Review of "General: Malta"
A very active twelve month old means less reviews from mum, but so many toys to review!
My first experience with Malta was as a child and I had fond, if not a little vague, memories of it. It was with this in mind that I decided to take advantage of a cheap package deal to the small island in the Mediterranean. We only spent six days there and this isn't nearly enough time to visit all the sights that Malta has to offer, so I won't presume to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I will tell you about the places I visited and what I thought of them.
Getting thereAs I said, we went on a package deal with Cosmos, flying with Air Malta. Browsing through the in flight magazine told me that Air Malta fly to and from most major UK airports on at least a weekly basis. I also noticed the familiar liveries of Easyjet, Ryannair, Monarch and Thomas Cook at Malta International Airport, so there is plenty of choice.
By far the cheapest and surely most fun way to see the island is by the very comprehensive bus system that operates to all the tourist hotspots. The buses themselves claim to be 'the cheapest and safest way to get around'. I'll agree whole heartedly on the first point; fares start from as little as 30c and the most we paid was E1.16 for a journey that lasted around 45 minutes. The second point I'm not so sure about, but that adds to the fun. The buses are rickety to say the least and the drivers, who clearly have no responsibility for their buses, work them hard. This coupled with the very uneven road surfaces makes for a bumpy journey, reminiscent at times of an old roller-coaster. Don't let this put you off though - I'm still alive to tell the tale!For those a little less adventurous and a little better off, there are plenty of taxi ranks around the resorts, which have the benefit of air conditioning - a very welcome commodity in 30+ degree heat!
Qawra and Bugibba
I've coupled these together as it's very hard to tell where one starts and the other ends. Located on the north side of the island, around 20 minutes drive from the airport, these are purpose-built towns directed solely for tourism. They were only built around 20 years ago; however they already have the well used look of the island in general.We stayed here at the Sunflower Hotel and enjoyed the laid back, Mediterranean feel of the area. The central focal point is Bugibba Square which is home to a number of restaurants, bars and shops as well as being the setting for various events. Whilst we were there, we saw the annual Raw Bikers of Malta Rock Concert, which was fantastic! Despite my lack of interest in both bikes and rock music, the party feel of the place was infectious and welcoming.
There is a sea front, with lovely views of St Paul's Islands and the sea, however this isn't the place to come if you want to lie on the beach all day. There is a man-made beach, although it isn't nearly as good as the real thing. Most people use the lidos, which are spread across the front. The lidos all have their own bars, restaurants, swimming pools, toilets etc and cost only a few Euros for daily entrance. They also have access to the sea via steps across the rocky edges.Also in this resort is a casino (you'll need photographic ID to get membership, which is free), a bus station which connects you to most of the rest of the island and various shops, restaurants and museums - definitely plenty to keep you entertained for a week, although I'd urge you to travel a bit.
This is Malta's capital and was built after the Great Siege to create an impregnable fortress against another assault. It was in fact, Europe's first planned city. It is much the same now as it was when it was built and you get a real sense of what the city has been through by just wandering around.We went on a public holiday, which meant that the streets were very quiet, except for the steady stream of tourists that are to be expected in a place like this. To be honest, we didn't actually go in anywhere, but I had a fabulous day wandering around the maze of streets (that are often very steep) and looking at the impressive Fort St Elmo (which is designed in a star shape to give the best advantages points and minimise the threat of a surprise attack) and the equally impressive grand harbour (home to thousands of yachts.)
If you like to do things, there are plenty of museums, all of which are described in any guide book and plenty of shops for those who love to part with money!
MostaMosta is in the centre of Malta and is a residential area that is quite compact. Its crowning glory is the Mosta Rotunda, which is an impressive and imposing building that stands above and beyond the sea of rooftops. Built over 27 years, this parish church is home to Europe's fourth largest dome. The main draw though, is the replica of the 200kg bomb that fell through the roof of the dome during a service in 1942. Fortunately it didn't explode and the replica can now be found in the church's sacristy (conveniently located right next to a gift stall!).
No holiday in Malta is complete without a trip to Gozo, a smaller island to the north west. It can be reached by any number of organised boat trips from almost anywhere in the island, however the cheapest way to get there is by the ferry (E4.50 per person, return) that leaves the northern tip of Malta every 45 minutes.If you do make the trip, don't miss the caves and rocks of Dwerja Point. The bus goes there from Victoria every two hours, giving you plenty of time to admire the giant and obscure rock formations (especially Azure Window and Fungus Rock) and take a boat trip (only E3.50 per person - well worth it) through the caves, where you will be amazed by the coral and the beautiful inky blue water. We have a fabulous time exploring the rock pools and just feeling very relaxed.
Also on Gozo, you can't miss Victoria, the island's main town and centre point for all the buses. Dominating from upon a hill is the Citadel, which affords great views of the surrounding area and is home to various small museums and the cathedral. Don't be put off by the cathedral's rather plain exterior, because the inside is very impressive. The best feature, in my opinion, is the trompe l'oeil, painted because there is no dome where the church's designer intended there to be one.
Overall opinionsAs I said, I only covered a small number of the hundreds of things you can do in Malta, leaving me plenty to explore if I should ever return. The question is then, would I ever return? Possibly is the honest answer. I saw enough to get a feel of the place and I really did enjoy my time there, but there are so many places in the world to visit and for me personally, it didn't stand out enough to make me want to go back time and time again.
The main problem, I think was that I was looking for a relaxing break and whilst you can have that on Malta, you feel obliged to go and see the many splendours it has to offer, meaning that when I got home I felt I needed a nice sit down - which is what I'd gone there for in the first place!Malta is oozing with history and culture and is a fascinating place with lovely people. The food is good (the national dish seems to be rabbit) and it's a very safe place, where you will feel comfortable wandering around. If this is the kind of thing you look for in a holiday, then go and you won't regret it. But don't expect it to be a lazy holiday, because there is just so much to see!
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Listed on Ciao since: 01/07/2000