Malta is an independent country island, settled in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coast of Sicily and truly encompasses a Mediterranean paradise dream.
The small country consists of 3 different islands, 2 of which are inhabited. Historians believe that the island’s been called home for people since 5200 B.C. and, while vacationing here, you’ll feel as if you’re in the tropical New Stone Age era with crisp Sea air and stonewashed buildings.
We had such a memorable trip here and it was the first time I’ve visited a place that I felt like I could stay forever (other than Greece).
Getting to Malta:
We flew with the European budget airline RyanAir into Malta International Airport in Valletta, departing from Frankfurt-Hahn. We left on a Sunday and returned home on Wednesday, all for $150.
We rented a car through EuropCar, which I am so glad we did! It allowed us to travel around the island on our own and not have to be dependent upon the buses. We had read stories online about people using the public transportation here but since the island is so small for the amount of vehicles on the road, the bus schedule is not very dependable. If you do rent a car, be prepared for the narrow, steep, dirt and gravel roads. Half of the time we felt as if we were off-roading and were constantly worrying about if we were going the right way or not. It was a lot of fun though, as we had never experienced “roads” like these before. If you do rent a car, I suggest getting a compact and not a sedan or anything larger. Malta has a lot of tight spaces and I’m glad we didn’t have anything bigger than this.
We stayed in an AirBnb in Xemxija, towards the north of the main island of Malta. This area was about 35-40 minutes from the airport, depending on traffic. Our condo was clean and updated, the host was very generous, and our view of St. Paul’s Bay was such a sight to wake up to every morning.
Our AirBnb only cost us $40 a night. All of the AirBnb options in Malta are VERY reasonable, especially in the off-season. I would highly recommend utilizing their services over a hotel.
We were coming out of the winter season when we visited Malta so the first thing we wanted to do when we arrived was go to the beach. Although the water was still pretty chilly in May, the weather was ideal because it wasn’t blistering hot.
The first beach that we visited was Mellieħa Bay. Also referred to as Ghadira Bay, this area reigns as Malta’s longest sandy beach. There are many restaurants around and the beach has snack bars that are easily accessible for a quick refreshment.
For lunch, we headed back towards Xemxija and stumbled upon the Munchy Monkey. This pizzeria grille is located at the heart of St. Paul’s Bay. The server was polite and helpful and the food was appetizing at a very reasonable price. I ordered a mouth-watering Chicken Caesar Salad that was dressed with bacon and olives on a fresh bed of spinach leaves and romaine with house-made caesar dressing. My husband ordered the Chunky Beef Burger that he raved about all day. We loved this place so much that we returned here for dinner on our second night. We shared the Chubby Monkey (Meaty Feast) pizza that was loaded with mozzarella, Maltese sausage, pepperoni, ham, beef and onions. It was wonderful! This restaurant was where I first discovered Strongbow Hard Cider (now my drink of choice) and it was cheaper than what we were expecting. Highly recommend the Munchy Monkey!
In the evening, we wanted to do some exploring and had noticed a sign near our condo, pointing uphill, reading “Xemxija Heritage Trail.” We’re pretty curious and adventurous so we decided to go check it out. We explored this area for a couple of hours with nobody in sight!
We felt as if we were on our own historic tour. We spelunked in caves that were inhabited in the Neolithic era, dating back to 4000 BC. There was a lot of information posted around the area in reference to which stone building was used for what and information on the “Roman Road” that lined the trail going uphill.
There were also ancient shrines, apiaries, burial sites and Roman bath houses.
And once you get to the top, there’s some spectacular views of surrounding Malta.
After our hike and a quick freshen up, we drove up to Mellieha to visit a place called Popeye’s Village. This was where the Paramount Pictures movie “Popeye” was filmed.
We were disappointed to find it closed for a private event when we arrived, but we were able to drive southwest up the road to get an awesome aerial view of the Village.
If you look to the left you can see the bay that hugs Popeye Village flowing into the Mediterranean, making for a wondrous sight.
By the time we done soaking in these views, we were hungry and wanted to find a place to eat nearby. We were searching adamantly on Google Maps and found a small cafe within a 10 minute drive. We drove south along the water on roads that felt as if they weren’t supposed to be driven on. When we arrived to the cafe, it was closed. Luckily for us, there was a hotel down the lane closer to the water. We noticed that it had an outdoor restaurant that sat on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean. Although it looked expensive (we budget our meals), we decided to give it a try.
Agliolio was the name of this restaurant and it is a part of the Golden Sands Radisson Blu Resort & Spa.
I ordered the Spaghetti Agio E Olio V, which translates in English to Spaghetti with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and chillies; it was splendid! My husband ordered the Bistecca di Bue, which was the Ribeye steak with roasted cherry tomatoes finished with rosemary and garlic butter. I stole a bite of his and it melted in my mouth it was so succulent. We had Prosecco to drink and it was chilled to perfection. This restaurant is at the prime location to settle in for a nice meal and watch the sunset. I assume in the busy season reservations should be made but it is well worth it. Wonderful dinner experience all around!
We only noticed one option for breakfast within walking distance of our condo so we went there every day. The name of the cafe was Xemxija Cafe Lounge and the breakfast was stupendous. Although they had many options available, we ordered the scrambled eggs on toast and a cappuccino. We thoroughly enjoyed this cafe, probably because the breakfast food seemed more “normal” to us than a lot of breakfasts we have experienced throughout Europe. Also, you can sit outside and enjoy an early morning view of St. Paul’s Bay.
After eating, we decided that we wanted to try and take a day tour to Comino, or Kemmuna, as the Maltese refer to it.
Finding tickets for a boat tour online was very simple. Although we had a car to get to where the boat took off from, they also offer to pick you up from your location. We found the Sea Adventure company by searching online for Comino Blue Lagoon Full Day Cruise Tours. The cost was $30 (this may vary seasonally) and it was a 7.5 hour tour, including free beer and wine on the boat and a buffet for lunch.
We left from Sliema and arrived to Comino within 30 minutes. It was a very relaxing and smooth ride. The boat was nice and the views of Malta when out on the water were stunning.
We enjoyed this short ride to Comino while sipping on wine and chatting with an Australian couple that was sitting across from us. While on the way to Comino, the guides on the boat were offering an additional boat ride around the island for only 10 Euro. We thought we may as well try it out and once we docked in the Blue Lagoon in Comino, we piled onto a boat that held less than 10 people.
This was one of my favorite parts of our trip. The seaman took us around the island and into smaller lagoons that are only accessible by boat. We also went into some caves–at least as far as we could make it.
The boat ride took about 30 minutes and by the time we were finished, our cruiser was serving lunch–a refreshing blend of cheeses, salad, and sandwiches.
After lunch, we were itching to dip into the teal waters. We made our way towards the Blue Lagoon, the most popular beach area in Malta. We walked towards where all of the vendors and people were and decided that it was too crowded for us to lounge, but the views were amazing!
Instead of staying in this area for the day, we walked up a small dirt trail that headed over the top of the island (felt like a mountain to us) which gave us some of the best views! We walked for about 30 minutes until we stumbled upon the Crystal Lagoon. It was apparent that nobody thought you could reach this lagoon by foot as it was only occupied by yachts and small boats. We found the perfect spot to sun in and was able to jump in the water when we wanted a cool-down, all the while avoiding the mass amount of tourists.
On our third day, we took the opportunity to visit Gozo, the other inhabited island of Malta. We looked online for ferries and found a port in Cirkewwa, about a 15 minute drive from our condo in Xemxija. The ferries leave every 45 minutes and at a reasonable price of 4.65 Euro per adult. The trip takes about 30 minutes and arrives at the port in Mgarr, Gozo.
Once we got to the island, we weren’t sure how we were going to navigate around the so we opted for the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. While I usually despise tours like these, we didn’t prepare enough and decided it would be the best way to see Gozo. The price was reasonable, at 10 Euro a piece, and we were able to stop wherever we wanted, with buses arriving every 15 minutes or so. They equipped us with a map that had a schedule and so off we were to explore the island.
Adorned with sandstone cathedrals and cliffside refuges, Gozo is the epitome of a Mediterranean isle! Malta is 98% Roman Catholicism, so we felt right at home in this area. There is a statue that represents Pope John Paul II because he has visited Malta and Gozo in the past. The cathedrals and churches here are such a beauté.
It was here in Gozo that we were able to visit the Azure Window, something that I had been seeing on Pinterest for years and only dreamed about going to.
We also were able to stop at various beaches, soak up some sun and eat some food at seaside cafes, then jump back on the bus to go to our next destination.
We spent about 10 hours on Gozo Island and caught the last ferry that was going back to Cirkewwa, where we were able to watch the sunset from the top deck of the boat.
Malta was an absolute dream vacation. The locals are incredibly friendly, the Mediterranean food is to die for, the weather is warm, the beaches are sandy and the water is that clear-crystal blue. What more could you want out of a travel destination?