Malta – The Marmite Island

14 Mar 2014

Ask anyone who has been to Malta and they will most definitely remember it and they will either have loved it or hated it. 

Malta has a whole army of regular visitors that would not dream of going elsewhere, the food, the beaches, the culture and history all are major pulls for the modern day traveller. However because of the strong links to Britain through history, some tourists think they are going to find a "little Britain" Malta is far from that. Malta is Malta and the people are a warm, proud nation with their own traditions and culture.

Malta is steeped in history; there is evidence of human activity on the islands dating back as far as 5000BC. The island has been besieged a number of times and the islanders have been used to hardship and battles against all odds, The Great Siege of Malta in 1565 where the Ottoman Empire invaded the islands saw a bloody and fierce fight with the islanders and The Knights of St John outnumbered almost 10 to 1. After the siege the Knights decided to fortify the island most notably The Grand Harbour and drew up plans for the cities including the capital Valletta, with bastion walls and designs with defence in mind. Most recently during WW2 the islanders faced extreme hardship and played a key role in the war and the defeat of the Axis. The story is told in great detail at "The Malta Experience" in Valletta.

Maltese cuisine is heavily influenced by these times of hardship and the classic Maltese dishes use ingredients that are abundant to the islands and nothing goes to waste. The national dish "Fenek Moqli" (fried rabbit) has a few variations by far the best is in red wine and garlic, the Maltese bread or Hobz as it is called locally is totally unique to the island, it is like a sourdough bread with a crisp crust and is served as a dish with olive oil, tomatoes, capers and anchovy – "Hobz Bi Zejt". 

A visit to a pastizzerija is a must for someone who visits Malta, the pastizzi (filo pastry filled with goats cheese) and Timpana (a pasta pie) are absolutely to die for, in fact last time I visited Malta I ate more in pastizzerijas than in restaurants.

The main tourist hot spots are centred around the beaches; Birzebugga, Meliha Bay, St Julian's, St Paul's Bay, however there are many rocky coastlines that offer crystal clear blue waters and high rocks to dive off away from the madding crowds, often where the locals will go for the day; Zonqor Point, Marsascala or St Peters Pool, Marsaxlokk.

The best time to visit Malta is either early in the season (April/May) or late in the season (September/October) the flight prices to Malta are lower and the crowds are smaller, the climate in Malta is still very warm during these months and in fact July & August are often too hot for some.
By far the best date to visit would be to incorporate September the 8th, Known as Victory day, it marks the end of The great Siege, The end of the French occupation in 1800 as well as Armistice Day from the Italians in 1943, to celebrate there is an annual boat race in The Grand Harbour during the day and the Festival of Maria Bambina of Senglea of an evening, by far the best festa on the island in my opinion.

Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, tells Air Malta what Malta means to him;

Getting There:

Air Malta fly direct from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Norwich, Exeter and this year have increased their flight programme, with extra capacity from Cardiff and Bristol.

Ryanair offer flights from Birmingham Bournemouth, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, and London Luton & Stansted.

Easyjet offer flights from London Gatwick, Manchester & Newcastle.

British Airways fly from London Gatwick.

Monarch fly from East Midlands.