Want some winter sun? Then a Winter Break in Malta & Gozo could be for you
If you’re looking for winter sun at an affordable price, check out a Winter Break in Malta & Gozo. The islands are beautiful and steeped in history.
VIDEO clips of the islands
My top travel tips are below but also check out my short video for a colourful flavour of the islands:
Want some winter sun? Then a Winter Break in Malta & Gozo could be for you
The Fun Stuff
· St John’s Co-Cathedral. Don’t be fooled by the plain exterior, inside is an extravagant Baroque interior and many works of art including 2 paintings by Carvaggio (the Beheading of John the Baptist and St Jerome).
· City walls. The view from across the Harbour of the city walls is fantastic and there is a nice walk along the sea walls. If you continue walking along the walls, you’ll reach a cafe next to one of the museums. Just to the right of the cafe is a set of steps that takes you down to the cliff front to the start of a lovely coastal walk (circa 30 mins).
· Three Cities and St Angelo’s Fort. You can get the ferry from Valetta to the three cities for €1.50. The three cities area is lovely and perfect for a mooch around. Id’ also recommend Fort St Angelo for fantastic views across the bay. click here for more info on St Angelo We chose to get the bus back as we had our pass. click here for the Valetta ferry website
· St Elmo’s fort click here for the Valetta ferry website
· Lower Gardens & Saluting Battery. There are signs for this all over the city. Great views and you can sit in the gardens to soak up the atmosphere with a coffee. At certain times, you can also hear the ceremonial guns being fired (at 10am and 4pm most days).
Gozo and the Azure Window at Dwejra
Gozo is a separate island just north of Malta. There is a bus from Sliema that (eventually) stops at Cirkewwa, the ferry port for Gozo. However, the bus was so full that it kept breezing straight past us. We ended up getting a bus to Valetta and catching a bus connection there.
You can then jump on a tour to the Azure Window or go by public bus – the routes are well sign posted. Just catch a bus at Gozo ferry port to the main bus station and then get a connecting bus to the window. Having said all of this, the “window” has recently collapsed, so bear this in mind!
Comino and the Blue Lagoon
We hired a boat at the ferry port on Gozo to take us on a boat trip to Comino and the Blue Lagoon.
Our visit was late in the afternoon so we got a good deal because there were hardly any tourists around. We paid 20 Euros for 2 people for 45 mins. The Lagoon and surrounding caves are beautiful, particularly in the late afternoon sun.
Hagar Qim and Mnajdra
These megalithic temples are spread across two sights and set atop some cliffs. I’d recommend checking out the visitor centre first so that you have an understanding of the context in which the temples were built. click here for the official website
We got the bus to the temples from Rabat and it’s easy to combine a trip to the temples with a morning in Mdina.
Mdina, Rabat and St Agatha’s Catacombs
Mdina is easily accessible by bus from Valetta. The bus stops just in front of the city gates. The city itself is lovely and you get a real sense of its history, with lots of winding streets and pretty squares. As with most tourist sites, there are a lot of shops selling souvenirs and snacks. It very much reminded me of Carcasonne in France.
A short walk down the road is Rabat, where you can get the bus to Hagar Qim.
Rabat is home to St Paul’s and St Agatha’s catacombs (which are on opposite sides of the road). We did a short tour of St Agatha’s Catacombs, which I would definitely recommend. The guide was incredibly knowledgeable and the tombs fascinating with beautiful frescoes (although a bit spooky).
There is also a small museum attached to the catacombs which on first glance appeared to be a boring selection of dusty artifacts but on closer inspection was very interesting and worth looking around for 30 mins or so click here for the official website
We travelled by bus to Paola square and the temples are an easy 10 min walk away. We asked a local for directions as we were a bit concerned that we seemed to be in a residential area.
The temples are megalithic dating between 3,600 and 2,500 BC. Admission to the temples was only about 6 Euros per person. However, if you have been or are planning to go to Hagar Qim then you could give Tarxien a miss, as Hagar is much more impressive and has wonderful views.
We wanted to visit Hal Saflieni too but it was unfortunately closed for restoration. If would recommend checking whether it is open ahead of time and booking your tickets as early as you can.
This is a traditional fishing village in the south east of Malta. The bus drops you off a couple of streets away from the sea front, so don’t be disheartened when you first get off the bus!
The harbour is really pretty, with lots of painted boats, little restaurants and birds circling everywhere. We spent about an hour sitting with a coffee just watching the fishermen.
We didn’t eat at any of the restaurants but the food looked good and reasonably priced.
Where to stay
Valetta is the most convenient place to stay if you’re planning on travelling around, as this is the capital and most of the buses originate from or pass through the bus terminal. The capital also has a variety of shops and restaurants together with a number of Malta’s tourist attractions.
However, you may find cheaper accommodation in some of the areas just outside of the capital. The most notable is Sliema. This area is only a 20 minute bus ride from the capital (in good traffic) and is on the bus route to some of the tourist attractions in the more northerly areas of Malta. The area has a number of bars and restaurants.
If you are after something more lively, the St Julian’s and Paceville are for you.
If you want to be located near to the beaches, many people opt for Meliah, which is conveniently situated at the north end of Malta for trips to Gozo.
We stayed at Depiro Point (click here for Tripadvisor review in Sliema and would not recommend it. The apartment was certainly cheap and had the basic facilities needed for a week’s stay but for us, it was too noisy.
There are a number of options:
· Renting a car. Malta’s roads can be a little crazy, so this is not for the faint hearted!
· Bus. You can buy individual tickets for a couple of Euros or a weekly pass for €21. We opted for the pass (purchased from a booth at Sliema waterfront but they are also available at the bus terminal in Valetta). It was certainly value for money. The bus network is extensive and the buses are frequent (every 30 mins for many services in and around Valleta and every hour for further afield). Every bus stop has signs detailing the buses that stop there, the route and the bus times. My only word of caution is that the buses can be overcrowded and this can be uncomfortable when you have a long journey.
· Private tours/Malta sight seeing buses. The “hop on hop off” buses offer buses every 45 minutes. I am sure that this is a good option but in my mind, is not much more convenient than the public buses and will be more expensive.
Where to Eat
Aside from the many lovely small kebab shops and pastizi joint you see all over Malta, we went to two extremely good restaurants, both in Sliema. I would recommend booking ahead for both, particularly Il Merill and wearing a very stretchy pair of trousers because the portions were massive!
The first is Il Merill on St Vincent Street, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The second is Ta Kris on 80 Fawwara Lane click here for the website
This is just a quick snapshot of things to do in Malta, please feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions about anything. I hope you enjoy your Winter Break in Malta & Gozo!
Alternative Winter Breaks
If you’re interested in other Winter Breaks check out my Cyprus blog.