All you need to know about visiting beautiful Malta, Gozo and Comino

All you need to know about visiting beautiful Malta, Gozo and Comino

I first visited Malta in summer 2002. I had been looking for somewhere to take my -then 6 year old- daughter on holiday. It had to be safe, child-friendly, have more than just beaches to see, and it needed to be hot!!! Malta with the smaller islands of Gozo and Comino fitted the bill perfectly. And there began my love affair with Malta!

Thinking of visiting Malta Gozo and Comino? Keep reading my guide for all the information you will need to help you plan your trip and get the most out of your time on these beautiful Mediterranean Islands.

Malta the Azure window- a guide to visiting Malta

The Azure window on Gozo (pre Game of Thrones!) Tragically the arch collapsed during a storm in 2017.

Since that initial visit in 2002 I have since returned a further 4 times. I have stayed in the south – in the small fishing village of Marsaskala, and in the north – in the resort of Qawra and for the past 3 visits in Mellieha Bay.

So…what is it about Malta that keeps me (and now my husband) returning?


THE ISLANDS


  1. They are easily accessible from the UK with flights roughly taking 3 hours (the islands are in the middle of the Mediterranean)
  2. The cost of living is cheaper than the UK and this makes food/drink etc affordable (we have stayed half board as well as self-catering).
  3. Weather – the weather is hot…very hot in summer (the average temperature is 27 degrees in July and August) so make sure you take a hat and a lot of sun screen.
  4. It is generally easy to get about the island – I have never hired a car but rather used public transport (more about that later) though if you wanted to drive it is on the left hand side which makes it easier for us Brits!
  5. There is lots to see and do and exploring the islands is always fun (Valletta, Mdina, Victoria and the Blue Lagoon are in my book must-sees)
  6. The Maltese (and Gozitans)are, in our experience, friendly people. Most people speak English (the official languages are English and Maltese).

Planning a trip to Malta? Read – “A 3 day itinerary for Malta”

Malta


WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY?


  1. The North –  Malta’s resort areas are found in the north of the island –  Qawra (pronounced ‘our ra’)and Bugibba and St Paul’s Bay (3 adjoining villages) as well as Mellieha. There is a lovely promenade along the front with views of the bay – with plenty of cafes to stop off for a drink. Mellieha Bay has a sandy beach (it gets a bit crowded for us) and  is a little more hilly than its neighbours but it is where we have stayed on our recent trips (access to Comino one of our main reasons) – it is also a quieter town compared to its neighbours.  Sliema and St Julien’s Bay are Malta’s main resorts and have plenty of shopping and cafe’s -Paceville (an area in St Julien’s) is known for its nightlife.
  2. The South – this is a quieter part of the island though we stayed in Marsaskala on our first visit to the island. The south is characterised by fishing villages and is more rural than the resort areas. We enjoyed our holiday here and as it is so quiet we did feel we had more of an insight into Maltese life (every night after dinner we walked from the hotel around the harbour for my daughter to play in the playground – it is too hot in the day- and she made lots of friends among the Maltese children).

Map of malta

Mellieha Bay visiting Malta Gozo and Comino

 The church in Mellieha


WHAT TO SEE


  1. Valletta

    The baroque city of Valletta – a UNESCO World heritage site – is a must visit. It has the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean – I would recommend a boat trip around the harbour to fully appreciate the size and beauty. The city itself is organised on a grid system with streets filled with statues, churches, fountains and cafes. It is rather hilly and many streets dip steeply towards the harbour (many have steps which make it easier when walking around). The main terminus for the bus system is just outside the city gate which makes Valletta easy to get to. There are also beautiful gardens to walk around and on a hot day the shade can be very welcome. When you get down to the harbour the views are stunning – often in the summer you can see the boats of the rich and famous around the island as well as huge cruise liners which stop at the port.

2. Comino – Blue Lagoon I love swimming in the Blue Lagoon and the Crystal Lagoon. The water is warm, crystal clear and clean. We were very lucky on our first visit to Mellieha to read about a company called English Rose Cruises which takes trips to the island of Comino every Monday to Saturday (not Wednesdays) in the summer. But more about that later! It can get packed on the island in the summer and getting to the beach (its pretty small) is not easy so being able to jump off a boat straight into the sea is fantastic. Comino only has one hotel and 4 residents as well as a policeman and a priest. Its a great island for swimming and diving and there are always lots of private boats moored in the area – when I make my first million I plan to buy a boat and spend a summer moored around this island!

3. Gozo. Gozo is a greener, lusher island than the more arid Malta. It is worth a visit! It takes 20 odd minutes to reach by ferry from the ferry port of Cirkewwa in Malta to Mgarr on Gozo. The capital city of Gozo is Victoria (also known as Rabat) – you can’t miss it really as it is on a hill near the centre of the island and so the citadel dominates the horizon! From there the views of the island are amazing (look at that beautiful blue sky!!) There is a market and shops to browse (I bought some prickly pear jam the last time we were there)You can catch a bus from Mgarr to Victoria and bus tickets purchased in Malta are also valid in Gozo.  Gozo was also home to the Azure window (as seen on game of Thrones) a natural limestone arch which sadly collapsed in 2017.

Read – 8 things to do on the island of Gozo

4. Mdina (with the town of  Rabat beyond it’s walls) is the walled medieval (previously capital) of Malta. It features a mix of medieval and baroque architecture.  Mdina is on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites and should be on your list to visit. It is full of narrow cobbled streets and is very pretty.

5. Mosta with it’s Rotunda (Church) is worth a visit particularly if you are in Malta on the 15th August – the Feast of the Assumption. It is a public holiday on that day and it is also Mosta’s festa day and the town is beautifully decorated and the citizens celebrate with fireworks after the statue of the Virgin Mary is removed from the Church and paraded through the streets. The Rotunda is a beautiful church and has the 3rd largest unsupported dome in the world.


HOW TO GET AROUND THE ISLAND


  •  Car Hire? Or by bus?

You can hire a car. However we never have as we have found the public transport system to be very good. The first time I went to Malta we travelled everywhere on the lovely bright yellow buses driven sometimes a little crazily by their owners. On one trip the driver sat in a string vest smoking a cigarette and texting whilst bombing around the roads of southern Malta!! That was an experience!! In 2011 the buses system was taken over by Arriva  – these buses whilst more comfortable (air conditioned) were in my opinion rather large for the Maltese roads and bends and didn’t have the personality of the original Malta buses.

In 2014 the bus system was taken over by the Maltese government and is now called Malta Public Transport: public transport in Malta.  A single price journey costs 2 Euros in summer (this lasts 2 hours but can’t be used as a return)and 3 Euros if using the night bus service. An explore card is available which costs 21 Euros for adults and 15 Euros for children. Once validated on the bus it can be used for 7 days for unlimited travel on day and night buses on both Malta and Gozo.

If you want to catch the ferry to Gozo the cost is 4.65 Euros – see Gozo Channel  There are sightseeing buses on the islands but we found public transport far better and cheaper – we tried the tour buses but found them not regular enough and ended up stranded in Mosta as the buses going to Mellieha were no longer running (we caught a local bus service in the end). They may however have improved since as that was summer 2014.

Malta


WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK


The Italian influence can be found on Malta as pasta and pizza are common. Maltese dishes include lampuki (fish pie), rabbit stew and pastizzi (savoury ricotta filled pastries). There are also olives and capers and tomatoes – we had a lovely meal in Victoria of just that – with local cheeses and bread. Seafood is also found in abundance much to my daughters delight!

Seafood

visiting Malta Gozo and Comino and enjoying the wonderful seafood!

Cisk is the local beer and Kinnie a soft drink made of bitter oranges can be found everywhere. There are also prickly pears!! I LOVE prickly pears so always buy loads when we are there. There is also a liqueur made from prickly pears called Bajtra which I am quite partial too! Nougat is also something you will find for sale in shops and markets.

local dish in Gozo - visiting beautiful Malta Gozo and Comino

  • Don’t miss the festas! The main religion of Malta is Catholicism. There are over 360 churches and chapels on Malta alone as well as lots of shrines (which you will see by roadsides/ in the rock)Every village has a feast day (which honours their parish patron saint) and these begin at the end of May into September – the town or village is decorated and they celebrate. Fast food is available and the last evening ends with a firework display (the festas generally lasts for 3 days). I love going to the festas as they are great fun and everyone is out enjoying themselves – the evening is warm and the atmosphere is family friendly with a great community feeling. Not to be missed! For a list of festas dates see Visit Malta
  • World Heritage Sites: As well as the city of Valletta Malta and Gozo are home to a further 2 World Heritage sites:   the Magalithic Temples (there are 7 on Malta and Gozo)with the Ggantija on Gozo being the oldest freestanding monuments in the world and the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni a prehistoric underground temple and necropolis found in Paola on Malta.

PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS WHEN VISITING MALTA GOZO AND COMINO


  • If you are planning to go to Comino I highly recommend English Rose Cruises. On our first trip to Mellieha we decided to have a day in Comino and wow what a day it was! It ended up being the highlight of our holiday and now we specifically stay in Mellieha so we can go out on the boat with Sandro – the owner of English Rose Cruises.

Why do I so highly recommend him? His boat is smaller than those of the larger companies – he expertly manoeuvres it into coves and caves other boats wouldn’t get into. Its not overcrowded… you can dive off the boat into the sea and climb back in when you want. He includes the Crystal Lagoon on your day out which is amazing for swimming and less crowded than the blue lagoon. The cost – it costs 13 Euros for the day!! Refreshments are available to buy on the boat – sandwiches, drinks and ice-creams all at a very reasonable price. He also has every Wednesday night a BBQ evening on Comino – you have the blue lagoon just about to yourselves. Food, drink, music and a really good night is all included in 19 Euro cost. We love it and I book it as soon as I book the holiday as it is so popular. you can find English Rose Cruises on Facebook as well as at on their website.

2. Debbie’s café in Mellieha. For amazing sandwiches and the world’s best nutella milkshake you have to make a visit to Debbie’s café but not on a Monday as it is shut! Fantastic breakfast, afternoon teas and cakes are the order of the day at very reasonable prices.


 Visiting Malta Gozo and Comino – A Mini Fact File

Size – 316 square km

Population – 421,000

Capital – Malta: Valletta, Gozo: Victoria

Languages – English/Maltese

Time – GMT 1

Religion – mainly Catholic

Currency – Euro


UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE(S)


UNESCO

The Maltese Islands have three sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

These are the City of Valletta, the Megalithic Temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum.


PIN FOR LATER – A GUIDE TO VISITING MALTA GOZO AND COMINO


malta-gozo-and-comino

MALTA GOZO AND COMINO

MALTA AND COMINO AND GOZO

Have you been to Malta or it is somewhere you are considering visiting? I hope you enjoyed my guide to visiting Malta Gozo and Comino

Read more guides to destinations in Europe

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Germany

Czech Republic

Italy 

Denmark

Switzerland

Norway

Bosnia Herzegovina

Montenegro

Spain

Slovenia

Top 20 amazing destinations to visit in Europe Part 1 and Part 2

32 Comments

  1. Lindyloo
    July 4, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    Great blog – inspired us to book trip to Malta – thanks

    • July 5, 2016 / 6:04 pm

      Brilliant! Thanks for the feedback. I guarantee you will love Malta – it is without doubt one of my favourite places to visit anywhere.

  2. March 24, 2017 / 9:18 pm

    Malta has so much to offer. I really want to try and get there before we return to Australia. Apart from all the natural beauty, culture and food the people are amazing, We have lots of Maltese people in Australia – so friendly. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
    Katy Clarke recently posted…Faraway Files #23My Profile

    • March 26, 2017 / 7:58 pm

      It is a beautiful island – we dream of retiring there!

  3. March 27, 2017 / 11:54 pm

    Malta looks absolutely stunning and is somewhere that has escaped my radar for some reason. I have read a few posts about it now and I’ve been convinced it’s somewhere I’ve got to visit! Love your photos! Thanks for sharing

    • March 28, 2017 / 3:02 pm

      Thank-you! Yes I would definitely recommend it to visit!

  4. March 30, 2017 / 5:52 am

    I had been thinking about Malta for some time and now I have read this post, it’s a definite must! I have pinned for later use, thanks Tracy!

  5. March 31, 2017 / 5:14 am

    I haven’t been to Malta but in my quest to visit every country in the world must go at some point. I’m from the UK too so will get a cheap flight from Leeds. Thanks for the tip about local transport being good enough to see the sites, I’ll do that. Some beautiful photos in here too.
    Only By Land recently posted…Skógafoss to SeljalandsfossMy Profile

    • March 31, 2017 / 7:22 pm

      Thanks – It is definitely worth a visit!

  6. March 31, 2017 / 5:50 am

    Malta and Gozo are places I have been interested in for a while now. Sy has been to Malta and I know someone who used to own a place in Gozo so it sparked my interest (plus, I believe some of Game of Thrones was filmed here!). It looks like a stunning place to visit, and it’s definitely for me if it’s hot! Thank you for providing all this useful information for when I do visit, pinned for future reference! #feetdotravel

  7. April 2, 2017 / 11:06 am

    Love how there is always this one place you always go back to and know if you make a lot of money, this would be your to go place. Spain does that to me and I would love to buy a villa there. My partner went to Malta and he loved it there, I still havent made it yet, but hoping to soon! Love your recommendations in the end too!
    Kreete recently posted…TOP 5 Things To Do On Magnetic Island, QLDMy Profile

    • April 2, 2017 / 3:22 pm

      Thanks Kreete – we love Malta and it was our intended retirement destination until 52% of the British Population decided to vote for Brexit…I am still totally devastated by that. We love the islands – a good place for us!

  8. Vivien and Charles.
    April 14, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    Thank you for opening our eyes to Malta. We have often thought about it but have never been sure. You have convinced us! It looks amazing. Thanks for all the helpful tips and information.

    • April 14, 2017 / 8:19 pm

      Thank-you for reading the post – we adore Malta and have always enjoyed our visits.

  9. June 27, 2017 / 1:04 pm

    Malta is where we want to go next for a beach holiday, so I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for all your recommendations, have pinned this for future reference. Great photos too! looks stunning.
    Garth recently posted…AngkorMy Profile

  10. June 28, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    Thanks for this guide! We’ve just booked tickets there and weren’t sure exactly how we were going to fill our days. Looks like there is plenty to do 🙂 Personally I’m looking forward to the blue lagoon the most I think! Your photos of it look amazing!

    • June 30, 2017 / 8:45 pm

      Thanks Michael I am sure you will have an amazing time!

  11. May 30, 2018 / 8:23 pm

    Thank you so much for this Tracy, we’ve just booked our Comino Blue and Crystal Lagoon trip with Sandro – bloggers make the best recommendations!

    • TracyJane
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 7:15 am

      Have a wonderful time and say hi from me!

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