Malta: A guide to the Maltese Islands
The Maltese Islands have been a popular destination amongst different groups of tourists for many years. Many visit the Maltese Islands during the summer to study English, others come to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea and the hot summers with their families as well as to explore the history of the islands. It is practically sunshine all year round, although the summer season is the most popular for tourism. The Maltese Islands as a country lays between Sicily and the North African coast, which makes it easily accessible from Europe and Africa.
All photography in this article belongs to Alex Turnbull.
The Maltese Islands: Malta
With recent changes, tourism is not the only industry that has been growing in Malta. Investment programmes such as that of the low tax, as well as the investor citizenship programme have paved a path for many investors and businessmen from all over the world and from all sectors of business. The industry of betting and igaming gave the country a great influx of not only tourists but also many others who have emigrated to the island due to the industry which is banned, for obvious reasons, in many other countries. This has also allowed exponential growth in other sectors such as real estate. Cryptocurrency is also an industry that is currently beginning to flourish in the country.
Malta has changed a great deal over the past 6 years, however, some things have remained the same. One of such things is the history the country holds, some of which is yet to be explored fully, such as the megalithic structures which are found on the Maltese Islands, as well as other UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Valletta, the capital city, as well as Mdina, the old capital city of Malta, are must-sees in Malta. The sister island Gozo has a stunning Cittadella in its capital, Victoria, as well as the majestic Ta’ Pinu church, which some refer to as the church of Miracles. Comino, the third and smallest island is known for its astonishingly crystal-clear blue lagoon which makes you feel like you have entered some other land altogether. Basically, the country may be pretty small, but it still has something different to offer to every visitor.
Castle overlooking Mellieha
Something distinct about Malta that many tourists notice, is the number of churches that can be seen from a roof. In Malta there 359 churches (313 in Malta and 46 in Gozo). Malta is a roman catholic country and every town or village has 1 main church as well as an additional church or chapel. You can probably spot a minimum of 2 churches per town. Another feature that is noticed is the number of towers you can find around the island, mainly on the coastline. These are the coastal watchtowers that formed part of the island’s fortifications.
The warm sun rays reflecting on the limestone found near the beautiful shades of the blue Mediterranean Sea is probably the first and most popular image that comes to mind to anyone who has visited Malta.
Malta being an island, almost the entire coast is filled with beaches. You can find out more about the sandy, rocky and pebble beaches in the Nature Sites article. One thing you need to be aware of is to keep an eye out for any warning signs and to take them seriously. Weather conditions can change pretty fast so if there is some kind of warning make sure to be safe and avoid getting into any danger.
Ghajn Tuffieha bay
The majority of beaches do not allow dogs, however, the following are dog friendly: Tigne Point in Sliema, Sliema near the old Chalet, Bahar ic-Caghaq behind the Splash and Fun park, Marsaxlokk at Il-Maghluq, Marsaxlokk at Xatt is-Sajjieda, Marsalforn in the Ta’ Xwejni area, Il-Bajja ta’ l-Imgiebah in Selmun, Torri l-Abjad in Mellieha, Dahlet ix-Xmajjar at l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha, L-Ahrax near the camping site, Zonqor Point in Marsascala, Torri l-Abjad and the bays around the boathouses, Rinella in Kalkara and Zebbug bay in Gozo.
Another thing to keep in mind is the jellyfish. When currents change, they tend to bring along the jellyfish, so it does happen that there are a few days during summer when there may be a lot of jellyfish in the water. In case you do get stung, rinsing the area with vinegar can ease the sting. In areas where there are rocks, also watch out for sea urchins. They are very easy to see as they are a very dark colour and look like a black ball from the surface. In case you do end up stepping or having your skin come into contact with a sea urchin’s spines you may notice a black dot. The spine will leave that black dot that needs to be removed and then vinegar needs to be applied in the area. The vinegar will help dissolve the spine.
St. Paul’s Islands
Although not seen as often as before, you can still get the chance to see the Maltese luzzu when walking on the seafront. The luzzu is a traditional fishing boat that was used and still is, by some of the fishermen. The luzzus have existed since ancient times and the term itself comes from the Italian word guzzo, which is a common fishing vessel in Italy and Sicily. However, it is believed to have dated back to the Phoenicians. The luzzus are coloured in bright and vibrant colours, mostly using shades of blue, yellow, red, and green and commonly, a pair of eyes are drawn on the front of the boat. The eyes are an indicator that the origin of the boat came from the Phoenician times as it was an ancient custom of theirs, as well as being a custom for the ancient Greeks and ancient Egyptians, often referred to as the Eye of Horus or Eye of Osiris. Fishermen used to paint them as they believed the eyes would protect the fishermen at sea.
Getting around the Maltese Islands is pretty easy, as it is not that big. Many like to walk along the coast, but if there is somewhere specific that they need to get to, then they use public transportation. Time-wise it may not be the most punctual, so if anyone needs to get somewhere at a specific time, then they rely on taxi services. The most common and easiest mode of transportation is driving yourself, however, keep in mind that in Malta drivers drive on the right side and as of recently, traffic has gotten hectic on the island and so has the search for parking. Some cities even allow you to travel to other cities by water taxis, which are my favourite form of transportation. This is available during certain seasons from Sliema to Valletta and Valletta to Vittoriosa.
Malta is known for its nightlife, mainly amongst teens as the drinking age is 16. In summer the island has multiple events going on all across the island. From the traditional religious town festivals to parties organized by local event organizing companies well known on the island to large festivals like the Isle of MTV, which brings artists known all around the world to perform on the outdoor stage in Floriana to a crowd, free of charge. The island is literally buzzing with festivities. Apart from the partying scene, although on a smaller scale, live performances such as live music in lounges and bars as well as theatrical performances and art exhibitions are also growing on the island.
When it comes to traditional Maltese food, you can taste the Mediterranean flavours that are used across the Mediterranean, as well as a touch of something else. The use of tomatoes, garlic, and white wine is a base for most dishes but not always. The Maltese Islands have a history filled which many different nations being on its shores one time or another. Each of these has left a little something which has been added into the local cuisine.
The dish Malta is well known for is the Maltese rabbit. When it comes to the recipe, every household has its own way of cooking it, but the style you may come across the most is a rabbit with garlic and wine.
If you want to try something a little lighter then the traditional snack would be Pastizzi. It comes in two flavours of ricotta or peas. It is a small pastry made from puff pastry with ricotta cheese or mashed peas found inside.
Another item that one simply must taste is the traditional Maltese bread. Although many may say bread is bread, the freshly baked loaf of crispy Maltese bread leaves an impression on any visitor. It is eaten differently according to the individual. Some just eat it on its own, others like to put butter which instantly melts on the freshly baked piece, whilst others eat it the Mediterranean style, with a dash of olive oil and vinegar.
Another bread snack is the Hobz Biz Zejt. The bread that is used is called a Ftira which has a crusty outside and it is soft on the inside which is filled with a filling made of tomatoe paste, known as kunserva, capers, olives, chopped garlic, chopped onions, parsley, salt, pepper, tinned tuna, and extra virgin olive oil.
Here are some dishes which you can enjoy on the Maltese Islands:
- Gbejna (singular) Gbejniet (plural): Maltese cheese from sheep’s milk. There is also a variety of gbejniet, from the very young cheese which is white to the yellow coloured which is mature, as well as the most popular one which is covered in black pepper.
- Galletti: Maltese biscuits usually used together with appetizers.
- Zebbug Mimli: green olives, pips removed and replaced with a tuna mix.
- Bigilla: Beans mashed together with garlic and olive oil to make a dip.
- Fazola bajda bit-tewn u t-tursin: Whole white beans with garlic, olive oil, and parsley.
- Bebbux: Snails. The recipes also vary, but the most common include; garlic, olive oil, and black olives.
- Brodu: A chicken or beef broth.
- Kusksu: A vegetable soup with small pasta beads.
- Aljotta: A fish soup with herbs, garlic and tomatoes.
- Minestra: A vegetable soup.
- Kawlata: A vegetable soup with cabbage and pork.
- Ross il-forn: Baked rice.
- Imqarrun: Baked macaroni with a Bolognese styled sauce, minced meat and egg.
- Timpana: Baked macaroni with tomato sauce and a little of minced meat or corned beef.
- Froga tat-tarja: A fried omelet with vermicelli pasta.
- Stuffat tal-fenek: A rabbit stew.
- Fenek Moqli: A fried rabbit dish.
- Mazzit: Maltese blood sausage.
- Zalzett tal-Malti: Maltese traditional pork sausage made with coriander seeds, parsley, black peppercorns, and sea salt.
- Bragjoli: Stuffed beef rolls with a stuffing made of bacon, garlic, carrots, onions, and bread.
- Laham fuq il-fwar: Steamed beef slices.
- Laham taz-ziemel: Stallion meat.
- Falda Mimlija: Stuffed flank of pork.
- Pixxispad: Fried swordfish.
- Lampuki pie: A dorado fish pie.
- Stuffat tal-qarni: A octopus stew.
- Qarnit bit-tewm: Octopus with garlic.
- Klamari Mimlija: Stuffed calamari.
- Torta tal-irkotta: A ricotta pie.
- Qassatat: A shortcrust pastry with filling made of ricotta, spinach or pea or tuna.
- Figolla: An Easter icing-covered biscuit with ground almond filling.
- Qaghaq tal-hmira: A soft bun with aniseed.
- Imqaret: Deep fried pastry with a date filling.
Although Malta isn’t too big as a country, there is a range of activities you can enjoy. Malta is also well known for its photographic features which resulted in many travel photographers and underwater photographers coming to the island and capturing its beauty.
Activities and adventures on the Maltese islands
Here is a list of some of the activities which are available on the Maltese Islands for those who are looking for some adventure on their trip:
- Rock climbing
- Scuba diving
- Jet Skis
- Rent a boat: You can rent a boat to either explore the island from a different perspective, as well as to go fishing out in the open waters. You can contact David Micallef (+356 9999 3341) should you wish to arrange an exclusive fishing trip.
- Laser tag
- Bungee cars
Places to visit with the whole family
There are several places that can be enjoyed by families on the Maltese Island:
- Wildlife Park
- Petting Zoo
- Bird park
- Horse riding
- Mediterraneo marine park
- Mdina Glass
- Buskett gardens
- San Anton gardens
- Chinese garden
- Popeye’s village and Anchor bay