Malta is one of those places that people seem to go back to time and time again, or visit once and vow never to return! As a Mediterranean island south-west of Sicily, it is exceptionally hot in the summer months (when lots of locals go on holiday) leaving the yellow soil baked dry and few spots of greenery. Clearly not the best way to see its varied landscape in all its glory.
The perfect time to visit is February to April as glorious spring flowers, crops, and rich green fields cover the rocky landscape, and ideal temperatures to walk the whole island. There is much to explore, and you only need to walk around 4-5 miles before reaching a village with a bus to somewhere.
Coastal walks are particularly inviting along the west and south parts of the island. Trek the Dingli Cliffs for rocky inlets, Blue Grotto and turquoise waters, stopping off at the ancient site of Hagar Qim. Further north, Golden Bay boasts a beautiful stretch of cliffs, coves and small sandy beaches. Go on a bit further to visit the original Popeye Village with wonky buildings and shaky jetty as seen in the film.
Follow the south coast to the beautiful fishing harbours of Marsaxlokk, with its weekly Sunday Fish Market, and Marsaskala where traditional Maltese boats – brightly coloured Luzzu with the special ‘eye’ to safeguard them – are still used by fishermen today. Of course, the warm spring sunshine means dining in the many restaurants along the harbour front is a must, especially after dark when many local families get together to share a meal.
The north-east of Malta is geared more towards tourism, the ferry terminal at Ir-Cirkewwa serving islands of Gozo, greener and more laid-back than mainland Malta, and trips across to the small island of Comino and the Blue Lagoon. There’s an unreal quality to this deep turquoise water reflecting clear blue skies, although note springtime means jellyfish are also on holiday enjoying the lagoon.
Mellieha Bay is the best sea-side beach area with some exceptional hotels in the old town up the hill. Follow the coastal path around the northern point to visit the White Tower, walk up from the bay to the impressive Red Tower, or walk a little way around the southern path to a tiny museum of the local fishing industry.
St Paul’s Bay has the main tourist towns, including Xemxija – two great cross-country walks from here – Bugibba with lots of bars, restaurants and new hotels, on past the fascinating Sea Life aquarium and on to Qwara. It is always busy along here, but it is great as a base to explore, with the bus terminus nearby.
Valletta is the capital city of Malta, visited by many cruise ships, EU City of Culture 2018 so lots of frantic building and road works going on to get ready for this special recognition. The entrance to the city now has a magnificent modern gateway, leading to the resplendent civic offices and main shopping street, which you either love or hate! The rest of the city is made up of narrow, cobbled streets and traditional tall, balconied Maltese buildings. Well worth exploring, especially the Valletta at Night tours, as it really does look fantastic lit up, and you get to see so much more. As the city has held a significant position historically through conflicts over 7000 years, there are many tourist attractions that tell the story of the island and its people.
Inland are the Medieval walled-city of Mdina, the village of Rabat with ancient catacombs, and the best Maltese Platter ever. Add to this the cultural traditions of fine silver-work, glassblowing, lace-making and prize-winning wine-making, you can see why visitors are prepared to spend longer periods of time in Malta. If you only ever visited in the height of summer, rethink this beautiful island as a spring-time adventure, especially at Carnival time!