Over the years, the islands of Malta and Gozo have increased in popularity as a holiday destination. After our first visit there in October I can see why.
Malta is located in the centre of the Mediterranean. Nestled in-between Sicily and the North African coast. It therefore enjoys quite favourable weather all year around.
Add that to the stunning architecture, fascinating history, crystal clear waters and friendly locals, you are onto a winner.
Where to go in Gozo
We spent 1 week in Malta in October and visited both islands of Malta and Gozo.
Both islands are different, but equally worth a visit, so if you have time I would definitely travel over to Gozo.
Gozo is quite different in many respects to its larger sister of Malta. It is famed more for its scenic hills, natural geological features and has some of the meds best diving and water sports.
It is also much quieter and less developed than the main island. It has a tiny population of approx. 38,000 (out of the entire countries 475,000).
So if you are looking for some laid back time, then get to Gozo.
Places to see in Gozo
We only allocated a few days in Gozo, but would happily would have spent much longer. We were also limited by travelling on public transport. It was low season, so we didn’t get to see as much as what we wanted to. However, what we did see we fell in love with.
We choose to stay in Victoria, which is one of the main cities in Gozo. It is one of the main hubs of transport and a great selection of hotels and b&bs.
The cittadella and the Gozo Museum of Archaeology is also located here.
What I loved about Victoria was the narrow cobbled streets, and incredibly cute houses (though that is widespread through the island).
This was one of my favourite spots. So much that we returned there to eat dinner by the water.
It is a small area but has a lot of character, cute shops and great eateries. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some stunning sunsets too.
Again, another tiny little town, but with lovely little streets and pretty buildings, as well as some signs as a British colony.
We stopped for a short time on the way to see the salt pans, and in the middle of a siesta, so it was much quieter than normal.
Marsalforn and the salt pans
Marsalforn isn’t a place I would recommend highly, but it is a point you need to go through (if on public transport) to get to the salt pans.
It is a large-ish coastal town, with a number of hotels and (IMO) tacky tourist shops and bars. However, if is your thing then go right ahead.
Getting to the salt pans can be a little tricky on public transport, but doable. If you don’t wish to walk from the bus stop, then there are but there are a number of taxi drivers ready to take your money.
The easiest salt pans are near to Zebbug, and are pretty stunning. You’ll get some epic reflective shots there for sure.
There wasn’t any activity going on at the salt pans, but they were still amazing to see.
The former Azure Window
For those with old style guide books on Malta and Gozo – this is an image that often appears. The Azure window, which looks totally stunning. It is (or was) located on the west coast of the island. Unfortunately, it suffered a collapse into the sea in March 2017.
A true loss to the stunning coastline.
Where to go in Malta
The main island of Malta is the larger of the two, and so you should allocate more of your time to explore it.
Some places to explore are:
There is something about small, quaint towns that I am drawn too. I guess, being an introvert I am not the biggest fan of large cities and crowds. I like peace and space to wander and explore. Mdina is one of those places.
Although it does attract a fair few visitors, it didn’t feel rammed.
Mdina is known as the silent city due to its absence of cars and public transport. So it makes walking around really easy and pleasant.
During our time in the old city, we saw some of the most gorgeous doorways and windows, including that blue door made famous on Instagram.
The city is walled and accessed via the Mdina gate. You can easily get around most of it in a short time.
When you are in the city, you shouldn’t miss out on a visit to the Fontanella Tea Garden. It is a delightful little restaurant selling all manner of cakes, teas, drinks and lunches. There is a small terrace overlooking the rather barren land toward the east of the island.
Valletta is the main city on the island of Malta and feels very different to many other places. It has a busy port and main ‘high street’ with shops and chain coffee shops.
There are a number of redeeming features, including buildings with that sandstone brickwork and gorgeous shutters (one day I want to live in a house with pretty coloured shutters).
The lower and upper barrakka gardens are definitely worth a visit. You get a stunning view over the bay, and can also watch the gun salute which happens around midday.
There are a number of museums and cathedrals in the city, many of which are worth a visit, and you should definitely go capture the triton fountain; located not far from the main bus station.
As an alternative ‘way out’ you can catch a little ferry to Silema across the bay, which is relatively inexpensive.
Golden Bay is a short journey from the bigger town of Mellieħa. A coastal town with a small handful of high end hotels and a gorgeous (and not that busy) sandy beach.
I spent part of my birthday here, eating in the Apple’s Eye restaurant which has a lovely terrace and view over the beach. We had a tasty meal and enjoyed a cracking sunset.
For those a fan of the early 30s comic and animated series of Popeye, you may like to visit the Popeye village. Also known as sweethaven village. It was a purpose built film set for the 1980 live action musical film of Popeye. It is now more of a fun park, consisting of various wooden buildings, dressing rooms with props and some shows.
It does cost €15 per adult to get in. We decided we weren’t big enough fans, so just took a picture from the hillside.
The Blue Lagoon (Comino)
As part of your trip to Malta, you should also consider going to Comino island and visiting the Blue Lagoon.
Yes, it is crowded and touristy (think overpriced food vendors and deck chairs for sale), but it is stunning. They say you should get the earliest ferry to avoid the crowds, but I think everyone is doing that now.
What I say is, take the ferry and walk further up into the hill and view it from afar.
I spent the morning of my birthday here, and it was delightful.
What I would also say is that if you want to go for a little dip, investing in some dive shoes with good grip is ideal as some of the rocks on the way in a super slippy.
You can get a tour to the islands and around it (some include snorkelling gear or even paddle boarding), but if you are on a budget you can just rock up to Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal (in the north of the island) and buy a ticket on the day.
Round trip tickets cost €13,though if you puchase online it is a little cheaper.
Where to stay
We stayed in Mellieħa during our time in Malta, and weren’t overly impressed by our hotel or the area. If you are looking for something a little more vibrant I would suggest somewhere like St Paul’s Bay, St Julians or Silema.
In Gozo, we stayed in the most perfect little air bnb in Victoria and is was gorgeous.
How to get around the islands
We decided to save a bit of money and use public transport. We purchased a weeky pass which was cost effective. However, the downside was that we travelled in the low season, so buses weren’t as frequent. We therefore missed out on getting to some places.
If you want to see a lot and maybe have a shorter time there, I would consider hiring a car. There are plenty of car hire companies at the airport. Though as always, booking online beforehand will save your precious pennies.
Best time to travel
We travelled early October, and the weather was stunning – warm but not too warm. The advantages to the lower season are less crowds and cheaper accommodation (generally). However, some tours and activities don’t run (I wanted to paddleboard but they weren’t running the tour).
I would probably try and avoid peak seasons such as July and August.
Malta surprised me a lot – I fell in love instantly and would return for a second trip for sure.