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 what to do in Malta and Gozo and get the most out of your time on these beautiful Mediterranean Islands.
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.
THE ISLANDS OF MALTA AND GOZO
- They are easily accessible from the UK with flights roughly taking 3 hours (the islands are in the middle of the Mediterranean)
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!
- 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)
- 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”
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY ON MALTA?
- 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.
- 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).
The church in Mellieha
WHAT TO DO IN MALTA AND GOZO
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. I
Comino is 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. Also make sure you include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ggantija Temples in your itinerary.
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 ISLANDS OF MALTA AND GOZO
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.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK ON MALTA AND GOZO
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!
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.
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 ON MALTA AND GOZO
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.
For great lunches and breakfasts I highly recommend 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.
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)
PIN FOR LATER – What to do in Malta and Gozo
Tracy is your expert expat!
She has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)
Through down-to-earth stories, tips and advice (based on her own extensive knowledge and experience of life as an expat) she aims to support new and prospective expats to survive and thrive in Australia.
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.