might be less crowded than Golden Bay and another sandy beach option.
I stayed in Mosta, where my friends live, and the Rotunda is the centerpiece of the city, definitely worth a visit. There are lots of great restaurants in the plaza surrounding the Rotunda, and great little kiosks to try pastizz.
If you want to explore the north side of the island, the salt pans are a great spot to check out and the coastal roads in this region are so scenic!
I only had time for a day trip to Gozo, but the second I arrived I wish I had more time. Tiny as it may be; even smaller than Malta, Gozo has a lot to explore and I didn’t even make it over to Comino and the famous snorkel spot, the Blue Lagoon. Getting a ferry to Gozo is easy. You can buy tickets and board (with your rental car) at the Cirkewwa Passenger Terminal on the north side of the island. I didn’t buy tickets in advance and was able to secure a spot on the next departure for myself and my car . The ferry ride was quick.
Once we docked on Gozo, my first destination was the Citadella. There was parking available for a small fee at the gates outside. I explored the ancient alleyways and gawked at the amazing views of the island from the citadel walls. After that, I found public parking (again cheap, and relatively easy!) for my car right in the town of Victoria and set out on foot for a place to eat. I’m sure there are many amazing spots, but I settled on Grapes Wine Bar, as I loved the location in St George’s Square. I didn’t do any research or read any reivews, just walked by, and it turned out to be a great spot to eat local mussels, drink Maltese wine, and people watch. The area around St George’s was perfect for wandering aimlessly and I even did a little shopping.
Then it was off to explore the countryside and coastline. With minimal time, I had my sights set on Wied al Gharsi. It was admittedly tricky to get to, and at times I wasn’t sure my micro car was going to make it on the bumpy gravel roads, but I found it, and it was worth the effort and short hike! After finding Wied al Gharsi, I continued to explore that area and walk out along the coast for views of the sea and area salt pans.
I had really hoped to visit other spots in Gozo including the Blue Hole, but I simply ran out of time and daylight hours.
Once it got dark, I headed back into Victoria to explore the bar scene and have dinner at Il Panzier before catching the last ferry back to Malta.
There you have it, my Malta Travel Guide! Being a traveling photographer, I’m constantly trying to bridge the gap between light and easy gear, as my favorite cameras and lenses tend to be heavy and cumbersome. Honestly, sometimes I travel with only my phone for the ease and portability. For this trip, I got a new Contax G1 35mm camera and I had so much fun playing around with it. All of the images above are 35mm film of various stocks. I tested out some non-professional films for a different look.
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