Exploring Malta – day 1

Now of course there are plenty of ways to have a good time on a holiday in Malta and I’m quite sure we missed a few good opportunities of fun. Based on my friends’ recommendations and our own sense of exploring, our daily routes were guided mainly by instinct and proximity. And they turned out to be just what we needed.

First piece of advice I must give to anyone considering visiting the Maltese islands – rent a car. It’s definitely not cheap and the companies will try to get the best of you, it’s not easy to drive on the left side of the road just like in the UK and it’s absolutely a bit tense with the narrow country roads and the Bucharest-like drivers we found in the cities.

But I promise you, it’s absolutely worth it! Malta has a good network of public busses and can be used perfectly unless there is no other option. Knowing me and my intention to have rest in this vacation, we would have probably been limited to travelling more inside the cities and between the biggest landmarks and our legs would have paid the price for not renting. However we got to see hidden gems of landscapes, enjoy a romantic sunset over the Dingli Cliffs, stop whenever we wanted for a magnificent shot or carry with us as many warmer clothes as desired. Mornings and evening are still quite chilly in April…

I would not know to give the exact distance between its most far away points but driving from the lowest to the highest takes no more than 40 minutes. Therefore driving allowed us to see almost every corner and road of the island in those 4 days. And also thanks to this good purchase, our accommodation was in a small town called Hal Bazan in the center of the island, a maximum 20 minutes drive from any other point. And the prices are much more gentle than in Valletta or Sliema, for example.

Our first day started with trying to get used to the car in the exceptionally narrow country roads which made impossible for 2 vehicles to pass at once. It may feel a bit dangerous but the traffic is not really a problem here 🙂

 

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First stop – St Peter’s Pool. A natural pool made by water in the rocks, was already being visited by locals and tourists. First thought was ‘why oh why didn’t I bring my swinsuit with me today!’. And indeed was the perfect weather for sun bathing, probably not the perfect water temperature for diving. By the day was still young and there was so much more to see and feel bewildered about, the little time spent like a lizard on those rocks wouldn’t have been worth losing it. Everything happens as it should 🙂

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Just by walking around we found incredible views that felt like the perfect welcome on the island

Just by walking around we found incredible views that felt like the perfect welcome on the island

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People live here and they get to wake up and see these views every day. Let's reflect on that!

People live here and they get to wake up and see these views every day. Reflect on that!

Beautiful landscapes came not only from the nature, but also from man’s made fishing harbours like adorable Marsaxlokk. Our first proper meal on the island, with the view of the colourful fishing boats gave us the first glimpse of the amazing Maltese food.

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If you come visit this place then by all means, do not stay only in the harbour area! The village has a special charm and even though not many people are on the streets, the ones you find are the kindest and most helpful I’ve ever encountered.

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We were very surprised to see the village with very little activity from its inhabitants, the streets were empty, very few shops and most of them were closed. Life seemed to have stood still in this place.

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Next stop –  the Blue Grotto. I must admit it’s quite impressive and especially if you have the opportunity to rent a boat and go for a dive in its caves. For the rest of us, a view from the top point of the road was still quite a nice feast.

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On our way to Mdina we probably got lost 3 times taking the wrong roundabout exits. And not because I couldn’t read the GPS, but because I was too mesmerised with the landscapes to give the correct indications. My favourite part was when we stopped in the middle of nowhere and I ran into a field of flowers to take these photos:

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Finally arriving into the old city, we learned that Mdina is Malta’s former capital, known as the ‘Silent City’. Used as a set for Game of Thrones series, one can understand the medieval charm of its streets and feel humbled by the first view over the island from its highest point.

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As the sun came down we made our way to the capital Valletta for dinner and walking around. It was not our first encounter with the city – we had arrived the night before, parked the car and started to walk randomly on the dark streets sniffing on the holiday air. We went to Upper Barakka Gardens and could only imagine the breathtaking views the night was covering from our eyes. So next evening we had another change to explore and enjoy.

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View over The Three Cities – Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua

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The streets of Valletta seemed almost as empty as the fishermen village Marsaxlokk or the rest of the island, actually. I was expecting hoards of tourists fighting for a spot to capture the harbour views. I was afraid it would take ages to find a proper restaurant and not a money grabbing trap. I sincerely believed the city would muster with selfie sticks, souvenir sellers and inviting waiters in the streets. It’s probably the effect of living in a tourist fun park such as Barcelona!

Because the truth is that it was quite the opposite! Some tourists but not too many and most of them roaming around the shopping streets. Enough restaurants but not such a big diversity, probably also because locals were getting ready for Good Friday. Either way, I loved it!

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With its steep hills, Valletta makes it an interesting ride, both by car and by foot! But I was mostly impressed with the Maltese women whose head-dizzying high heels and bodycon dresses made going up and down those ramps look so easy

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Malta was under rule until 1964 so its unique identity comes from the combined influences of Romans, the Carthagianians, the Byzantines, the French and the English. Their language is a strange mix of Arabic and French, however written in Latin alphabet and the Valletta streets hide many British phone boots and the electrical plugs are UK style.

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We washed the first day impressions in a few glasses on our little Airbnb terrace and concluded: Malta is absolutely fabulous which made my boyfriend even think out loud: ‘Would I move here? Probably yes! ‘ But that was just the holiday booze 🙂

On my next post we’ll be travelling to the core of the island and on a day trip to Gozo on a special day for the Maltese people – Good Friday.