A Week in Sunny Malta

After our three long months enduring the cold English winter, we rewarded ourselves with a beautiful mini-vacation to the little island nation of Malta. Malta sits just south of the Italian island of Sicily in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the smallest countries in the world.

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For the first five days of our visit we stayed in Rabat, a small suburb of the ancient capital of Malta, Mdina. This was to be our last house-sit for the rest of our adventure and we spent it taking care of Simba, one of my favourite cats we have watched during our time in Europe. Simba had the unique and endearing habit of taking any opportunity he could to drape himself around my shoulders whether I was just sitting down or walking around the house cleaning.

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Lauren and I had a day in Rabat to acclimate ourselves to the village before being visited by Lauren’s brother Justin (and my best friend) and his new girlfriend, Evelin. It was so awesome to be reunited with our third musketeer again and we made sure to make our visit to Malta an amazing one. That night we took a taxi to the Golden Bay, one of Malta’s most beautiful beaches so that Evelin – who comes from Hungary – could experience going to the beach for the first time in her life. After, we had a wonderful dinner in a restaurant overlooking the beach before heading back to Justin’s Airbnb for a night of catching up (and drinking).

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For their first full day in town, we took the quick walk over to Mdina to enjoy some of the sites and attractions of the beautiful ancient capital. The small fortified city is full of wonderful winding alleyways which cannot be driven through by car, resulting in  Mdina being given the nickname of “The Silent City.”  The city sits on one of the highest points in the country and has some of the most gorgeous architecture in all of Malta. Another of Mdina’s claims to fame is that the city served as the filming location for King’s Landing in the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

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At Justin’s behest, we went to an attraction in Mdina called The Knights of Malta which is about the military order that in 1565 staved off a four-month-long siege of Malta by the vast armies of the formidable Ottoman empire even though they were outnumbered almost four to one. Though the history of the Great Siege of Malta is interesting and inspiring, the “museum” was neither, though we did get a lot of laughs at the attraction’s corny 3D movie and uninspired exhibition. The amazing effort put forth by the Knights of Malta really deserve a much better museum. Later, we went back to Rabat to enjoyed some Hungarian liquor called Palinka that Evelin brought for us as a gift.

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The next day we took a little excursion to the ancient megalithic temples of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra which are both housed in the same complex of temples. This complex dates from between 3600 and 3200 BC and at over 5000 years old is one of the most ancient religious sites on earth. Both temples were abandoned several thousand years ago and over time were buried under sediment before being rediscovered and excavated starting in the 19th century. After excavation, the temples were miraculously able to stand on their own and are now covered by tents to protect them from erosion. Visiting the temples was an amazing experience that should definitely be on any list of things to see while in Malta. The little museum that you walk through to get to them also does a really good job of explaining how the temples were built and what they were used for. That night we donned some protective headgear and hit the go-kart track for a race between the four of us which saw several crashes as our competitive sides took over. It was a really fun idea and a great way to switch things up.

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Before going to the main event on our trip, The Blue Lagoon, we spent a day in the tourist town of Buġibba where the huge gusts of wind and the driving rain kept us inside for most of the day. Luckily, the next day dawned bright and beautiful and we made the boat ride to the beautiful Blue Lagoon off the coast of one of Malta’s northerly islands. The Blue Lagoon is a simply breathtaking white sand beach with crystal clear turquoise-blue water. The area is perfect for swimming or lounging and we rented a couple of beach chairs to soak in some sun for the first time this year. We also bought a ride on a large inflatable raft on which we got dragged through the bay by a speedboat. We had a blast getting bumped around in the boat’s wake and trying to hold on for dear life. Though our boat we took to the island was supposed to leave at four, we opted to stay later which allowed us to spend a couple hours enjoying the beach to ourselves while drinking some reasonably priced beers before taking a cheap (and quick) water taxi home. The staggeringly beautiful Blue Lagoon was easily the highlight of our trip to Malta and every penny spent to go was worth it.

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After our long day of drinking and spending time in the sun, we tried to go out on the town for our last night in the city but were so tired that we didn’t stay out for as long as we would have on a normal night. We did have the added benefit of going to bed slightly earlier than we would have and got up at a reasonable hour the next day to take a quick water taxi over to the capital city of Valetta.

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Valetta is much more modern than most of the rest of the island and contains the vast majority of shopping areas and museums in Malta. There we were bombarded by a party atmosphere of people enjoying their sunny Saturday in preparation for an important match for the city’s soccer team. We spent much of the afternoon walking the beautiful side streets and admiring the views from the city of the bay below. The one sight we needed to make sure we went to before leaving was St. John’s Co-Cathedral which is one of the more beautiful hidden gems I have seen travelling throughout Europe. The cathedral is beautiful from head to toe with its intricate polychrome marble floors, gilded arches, and lavishly painted ceilings. Inside is also several paintings by famed Italian artist Caravaggio who lived in Malta for several years and is one of my all-time favourite painters.

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Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Justin and Evelin before we headed off to Israel. It was such a pleasure to meet Evelin and she fit in really well with the dynamic that Lauren, Justin, and I have built over the years. It was, of course, a great time hanging out with Justin too and I cannot wait to come home over the summer to hang out with the two of them. Malta and its people were fantastic and I would gladly come back to visit it in the future, especially if that means going back to the Blue Lagoon.

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There is a lot more sun where that comes from in Israel where we meet up with Lauren’s sister Tiffany on our first ever visit to Asia! Knowing Tiffany, we will definitely be getting into some wild stuff so stay tuned for my next post!

Tips:

  1. Don’t bother trying to take buses around the island, use a taxi instead. We used the eCab app to travel around the country relatively cheaply, though be sure to avoid the white ones which are almost always more expensive.
  2. If going to the Blue Lagoon, all the tourists leave around 5 o’clock. Stay longer and get a water taxi back to make the most out of your trip. It is definitely worth the extra 15 euros.
  3. Don’t take one of the many larger ships that take you over to the Blue Lagoon. They reel you in with the free alcohol and lunch but take a very long time to get there and often subject you to a really bumpy ride that may cause seasickness. Opt for a private speedboat service instead.

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