Malta Travel guide: Valetta, Mdina, Comino, Gozo, Marsaxlokk

Malta is a carefree Mediterranean islander who sunbathes during the day, jumps off cliffs and eats prickly pears. In the evening, she enjoys the fabulous sunsets, and from dusk till dawn she dances in the many nightclubs of St. Julian’s.

A blend of cultural influences

Malta is a country of beautifully woven contradictions and incompatible elements that make it interesting and memorable. Many nations and cultures have left their mark on it. That’s why it reminds me of a lot of places I’ve visited, but at the same time it’s not like any of them. Only here you can meet prehistoric temples, narrow and steep Italian-style streets, yellow limestone buildings such as in Palma, London telephone booths and natural landmarks with Arabic names. 

Road traffic is in the left lane – a legacy of Malta’s past as a British colony, whereas their language is close to Arabic, but with quite a few words from the Italian and Sicilian dialects, French and English.

Valletta’s colorful terraces and doors

Arabic influence is reflected in Maltese family names as well as in one of the island’s architectural icons – closed wooden balconies with glass windows. They match perfectly with the colors of the doors and contribute to the picturesque cityscape. As I strolled through Valletta, I kept wondering what their origins were and whether they had any special purpose.

It turned out that they are related to the Arab idea of ​​keeping women hidden while they are still able to observe what was happening outside. The government financially supports the restoration of the terraces.

On the other hand, there is a paradoxical tendency for the house names to include half of the husband ‘s name and half of the wife’s name when the owners cannot pick а name or want to express equality.

At Baraka Gardens in Valletta every day from 12 noon, you can also attend the saluting battery ceremony. The tradition has been in existence for more than 400 years and it greets the arriving ships and marks anniversaries and national holidays.

Mdina

The old capital of Malta – Mdina is also definitely worth a visit. The medieval fortress is truly impressive at sunset and at night. A very beautiful view to Malta  can be seen from the bastions.

market on wheels, Malta
On our way back from Mdina, we also came across this market on wheels, which turned out to be a common phenomenon on the island.
Valetta by night
Valletta at night – a view from Sliema

Maltese cuisine

While strolling through any of Malta’s major cities, you will definitely  come across the Cafe Jubilee , a local chain. The venue is covered with art nouveau posters, carries the spirit of a bygone era and is  very cozy – suitable for both breakfast and lunch Prices are reasonable but I was not lucky with the choice of food and drinks I ordered pastizzi – a local specialty and a Maltese coffee. The pastizzi looked like something between a banitsa and a calzone. stuffed with peas and ricotta in one variation and – with cottage cheese – in the other. Maltese coffee reminded me of the Russian kvas, but it was too bitter for my taste.

Cafe Jubilee
Nenu bakery, Malta

In the Nenu bakery I wasn’t impressed either.  I tried Maltese pizza – ftira. It is rectangular, served with various fillings – sardines, tuna, tomatoes, capers or olives, but I found it quite heavy. their traditional beer Cisk was really good, though
Maltese rabbit

In Sliema, for the first time during the trip I had luck with the food. I will always be a fan of the traditional rabbit. Maltese love to marinate it in wine and bay leaf. I also tried the “Bigilla” dip, which is made from veggies and beans.

prickly pear, cactus fig

 For the most adventurous, I recommend tasting the prickly pear, also known as the cactus fig. You can pick it up from any tall cactus along the Gozo Island road between August and November. The fruits are yellow with a reddish tinge and oval. They have a sweet-sour taste similar to that of kiwi, and have many small seeds. However, be careful because they are covered with fine prickles.

Cactus figs are very rich in Vitamin C. Maltese make liqueurs, salads and vinaigrettes from them.

Comino

You can reach Comino Island by ferry. The Blue Lagoon – one of the main attractions is crowded with tourists even during the off-season. That is why you can have a much more relaxed and peaceful stay at the Crystal Lagoon, where the waters are also  turquoise. However, there it is not that easy to get cocktails in pineapples.

The island is relatively small and can be seen on foot for about an hour and a half. There are a lot of abandoned buildings , which is a plus, and some of the cliffs are really suitable for deep water solos for climbers to enjoy.

The Popeye’s village

Popeye’s Village is a complex of colorful wooden houses near Mellieha, built as a decor and set for the Walt Disney and Paramount Pictures film for the Popeye Sailor starring Robin Williams. The film itself didn’t have an overnight success, but the place remains one of the most visited in Malta. On the territory of the complex you can meet Popeye, Olive and Bluto. (Bluto is very convincing as Popeye’s archenemy and has managed to scare me several times.) The village has a minigolf and a cinema hall which offers film screenings.

Marsaxlokk

Beautiful fishing village in southern Malta with boats and benches in vibrant colors. There is a large fish market on Sunday and great fish restaurants can be visited in the area. I recommend you Il-Bukett. Their plateau of mussels, squid and lampuki was very tasty and reasonably priced.

Golden Bay view

Horseback Riding in Golden Bay

I got on a horse for the first time in Malta and horseriding to Golden Bay was definitely the cherry on top of the cake and the highlight of my trip. All the horses in the base were named after alcoholic beverages – Bailey, Whiskey, Wine, etc. I happened to ride the beautiful white horse Pernot, which to my surprise turned out to be born in Bulgaria. The Golden Bay sunset literally left me breathless and speechless – the quirky blend of orange, gold, pink and purple; the brief death of the sun. There is really something unusual about sunsets – whether because they symbolize a romantic ending, or a new beginning afterwards.

Gozo

You can reach Gozo by ferry, but I advise you to rent a car there – it will be much easier and quicker to get to the natural landmarks scattered close to one another.

In the past, people were sent  to the island for exile. There is a preserved medieval fortress and an old prison in the town of Victoria.

Gozo is much more abandoned and less maintained than other islands. Roads are narrow and difficult. It’s like being in an Arab country. The landscape is quite exotic – five-meter roadside cacti, sand dunes and cliff arches at every turn.

Ta Pinu Church
Ta Pinu church, ex voto

Ta Pinu Church is one of the most sacred places in Malta and carries specific energy. There, for the first time, I saw believers  giving thanks to God with gifts such as casts and helmets. The idea is that victims of accidents ask God for health or acknowledge that a miracle has happened to them and they have been healed through objects symbolizing an injured part of their body.

Top 5 natural landmarks in Gozo


Azure Window

The beloved  cliff arch – a major decor in a number of movies and series and a Malta icon, collapsed in 2017 due to a strong storm. Remains of the formation nowadays you can see above. Beforehand I was  wondering how the collapse was possible, but I was convinced with my own eyes how stormy the sea can be and how strong – the wind.

For more travel guides check out : 11 typical things to do in Vienna while on Erasmus, Ruin bars, SPA and other hidden gems in Budapest and Japan through the eyes of an extrovert.

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