Malta – A Hidden Gem In Europe

Most people just refer to Malta when talking about the Republic of Malta, which is actually a collection of 3 main islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta is located south of Sicily and is one of Europe’s smallest islands in terms of overall area. The capital of Malta is Valletta and while English is common on the island, the main language spoken there is Maltese (an Arabic dialect). Maltese contains many English words and is blended with Italian as well so a grip on either language is a real advantage when traveling in Malta.

Malta is a member of the European Union and Euro-zone and an expensive place to visit. Despite its small size, Malta has a relatively high population which drives the prices of goods up and the number of tourists who visit each year also contribute to the prices. The tourist season also seems to last during more of the year than some of the other best islands in Europe since its almost always warm in Malta. There are plenty of flights to and from Malta from Europe’s low-fare airline carriers and routine ferries into one of its three main ports. Malta also has its own airline, Air Malta which flies to several nearby countries. Many cruise ships also stop in Malta, for a taste of Malta restaurants, usually as they make their way across the Mediterranean from Spain and Greece.

Malta is home to the oldest free-standing structures on Earth, the Megalithic Temples, which are also designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These Megalithic Temples were built somewhere around 5,000 years from the present, and are a major tourist attraction in Malta. The structures themselves, broken up to include several sites, are extremely well preserved. That is especially true considering their age and the number of rulers and conquerors Malta has had over its entire history. The temples are absolutely astonishing and you should definitely add these UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Ggantija, Ta Hagrat, TaSkorba, Hagar Qim, L-Imnajdra, and Tarxien) to your travel itinerary.

Aside from these old attractions of architecture, there are also relatively modern ones, including the beaches in Malta, worth your time if you’re deciding on a vacation to the island. The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta, Malta is where the president of Malta as well as the parliament is housed. It is also a cultural heritage site and tours are available for visitors who want to see this 500 year old palace and a bit of where modern Maltese politics takes place.

St. Johns Cathedral is also another piece of impressive architecture, one that is nearly 500 years old. Aside from the religious aspect of the cathedral, there is a definite military feel, partially because of the way the building is fortified with imposing walls. Built by the Knights of Malta explains this aspect of the cathedral which is unique in the contrast of its exterior versus interior designs. You’ll have to work around the schedule of the churches sessions and don’t plan on visiting on Sundays as the cathedral is closed. Otherwise its an interesting place to visit with a low entry fee that includes a guide to St. Johns Cathedral that will give you more information about the history and facts about the building.