For this summer vacation we have chosen Maltese Islands. When we found out that Wizzair flies from Belgrade to Valletta and that that meant cheap tickets and accommodation we knew we had to go there. In what seemed like seconds, we were above the island, looking through small airplane window down to brown island, surrounded by blue sea. These islands are truly unique, every culture left something of its own, and every building, every corner and person you meet is interesting. After the initial shock of mouth drying heat we took a bus from airport to Birkirkara where we rented a room on AirBnB. Room was in spacious modern apartment, and our host was very cool young women who gave us several tips about where to swim and what to eat, and we will share it with you.
We paid our airline tickets from Belgrade to Malta 135€ per person, we could have get them cheaper if we bought them in May, so here is the tip; get your tickets on time (if you can get the vacation dates earlier)! We came to Malta on 6th August, it was so hot we were wet as soon as we left the airport. Buses are located just outside the airport, and they drive on a weird schedule, we waited for about an hour to get the bus that drives to Birkirkara.
Our vision of Malta island was that it is an small, flat and that we could get anywhere with the bike. So we subscribed to the Nextbike and if we weren’t walking we were riding. Maltese drivers are different kind of crazy, we thought since we are from Sarajevo, that is also (in)famous for lack of traffic culture, that we can handle them easily, but it took us three days to figure out the traffic. The advice is: just be sassy and confident pedestrian. After a good night sleep we went to Valletta. And it is true what they say if you want to meet the Maltese culture start with Valletta, it has a bit of everything.
This grand fortified city will knock you of your feet. Long straight streets and romantic balconies, or as they call it gallarija. Unfortunately we don’t know where and how did they come to be, but maybe this is the mystic beauty these wooden Maltese balconies radiate.
Long, narrow streets and stairs have brought people together. Maltese are friendly and happy, as soon as the sun sets neighbors get out and sit together in front of the buildings on their own chairs, they are in parks or on the coast drinking wine or barbecuing.
Wandering the streets we came across the old guy selling some weird fruit soaked in the water. We had to ask him about it, and fortunately everyone here speaks English so we were told this is the fruit that grows on cactuses. The old guy was making jokes about how will we get addicted to the fruit as soon as we try it. Of course we couldn’t resist and Samir ate it first, you know I had to take the photos 😀
This cactus’s fruit actually has several names: prickly pear, tunas, opuntia or in Maltese bajtar tax-xewk. This is not an apple so to eat it you have to follow next steps: first you need to harvest it really carefully, leave it in cold water for few moments for the spikes to fall off, after that make one long cut and tear the skin with your hands and devour this heavenly fruit. It taste like watermelon and kiwi and pear, and costs 30 euro cents, so when you see the vendor don’t dare not to buy at least one.
And one of the best views here in Valletta are from the Upper Barrakka Gardens, where you can enjoy looking over to Grand Harbour. Every day at 12 and 16 o’clock visit this place and watch Saluting Battery, that is from 16th century used for firing ceremonial gun salutes and signals.
Next day we decided to ride bikes to Popeye village, and it was the worst decision ever, and here is why. It is not because on most roads there is no line for bikes, that was never an issue for us, it was not because of the hills we had to climb, but the heat and heavy bikes. The heat was killing us, we have drank more than 3 liters of water and I even cried after one hill me managed to conquer. But the fun we had in the Popeye Village cured everything. There we catched the last call for the boat ride, walked around and enjoyed the sunset.
After good night sleep we took a boat ride to Comino and famous Blue Lagoon. And yes it is blue like on the photos you’ve seen. Interesting part about this place is a passage that you can swim through. Only bad thing is the crowd. Unfortunately we didn’t explored the island.
To get around Malta we recommend their public transport, and Tallinja Card. Buses are clean, fast and air-conditioned, only objection we have is the schedule, that was very hard to get and most of the time it was not followed. On our list of things to see and places to visit were Mdina and Rabat. Mdina, derived from the Arabic word meaning ‘’old city’’ was once a capital of Malta, and home to noble Maltese families. This fortified city is located on the northern part of the island and from the citadel we had a feeling we could see the whole island.
After the refreshing walk around windy streets of Mdina we headed to Had Dingli. Dingli Cliffs are the highest point of Maltese Islands, place is close to Rabat and Mdina and it is accessible with the local transport, so it would be a shame not to visit.
On our way back we went to Valletta, again. But this time to take a swim just under the city’s walls. It was so much better than Sliema, there was no crowd, only locals and us. Water was clean and refreshing, we stayed here until sunset.
One more place you must visit when on Malta is Island of Gozo. Steeped in myth, Gozo is thought to be the legendary Calypso’s isle of Homer’s Odyssey – a peaceful, mystical backwater.
We took a ferry ride from Cirkewwa, in the north of Malta, from here ferries are very frequent and punctual, and the ride across the Gozo Channel lasts for 20 minutes. As you exit the ferry platform on Gozo you will be greeted with dozen travel agents offering different excursions around the island. We choose the hop on, hop off option that turned out to be the best way to see the whole island.
First stop was Savina creativity, small shop with traditional Maltese goods. There we tried dried tomatoes and olive oil.
Ir-Rabat (Victoria) is the capital city of the island of Gozo, the name Victoria was given by the British in honor of the famous Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Town is most famous for its Citadel, that has been included on Malta’s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It was refreshing and relaxing to walk around the city’s walls, where we also drank coffee and ate ice-cream in one of the restaurants. Views were fantastic.
After Rabat Gozo we hopped on the bus and hopped off at the Dwejra Bay once most famous for it Azure Window that collapsed several months before our arrival. But fortunately the power of the sea, and incredible nature here are worthy of your visit. We were lucky that waves were strong and loud that day. Also you can enjoy swimming in the inland sea, we had fun being tossed around by the waves.
Ggantija Temples were built between 3600 and 3200 BC, making them older than Stonehenge. This was a place of worship and sacrifice. The Temples got their name from Maltese word ‘’ġgant’’ meaning giant.
We hopped on the bus for the last time to catch the ferry back to the Malta, but we didn’t want to leave just yet. Instead of getting on the ferry we took the unmarked hiking trail along the sea shore, that led us to small local fishing village. There was a group of locals with kids enjoying last rays of sun that day, and we just had to take a swim before getting on the last ferry back.
Marsaxlokk, try pronouncing that! Maltese is truly unique language, true carrier of this islands history. This colorful fishing village, just 50 minutes bus ride from Birkirkara, was the last place on our list.
Besides colorful traditional boats, windows and doors this part of the island offers you special places for sunbathing and swimming. Maybe 30 to 40 minute hike from the center of the village will take you to the St. Peter’s Pool. This natural swimming pool surrounded with white cliffs, ideal for jumping, has turn out to be the great place for snorkeling. Crystal clear water was filled with many colorful fishes.
When the beach around the Pool got crowded with loud youth, speaking several different languages we packed our stuff and walked just behind the cliff to the more calming and relaxing Il-Ħofra l-Kbira. It was getting a bit colder to swim, so we decided to catch as much sun as we can and read books.
Malta was indescribable, Samir and I had truly amazing experience. We hope that our story and photos will bring you joy as they do to us. Put Maltese Islands on your bucket list!