Summer is the best time of the year for me. In particular, I love the days being long. It always feels great just being outdoors, and it’s not dark until nearing 10pm here in the northwest of England. What’s also great is heading on holiday during the summer—especially in Europe. As we are past the peak of the COVID pandemic, there are so many places for holidaymakers to choose from now that we are all operating as usual. However, are you stuck on where you should head this summer? I had one of the best times exploring Malta last summer, and it was a place I thought I’d spend a few days but ended up spending nearly two weeks. Why was Malta such a spectacular place?
To give us a better perspective on why Malta is remarkable, Annelise, a local whom I met during my stay there and someone that knows the country inside out, gave us an insight into why Malta should be on everyone’s priority list. I asked Annelise why, in her eyes, is Malta a great destination for holidaymakers and what makes the country so unique. “The history of the Maltese Islands is deep and rich, with some of the oldest temples in the world. Culturally, various events are held throughout the year, from Shakespeare in the President’s gardens to the Solstice sunrise celebration choir at the prehistoric temples. The beaches and the sun, though, are what most people come for.”
Valletta, Rabat and Maltese food
One place you are bound to go to when visiting the country is Valletta. Valletta is such a beautiful capital city of Malta, where you can eat and spend a great evening enjoying the nightlife. You can also get a picturesque view of the city from a high landmark. Annelise added, “Valletta is beautiful to explore with many small restaurants and cafes to take a break from the heat or stop in at night. Many venues have live music nights, while if you’re looking for something more lively, the electronic music scene is gaining popularity, with the island hosting some big events and festivals over the summer.”
I would say another city you should head to is Rabat, where there is a beautiful Mdina and scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed. You can try the local fish, which from one of the restaurants I ate in said they catch daily. Plus, get a panoramic view overlooking the island. Maltese food is full of Mediterranean flair and influenced by some exquisite cuisines and is one of Europe’s hidden culinary gems. With salty-fresh seafood, ripe and juicy produce, and some breathtaking fusions, these all feature in this tiny Mediterranean island’s delicious cuisine. There are plenty of dishes I can recommend, but I would say you must try the Lampuki fish, either filleted or as a pie. What goes well with that is Bigilla, which is a Maltese bean paste.
If you want to go even more traditional, you can try the Stuffat tal-Fenek, which is rabbit stew. Stuffat tal-Fenek is a cherished Maltese stew and a much-celebrated national dish of Malta. The traditional Maltese-style rabbit stew was introduced in the same period as the Knights of St. John. Therefore, it has important significance in Malta’s captivating history.
The island of Gozo
If you’re like me and want to go off the beaten track, Malta has some hidden gems you must consider putting on your list. The best places, according to Annelise, are “Santa Maria Bay in Comino, and Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo are my favourite beaches as a local. And there are some beautiful secret spots only accessible by boat. The hypogeum and the temples are ancient, fascinating, and one of a kind.”
The island of Gozo is a place where according to most locals I spoke to, is what mainland Malta used to be like 15 years ago. There are hardly any tourists staying there, and when people visit, it’s only for the day. I believe Gozo deserves at least a few days from my experience. You can visit museums, go hiking, enjoy the waterfront and generally relax. Most visitors (or most tourist) stay in Victoria, but I recommend staying in Marsalforn, in northeast of the island. You get a beautiful sea view, and the area is very serene.
Although summer is a great time to travel, what other times can you visit if you want to avoid the high season? According to Annelise, “My favourite time is spring, around April or May, while it’s still cool enough to be active during the day. It depends entirely on what experience the individual is after, though.” One benefit of visiting during those times will be fewer crowds. What may people gain from their time in Malta? As I’ve mentioned, my trip was meant to be for a few days but ended up being nearly two weeks. The experience of having access to everything in the country and it being easy to get around on public transport surprised me entirely. From the people, food, landmarks and nightlife with the perfect weather to go with it, it’s a destination to behold.
I will leave the final words to Annelise, to sum up. “There’s a big difference in perspective between visiting and living here. I would hope that people come to relax and enjoy their downtime.”