The Mediterranean archipelago of Malta lies to the south of Sicily, and with water temperatures still reaching 59° F (15° C) in January, it’s a suitable diving destination all year round. Only the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino are populated, and all three provide shore and boat diving as well as a wealth of architectural history dating back 5000 years.
The capital, Valletta, was awarded UNESCO world heritage status in 1980. Despite its fortifications and the baroque architecture of its churches and palaces, Valletta isn’t a city that hides from modernity. In the evenings the city’s workforce return to their homes, the boutiques close, and you can walk around the city’s narrow passages admiring the architecture like it’s a model on a catwalk. After the churches you can eat modern cuisine on the waterfront, and take your flippers off to enjoy one of the city’s nightclubs.
As the largest of the inhabited islands, Malta offers plenty of accommodation options to suit any budget. If you’re after a quieter, tranquil visit, then stay on the car-free island of Comino.
Wherever you stay – enquire about any festivals that are happening. You’ll be very welcome.
On the southern coast is Mnajdra and its megalithic temple complex made from limestone. The façade on its third temple is intact and could have been built over 5000 years ago.
On the south east coast is Marsaxlokk and the island’s second largest natural harbor. On a Sunday it hosts Malta’s largest fish market, and is renowned for its superb fish restaurants. Colourful Luzzus – traditional fishing boats with a mythical eye painted on both sides of the prow – fill the harbor’s reflections with bright colors.
The Maltese have a tradition for festivals where each parish celebrates its patron saint. The processions pass through the streets which are decorated with colourful banners. You can sample the food, dance to the music, and watch the fireworks in the evening.
Or head to one of the many secluded coves, enjoy a private picnic, and plan your next dive.
Malta’s International Airport is 5 miles (8km) south of Valletta, and is well served by Europe and North Africa. If you’re travelling from outside of these areas then connect via a European hub such as London or Amsterdam.
Taxis to Valletta cost €15. Malta Transfer offers a shuttle to major hotels, and buses, which run until midnight, serve all the main towns and Gozo’s ferry.