Malta travel guide: Exploring the lesser known archipelago in Europe
The unassuming country of Malta may not be the first holiday destination to pop up in one's mind but if anything, we have learnt that obscurity can always be a blessing in disguise. Located between Sicily and the Northern African coast, the Maltese archipelago is made up of a number of islands that provide an impressive backdrop with the country's scenery and architecture. Striking hues awash the entire country — with honey coloured stones on land contrasting with the deep blue Mediterranean hues from the surrounding waters, Malta is a beautiful sight to behold. We round up a list of things that make it a hidden gem in Europe.
THE FOOD AND DRINK SCENE
Maltese cuisine is an interesting blend of different cultures — bucolic flavors of Britain, Sicily and some would even say a tad of France. Tuck into a hearty bowl of rich rabbit stew and try bragioli, a slow braised stuffed beef dish and taste some local flavors with the Ġbejna cheese. Forget McDonalds when in Malta, the popular fast-food to have is pastizzi — a savory pastry filled with mushy peas or ricotta. We heard that Crystal Palace in Rabat serves up these delicious snacks at only 30 cents per piece. Head over to Adesso where it has been said that they serve up some of the best plates of pasta on the island. Reward yourself after a day of exploring at Fontanella Tea Garden where they are famous with both locals and tourists for their homemade cakes and indulgent milkshakes.
ISLANDS AND BEACHES
Surrounded by some of the cleanest Mediterranean waters, you can say that Malta has been blessed with impressive coastlines against rugged landscapes. Easily accessible by ferry, the islands of Gozo and Comino are a paradise for divers and beach bums alike. Gozo boasts impressive sights of lush greenery while historic Baroque churches and old stone farmhouses are peppered across the entire region. Comino's main attraction, the Blue Lagoon (essentially a large swimming pool) is popular amongst day-trippers for its postcard worthy scenes of golden rocks and turquoise waters.
CITIES OF ATTRACTION
You can't say that you have been to Malta without stepping foot into the capital city of Valletta. Also, a UNESCO world heritage site. Stroll along the craggy narrow streets adorned with colorful balconies jutting out as you keep a lookout for the iconic The Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Found in hidden corners of the streets, surprise yourself with churches, tiny quaint cafes and shops boasting some of Europe's finest art. For a spectacular panoramic view of the harbor, climb up the Upper Barrakka Gardens where you can also take a walk along the landscaped grounds. Don't miss the Silent city — Mdina, the old city of Malta that got its moniker from its peaceful atmosphere, thanks to the limited number of cars that can enter the city. Be transported back in time to medieval times with the scarcity of inhabitants and cobbled, narrow lanes. Then, make your way to Marsaxlokk, a traditional fish village where you can get the freshest morning catch every Sunday at the open-air fish market. It is a visual treat for your eyes with colorful boats decked by the bay while you'll be kept sated with the many seafood restaurants parked along the shore-facing street.
CULTURE AND RELIGION
Whether you are a believer or not, the St. John's Co-Cathedral should not be missed; especially since it has been said to be one of the prettiest churches in the whole of Europe. Unveiling a combination of Baroque art and architecture, some of the decorations include skulls and coats of arms dedicated to each knight. Another religious site to visit is the Ħaġar Qim, a megalithic temple that has been conferred the title as one of the most religious sites on earth.