Malta is the charming country in the Mediterranean that hides treasures at almost every corner. Wether if it's a beach with crystal clear, blue water, lovely architecture or even miracle events, these little islands, located just South of the Italian coast, have it all.
We flew from Lisbon with a direct flight, operated by Air Malta and arrived already at night. Visiting the islands at the end of September - beginning of October, we went overly confident that weather will be perfectly summer-ish and the only kind of warmer clothing we took was a long-sleeve shirt. Yes, I'm getting super strong at "traveling light". And in general weather was really nice and sunny (rained a couple of times, but nothing bigger than just a summer storm), but at night and specially during boat rides I was really missing a warmer jacket. No, actually - any kind of real jacket. So, take a note here - always take a jacket with yourself. Specially if you're like me and you get chills from the lightest breeze. I mean, I got chills in the September heat of Dubai.
Anyways, we picked up our rental car for the first two and a half days and headed to the hotel we've booked in Rabat. We were about to spend a total of one week around the three main islands of Malta, so decided that our first two days would be to see the biggest island, but not the capital. After returning from the two smaller islands - Comino and Gozo, we would stay in La Valletta during our last two days.
We had a quick dinner with a glass of local wine (to my surprise Maltese wines are reeeaally good!), followed by a quick stroll around the empty streets of Mdina. The ancient walled city impresses with beautiful medieval and baroque architecture, decorated with colourful doors. Often referred to as the "silent city", its timeless atmosphere was very strong at night, when there was almost nobody at its tiny streets and it was silent indeed. And it was a privilege to experience it like this - empty, authentic and really amazing. Highly recommend you to pay it a visit at night, but don't make noise - there are people still living inside its walls.
Our first stop on the next morning was St. Peter's Pool. We woke up early and tried to get there as quick as possible, but Waze would always make us use some tiny, secondary roads, with loads of heavy trucks. So, during these first two days in Malta, we got the impression that the country doesn't have many good roads (which was wrong apparently, as we would find out later). Still, it took us around 20 minutes to get to St. Peter's Pool which is a really nice spot to visit. And check your guts. Ok, you don't really need to jump off the high cliffs in order to dip into the crystal Mediterranean sea. There are some sort of stairs, at the lower side, to get in, but be careful with the waves. However, I wanted to show you that it's not that big of a deal, and did jump off the higher cliffs. But to be completely honest, it was a big deal for me and didn't stop talking about it for the rest of the day. #painintheass
Just a warning - if you decide to jump, be careful with anything you might have in your hands. The girl who jumped just before me was holding a selfie stick with a GoPro, which she accidentally dropped while "flying" down towards the water. Yeah... I don't think they found it.
As we were on the South East side of the island, we stopped for a walk around Marsaxlokk bay. Its promenade is full of restaurants, offering fresh fish, as Marsaxlokk is Malta's main fishing harbour. Hundreds of Luzzus - traditional and all colourfull, Maltese fishing boats, are anchored at the bay, creating a picturesque landscape.
It was still early for lunch, so we continued our road trip around the island and headed to the near by Pretty bay. It might have been really pretty some time ago, but today, with Malta's Freeport just on the other side of it, I personally didn't find it as a place I would like to spend my limited time on the island. Plus, it was a beautiful, sunny day and while the weather forecast for the following two days was not very promising, we had the perfect conditions to check out some more of Malta's best beaches. After around 40-minutes drive, we parked our car next to Ghajn Tuffieha bay, but before heading to the beach went to look around by the Ta' Ghajn Tuffieha Tower. The area offers some really stunning sea views. However, for a beach experience, we opted for the neighbouring Golden bay. It's smaller than Ghajn Tuffieha and even though it looked busier, we easily found a great spot at the golden sand to enjoy the sun. The hike from the tower to the beach is not difficult, but be careful if you're wearing flip-flops. There's also a restaurant, right on the sand, where we had a relatively fast lunch. But we were at the beach - who is actually in a rush, when you have your toes full of sand, right?
Next we went to Paradise bay, but by the time we got there it was already in the shadow of the near by rocks. Looked nice and chill, but really small though, so spent almost no time there. Besides, we already had around an hour to find the best spot to watch the sunset. Everything I read, was pointing to Dingli Cliffs. So there we went. But when we arrived to what Waze considered to be Dingli Cliffs, we thought it was the wrong place. I was expecting to see the waves hitting the vertical cliff, while in fact we were not that close to the coast. I mean, we were, but not at its edge... So, I opened the map and we somehow tried to find our own way to the tip of land, I believed was going to offer us the best sunset view. As we were driving, the road started to get more and more narrow. We have rented a teeny-tiny car, but even it seemed to be too big for that dust road, leading to nowhere. In fact it had its final destination - a private property! As we were driving, we started to see several improvised "Private Property" signs (white letters, written on big rocks by the road), but we had no place to turn around, so we continued going further. It was getting darker, as sun was already very low, but we got to witness it hiding beneath the horizon as the road ended next to a gate. There we had enough space to turn around and go back, but first we had to see what we went there for. Again, there were no vertical cliffs by the sea, but at least we got the sunset just to ourselves. No other people, no cars passing near by. Just us, the wind, a couple of birds singing and some colourful butterflies.
After the sun disappeared from the horizon we were determined to find where exactly Dingli Cliffs are, so we headed back. Thankfully, we didn't meet the owner of the private property we were in. Actually, we didn't meet anybody on that narrow road. So, when we finally saw some cars, next to the area we first went, looking for Dingli Cliffs, we just followed the flow and found the famous spot. Even at the first day of October it was full of people. We parked by the road (as all the other cars) and went for a walk.
As Mdina was just a couple of minutes walking distance from our hotel, we decided to have dinner within the walls. The chill and beautiful outdoor area of the Xara Palace's restaurant grabbed our attention, and food didn't disappoint as well. Later on, we went around Mdina's streets again. This place is just so magical at night.
In the next morning we rushed to see the walled city in the day light, but still didn't want to find it packed of tourists. It's not that big, so an hour is more than enough to check out all of its streets, corners, colourful doors and even buy some souvenirs. Please, don't miss the Mdina Glass store (just in front of the National Museum of Natural History), just after passing the Mdina Gate. It offers some original and really beautiful glass pieces at every shape and size. There's one more similar store at the Bastion Square. Another place to not miss within the Mdina walls is Fontanella Tea Garden, where you can have a breakfast, a light snack, a dinner with a view, or just a drink.
We left Mdina just before it started to rain. We picked our car from the parking lot in front of our hotel and headed to the near by town Mosta. Located at the heart of Malta, its name comes from the Arabic word "musta", meaning "centre". Due to its location it's a busy market town, but that's not what lead us there. We went to check out the miraculous Rotunda, said to be the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe. Completed in 1860 its design is inspired by Rome's Pantheon. But this is not what's unique about this church. At the Second World War, during a mass, a German bomb hits the church. So here comes the miracle - the bomb didn't explode and no one dies, even though the church is completely packed due to the ongoing mass. In the sacristy, there's a replica of the 200kg bomb, which is actually very impressive.
Our next stop during this second day in Malta was Naxxar. The rain wouldn't stop, so instead of walking around narrow streets, we had to find some place with a roof to entertain ourselves. And what better place for that than a unique, Maltese palace? Palazzo Parisio was built as a private residence in 19th century by the Maltese entrepreneur Marquis Giuseppe Scicluna and is nowadays open to public visits. It is often described as a mini-version of Versailles, due to its rich interior and magnificent gardens. Well, I haven't been to Versailles yet, nor we were able to walk around the gardens here, because of the rain, but Palazzo Parisio's interiors are as outstanding as at any Royal Palace I've visited around the world.
I could literally spend the rest of the day around the lavishing interior of the Palazzo (#princessinheart), but the rain finally stopped, so we decided to take advantage of it and continue with our plan to visit the Popeye Village. To be honest, I don't remember watching the movie it was built for (Disney's production from 1980, starring Robin Williams), but thought it would be interesting to explore it. By the time we bought our tickets, we had only an hour and 15 minutes before it closes, but we considered it would be enough. And we didn't have any other time to come back, so we'd see what we get to see. Due to the rainy afternoon it was almost empty, and we walked around it and went inside almost every building for around an hour. In summer time however, when there's plenty of people and you can even spend some time at the beach, I guess at least an entire afternoon would be necessary to see and enjoy everything. But, if you don't want to spend 15 euros on a ticket, you can see the entire village from the outside. And Anchor bay itself is really beautiful, so please, don't skip it.
While flying to Malta, I checked out Air Malta's magazine on board, which recommended the small, rural town of Bahrija as a great sunset spot. As we've already seen the sunset from the Dingli Cliffs area, we wanted to check a different location. And as we got lucky as the weather was getting much better, we realised we had another opportunity to delight one more Mediterranean sunset. So we headed in direction of Bahrija. The town itself didn't seem to be something special, so we passed by it and continued in direction to Fomm ir-Rih bay. And just as the previous day, we got to a place where several "Private Property" signs were at, but this time we decided not to go further. We had a great view from where we were. And there was a man near by hunting. Or teaching his dogs how to hunt. Not sure which one, but every now and then we would hear the noise of his shotgun somewhere not so far. So we just stood over there, watched the sun hiding slowly beneath the horizon and went back to Rabat. I got mixed feelings about Bahrija as a sunset spot, but Fomm ir-Rih bay looked really nice and I think that definitely deserves to be checked out.
We went once again to Marsaxlokk for a delicious dinner at "Tartarun". Sometimes might be hard to find a table, as it's quite a fancy restaurant, so you better call and book yourself a place. You won't regret it.
The next day we drove back to the airport to deliver our rented car and take a bus to Cirkewwa port for our ferry to Comino island. I've read that busses in Malta work really well, so most people opt for that instead of driving (have in mind that as a former British colony, in Malta you drive on the left. Side note: sockets are according to British standards, as well). Well, our experience here was not as smooth as we were expecting it to be. We waited for the bus for more than an hour, and when it finally arrived it got super packed. However, we finally found out that Malta actually has pretty decent and large main roads. Lol
We were about to stay at Comino island for two nights, so the hotel's boat was waiting for us which was a good thing, as due to bad weather, all day trips to Comino were cancelled. So we hopped on the boat and headed to Malta's most famous spot - breathtaking Blue Lagoon.