“A small place in the middle of nowhere.” A population that hovers at less than half-a-million, a country smaller than London, smaller than Kansas City, even. How boring.
These are the little things you would read on a fact sheet about Malta that would convince you entirely that the place must be dreary, slow, with not much to do and no place to be at all.
Exactly the opposite is true, as Malta can have a surprising lot to offer, it’s just packed really close together.
1. Swim In The Mediterranean Sea
This entry is a bit of a no-brainer. Malta is literally surrounded by the glistening blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
Its salty waves are teeming with life that’s a snorkel away and less than half of its coastline is cordoned off by its cliffs – there are rock and sand beaches a-plenty that will suit sunbathers and swimmers alike.
2. Scuba Diving And Snorkeling
The ever-popular sport is bolstered by its lively community, a score of instructors, platforms for qualification in open waters, and even serve as its own form of tourism.
There are several wreckages around the island with about nineteen famed sites such as the Imperial Eagle and the ironically-named HMS Stubborn.
There are dozens of museums in Malta; granted, some are grander than others.
Between the older-than-the-pyramids-old temples, the Natural History Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the National Museum of Archaeology, and even the hobby-museums such as The Malta Classic Car Collection or The Toy Museum, it’s easy to see why they’re a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Good food is all around in Malta – there are literally thousands of food providers (be they restaurants, vendors, or food trucks) can be found in Malta, and you’ll find as many opinions on what’s best as there are in people.
It’s by far one of the most engaging sectors of the Maltese lifestyle, truly living up to their reputation, and it’s easy to understand why.
The Maltese islands offer some excellent produce and forms of agricultural tourism, and food culture is thriving because of it.
Younger generations are also striving to push the limits on what can be done, to raise the ceiling when it comes to fine dining, to broaden expectations when it comes to cuisines on offer.
There was once a time when sushi was this weird, imported, fridge-preserved packaged food that was largely tasteless – this is no longer true, at all.
To say that you could easily spend a lifetime chartering through restaurants to find your favourites is, frankly, an understatement.
5. See Our Maltese Churches
There are, so it is said, about 365 churches and chapels in Malta – enough to visit one each day of the year (except leap years?).
Although, it must be said that not all the churches are of comparable beauty, though they are the exception rather than the norm.
Some of the most popular ones are Ta’ Pinu´ in Gozo, the Cathedral in Mdina, the Mosta Dome (which was the site of a miracle back in World War II, when a bomb came crashing through the bomb but did not detonate), and the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valletta, which is home to Caravaggio’s The Beheading of Saint John, a wonderful piece of dark tourism that attracts thousands of pilgrims a year.
The city of Valletta, which is only about 900 metres by 600 metres, houses about 25 churches!
Visiting some of the more famous Churches could take a few days, and their irreplaceable place in culture, history, and the Catholic imagination of beauty cannot be understated.
Malta’s theatre scene is small but can be described as plucky.
Several productions are held each year: from the popular Christmas pantomimes and yearly operas to smaller cabarets and dramas held within Valletta.
If you’re a theatre buff it could definitely be worth getting into the scene – the Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre has put on some acclaimed performances of its own, definitely worth paying patronage to.
7. Concerts And Music Festivals
There are a few big music festivals a year happening in Malta.
Most of the festivals; such as the Beland Music Festival, Farson’s Beer Fest, and the Earth Garden festival; feature local talent that’s been pushing boundaries in spades.
There is the annual and world-famous Isle of MTV festival, where local and international artists alike take to the stage to perform their most popular work to upwards of 50,000 people.
A recently booming, athletic, adventure-sport activity, slacklining has recently gained traction in Malta.
For those that are not in-the-know, slacklining is a simple activity that isn’t too different from tightrope walking or slack-roping. You walk from one anchor point to another on suspended flat webbing.
Slacklining would have the webbing be less suspended than a tightrope, making the walk between the anchor points a little bit more dynamic, and somewhat like a trampoline.
Slackliner Malta is the go-to group for this kind of thing.
They often organise performances, workshops, activities for children, team building events, and even physiotherapy and fitness sessions utilising the slackline.
Most importantly though, especially if you’ve never done anything like it before, are the lessons that you can attend.
9. Food Trails
A recent development on the Maltese scene is the emergence of food trails like Offbeat’s Malta Food Trails, where a compere of sorts escorts a booked group to various hallmarks of local culinary establishments in order to sample some of the fruits that the land of honey has to offer.
10. Festi (Traditional Feasts)
Ever since the bombastic footage of the Ballun tal-Blalen petard launched from Zurrieq had gone viral on the likes of social media such as Reddit, the Maltese festi, village feasts dedicated to Saints organised by groups affiliated with parishes, have gained notoriety for their impressive displays of prowess in the use of fireworks.
The village feats themselves are always populated – a pedestrian event with food stalls selling everything from toys, to hotdogs, to local nougat while a band marches through the streets and fireworks are let off ad nauseum for a weekend at a time.
It’s no wonder that Dutch anthropologist Jeremy Boissevain had written a book about Malta’s religious feasts and its politics: Saints and Fireworks.
Bonus: Farmer’s Market
Many villages in Malta, from Qormi to Marsaxlokk, to even the capital city itself, Valletta, have a farmer’s market.
The Farmer’s markets are the definitive place from where one can go get the freshest local produce, and sometimes even prepared roasts and meat dishes, for a price that is more than affordable.
To the savvy shopper, cook, and lover of good food, the farmer’s markets are a weekly staple for better living.