Malta is the perfect compromise between idleness, gastronomy and cultural tourism. Alternate the days of discovery of the island of Malta with rest days by the hotel pool. The average temperature in winter is 16 degrees, (61 F) and does not drop below 14 degrees (57 F). So, leave sledges, hats and gloves at home and pack your sunglasses and spring clothes for a dream holiday on the island of Malta.
For its excellent value for money and its perfect location we recommend the Grand Hotel Excelsior and the superbly located hotel Ursulino Valletta. Also book your best activities in Malta such as a vintage bus ride or a private tour with a local operator.
Where is Beautiful Malta?
In recent decades, Malta has earned a solid reputation among seasoned travelers and discerning expats as an affordable, welcoming destination. But how many of us could quickly pinpoint it on a world map?
This small European island nation is located in the central Mediterranean, less than a hundred miles south of Sicily, Italy. Because Malta’s latitude is about the same as Los Angeles, it’s one of the warmest, sunniest places to be in Europe over the winter months.
Malta is made up of two main islands: the larger island of Malta and smaller Gozo. Each has its own unique charms. The ‘big island’ is more built-up and boasts a greater number of attractions, while Gozo offers a more relaxed, natural feel.
With a population of around half a million and a total land area of just 122 square miles, Malta should feel a lot more crowded than it does. Fortunately, finding your own quiet place to hike, enjoy the beach, or savor a cliff-top seafood lunch above the Mediterranean isn’t hard at all, once you know where to look.
Winters are mild and rainy, and summers are hot and dry. Spring begins in late February and it is October before summer ends. Frost and snow are weather conditions here. Winter rainfall tends to come in heavy bursts over short periods of time. In the winter (November to April) temperatures average 57 F and there is 6.5 hours of daylight. During the summer the average is 73 F and daylight increases to 10.5 hours. The waters are blue and cool, and the sun almost always shines.
Malta’s location means delightful, relatively warm winters. This is a great location for getting away from winter snow. You can walk around in shirt sleeves to stroll the streets and explore the countryside. High summer can be hot and muggy, but that’s when folks head to the many beaches. On an island this small (122 square miles), you’re never too far from one.
Due to its small size and excellent public transport network, getting around and seeing the sights is easy. Malta also makes an excellent base from which to explore the wider Mediterranean region.
Plenty to See and Do at Malta
It’s amazing just how much there is to experience in Malta, despite its relatively small size the island offers a surprising range of world-class attractions and activities for all ages. Whether you’re into ancient history, fine dining, diving, hiking, boating, or wandering through vineyards and villages, you’ll never run out of cool things to see and do here. And if soaking up the sun on a cliff-lined beach and doing nothing at all is your preference, you’ll find more than enough breathtaking spots to do that as well.
Pros and Cons of Living in Malta
Pros: Malta is a place where relaxation is taken seriously. There’s superb weather, friendly people, and a life filled with morning swims, fresh seafood, leisurely explorations of cobblestoned streets, boat trips to hidden coves, and a chance to share the islands’ attractions with new Maltese friends.
Choose between the urban buzz, café culture, and nightlife of the main island or the more natural, chilled-out vibe of stunning Gozo.
Cons: Malta is small and densely populated, so if you like a lot of space and natural diversity, it may not be your cup of tea. And you’ll need to be prepared for the annual influx of summer tourists if you decide to live in a popular, historic area.
Cost of living
Pros: Malta isn’t the cheapest country in Europe, but it still compares favorably to the U.S. when it comes to everyday expenses. Expect to pay about 17% less for basic groceries and 23% less for apartment rentals compared to North America. Here, you can save lots of money by eating at local, family-run restaurants instead of tourist hotspots, and by visiting farmers’ markets (rather than large supermarkets) for your fruit and vegetable shopping.
It’s easy to live in Malta without owning a car—the islands are small and the bus system is extensive and dependable. A $1.65 bus ticket will get you just about anywhere.
Cons: Prepaid mobile phone plans, taxis, gasoline, and gym memberships are pricier than you might expect.
Pros: If you crave a European lifestyle but can’t handle freezing cold winters, Malta is the perfect solution. As I write this, I’m sitting in an AirBnb apartment in Sliema (a pretty seaside haven across the harbor from Valletta) in the first week of February and it’s a sunny 63 F outside—nearly tee-shirt weather in the middle of winter.
Cons: Summers are blissfully long in Malta, but that means it can get really hot for long stretches too.
Safety and Security
Pros: Malta is one of the safest European countries for travel or residency. Crime rates are extremely low and mostly fall into the ‘petty’ category: pick-pocketing, minor theft, etc. Maltese police are quite efficient at catching perpetrators on the rare occasions that crime occurs.
Cons: There aren’t any, really—you’ll feel perfectly safe and secure throughout Malta. Take normal, common-sense precautions with valuables and you’ll be fine.
Pros: The quality of medical care in Malta is highly regarded and quite similar to the British system. There’s both a public and private system. Expats staying in Malta for more than three months can apply for an E-121 form from their home country. This entitles them to free healthcare from government-run clinics and hospitals in Malta, once they’re registered and have been issued with a Certificate of Entitlement.
Cons: The public system has its limitations (longer waiting times for specialist appointments and surgery, limited dental care, etc.), so many expats find it preferable to take out private health insurance.
Pros: If you’re an American or Canadian wanting to live or retire in Malta, the country offers several visa options and residency schemes to help you on your way. Once you delve into the possibilities, you may find that staying long-term in Malta is easier than you think.
Expat residency options include: (a) Citizenship by Investment, (b) Permanent Residence Scheme, (c) Family Visa and perhaps the most popular choice of all, (d) Ordinary Residence Scheme, which mainly requires proof of economic self-sufficiency. After you’ve been a legal resident for five years, you can apply for permanent Maltese residency. Older (60+) retirees in Malta are also eligible for a public transport concession card.
Cons: Moving to any new country requires patience with government paperwork and pedantic bureaucracy—and Malta is no exception.
Update on Travel Restrictions to Malta
Malta, a beautiful archipelago nation to the south of Sicily famed for its stunning coast and Roman historic sites, is planning to reopen to tourists on June 1 and, according to the country’s tourism minister, Clayton Bartolo, it will pay international travelers up to €200 ($240) per person if they stay more than two nights.
Tourists who stay in four-star hotels will receive about $180, while those who stay in three-star establishments will get $120. And those who visit Gozo, the island next to the main island of Malta, will receive an additional 10%. You must be traveling independently, rather than through tour packages and groups, to avail of the incentives.
Malta has decided to admit tourists since it has one of the highest vaccination rates in the European Union. The incentive program is open to anyone who can prove they’ve been vaccinated 10 days or more before arrival.
“The local tourism industry has suffered greatly due to the pandemic and the recently introduced incentive for paying international travelers up to €200 ($240) per person if they stay more than two nights is welcomed by many,” says expat Ed Lansink, founder of MaltaUncovered.
“Early indications show that there’s keen interest to visit Malta this year (and in 2022) from travelers looking to make up for lost travel opportunities, while local authorities have successfully managed to bring down the number of COVID-19 to safe levels in the run up to the summer season.”
Top things to do in Malta
Beaches & Bays
Malta has beaches for everyone, from windsurfers to sunbathers. Choose from golden sand, red sand, rocks, blue lagoons and even inland seas. Some beaches and rocky shores are off the beaten track, but worth seeking out for their seclusion. Do not miss a boat trip to Comino’s Blue Lagoon for the ultimate in azure water. On larger beaches, you will find cafes or snack bars open during the summer season.
The sheer number of archaeological sites on the Maltese Islands sets their history apart from that of other Mediterranean destinations.
There are megalithic monuments, Bronze Age dolmens, Punic tombs, remains of Roman Villas and traces of prehistoric man, which defy explanation, such as the mysterious ‘cart tracks’. For three millennia, from around 5200 B.C., the archipelago was home to a unique, temple-building civilisation. Malta and Gozo’s temples are thought to be the oldest free-standing buildings known to man.
Fortifications & towers
Malta has often been called the ‘Fortress Island’ due to the great mass of military architecture that can be seen everywhere. This is a legacy of the islands’ history which saw them being fought over, time and again, due to their strategic location and deep, safe harbours.
The fortifications that can be seen today come from two distinct periods: those of the Knights and those of the British era.
Although the Maltese Islands may lack certain features such as mountains, rivers and forests which prevail in other countries, topographically speaking, the islands have much to offer.
Sheer cliffs made of layer upon layer of sedimentary rock rise sharply from the water, especially on the western side of both Malta and Gozo. The latter is characterised by flat-topped hills and lush green valleys.
Activity & fun
The Maltese Islands offer a variety of attractions for the whole family to enjoy together. Besides the beaches and pools, there is a marine and water park available for water fun. Not to be missed by kids of all ages is the Sweethaven Village – the film set of the 1980 musical production “Popeye”.
How to get at Malta
Book your flights to Valletta and your accommodation at the best price.
Where to stay at Malta
“Grand Hotel Excelsior”. Set just outside the historic entrance to Valletta.
Is Malta in the UK or Europe?
Mainly young or immature and thin, Maltese soils generally lack humus, and a high carbonate content gives them alkaline properties. Human settlement and construction developments have altered the distribution and composition of soils. The Fertile Soil (Preservation) Act of 1973 requires that, when soils are removed from construction sites, they be taken to agricultural areas, and level stretches in quarries are often covered with carted soil.
Plant and animal life
Malta’s flora and fauna are typical of the low-lying coastal regions of the Mediterranean. Excessive exploitation of the forests for timber and the clearance of land for construction and agriculture have destroyed much of Malta’s woodlands, though a few stands of holm oak remain. Aleppo pine has been successfully reintroduced. Maquis, a scrubby underbrush, is found along valleys and below escarpments and consists of lentisk, carob, olive, bay laurel, and in some places the sandarac gum tree (Malta’s national tree). Garigue, a low-growing Mediterranean scrub, is the most common vegetation in Malta and covers much of the country’s limestone plateau. The steppe in Malta is dominated by various grasses, thistles, and leguminous and bulbous plants. Reed beds occur wherever there is abundant freshwater, and club mosses, sedges and grasses are found in wetlands. Glassworts, rushes, and seablites are native to the salt marshlands. Sand couch, sea kale, and sea daffodils are found on Malta’s few remaining coastal dunes, while golden samphire, rock samphire, and sea lavenders (several of which are endemic) are characteristic of low-lying rocky coasts. Cliffs and coastal screes support many of Malta’s native species, which include monotypic genera such as the Maltese cliff-orache (Cremnophyton lanfrancoi) and the Maltese rock-centaury (Palaeocyanus crassifolius), the latter of which is the national plant.
The native mammals in Malta include a subspecies of the Sicilian shrew and several types of bats. Most of the country’s other mammals, including the Algerian hedgehog, Mediterranean chameleon, Etruscan shrew, rabbit, and weasel, have been introduced. Native reptiles include the Maltese wall lizard, the ocellated skink, the Moorish and the Turkish gecko, the western whip snake, and the leopard snake. The only amphibian in Malta is the painted frog, a species endemic to Sicily and Malta. Invertebrates, including insects, arachnids, and snails, are abundant.
Although there are relatively few breeding birds, migrating species are plentiful. Sea birds include the storm petrel and the Mediterranean and Cory’s shearwaters. Among the most notable birds are the Spanish sparrow, which is the most common bird in Malta, and the blue rock thrush, Malta’s national bird.
Maltese and English are the official languages of Malta as well as official languages of the EU. Maltese resulted from the fusion of North African Arabic and a Sicilian dialect of Italian. It is the only Semitic language officially written in Latin script. English is a medium of instruction in schools. Italian was the language of church and government until 1934 and is still understood by a sizable portion of the population.
Religion in Malta
Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Malta, but there is full freedom of religious belief. More than nine-tenths of Maltese are Roman Catholic; however, only about three-fifths of these practice their faith. The islands are an independent province of the church, with an archdiocese in Malta and a diocese in Gozo. Very small numbers of Maltese are adherents of other Christian denominations or of Islam.
Valletta, Malta: St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Valletta, Malta: St. John’s Co-Cathedral
There are Roman Catholic cathedrals at Mdina and Valletta, an Anglican cathedral at Valletta, and a mosque at Corradino Heights.
Economy of Malta
Until the mid-1960s the Maltese economy depended heavily on the British military presence in Malta. In the 1950s Britain began to withdraw its armed forces, which necessitated a drastic diversification of the economy. A series of development plans after 1959 were supported by government grants, loans, and other fiscal incentives to encourage private investment. Import and capital controls, which were extensive until the second half of the 1980s, were progressively dismantled during the 1990s, moving Malta toward a more market-driven economy as the Maltese government pursued a policy of gradual privatization beginning in 1999. Capital controls were fully lifted only when Malta was acceded to the European Union (EU) in 2004. The Maltese economy faces major constraints because of its small domestic market, and it depends on other countries for many imported goods.
Agriculture and fishing
Agricultural development is hampered by land fragmentation (that is, plots of land resulting from decollectivization that are too small or too irregularly configured to be farmed efficiently), shallow soils, and lack of adequate water supplies. Most farming is carried out on small terraced strips of land that preclude the introduction of large-scale mechanization. As a result of the growth of urbanization, the agricultural labour force has become increasingly older, and more farming is done on a part-time basis; nevertheless, production has risen gradually because of improved techniques in the cultivation of some crops, especially horticultural ones. The major crops are potatoes, tomatoes, and fruit (especially citrus and drupes). Since the late 1990s there has been a substantial increase in grapevine and olive production. Malta is generally self-sufficient in food production, but beef is mostly imported. Upon the country’s accession into the EU, Malta’s agricultural sector became competitive.
Fishing is seasonal and, to a large extent, undertaken on an artisanal basis. The common dolphin fish (Coryphaena hippuras) and the bluefin tuna (Thunnus), however, are caught for export. Aquaculture, introduced in Malta in the late 1980s, has surpassed fishing as a source of income. The European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) are grown in floating sea cages, and the bluefin tuna from the sea are fattened on farms for four to six months before export. After Malta joined the EU, Maltese fishermen benefited from funding programs, particularly to promote the export of tuna.
Resources and power
Malta is poorly endowed with natural resources, and its only exploited mineral resource is limestone, which is quarried and used for construction. Offshore oil exploration has been under way since the mid-1990s, but no significant oil reserves have been discovered. Fossils fuels are imported and supply all of Malta’s energy. There are thermal power stations on both Malta and Gozo.
The Central Bank of Malta was founded in 1968. Malta’s former currency, the lira, was adopted in 1972. On Jan. 1, 2008, the euro became the country’s official currency. The banking system remains highly concentrated, with half of the local commercial banks accounting for about nine-tenths of total loans and deposits. The Malta Financial Services Authority, established in 2002, is an autonomous body and the single regulator for financial services, taking over supervisory functions that were formerly carried out by the Central Bank of Malta, the Malta Stock Exchange, and the Malta Financial Services Centre. The Maltese government encourages and facilitates direct foreign investment, which began to increase in the early 2000s. While the private sector still consists mostly of small enterprises, there are some internationally owned companies operating in Malta, mostly in the pharmaceutical, automotive, and electronics sectors.
Transportation and telecommunications at Malta
The island of Malta’s road system connects all towns and villages and includes a coast road and a panoramic road. Bus services radiating from Valletta provide inexpensive and frequent internal transportation. Taxis and rented vehicles are available on the island. Most families own automobiles, and the number of cars per household is one of the highest in Europe. There is no railway. Ferry services operate between Malta and Gozo, and Malta and Sicily are connected by both ferry and high-speed catamaran. The national airline, Air Malta, connects Malta with most European capitals as well as with North Africa, the Middle East, and North America. Since 2007 a number of low-cost airlines have offered services to and from Malta.
Malta’s telecommunications sector was fully liberalized in 2004, after Malta joined the EU. The mobile phone penetration rate increased substantially in the early 21st century; the majority of the inhabitants now use cellular telephones, while the number of fixed-line phone lines has remained relatively static. Internet usage increased as well. The Malta Communications Authority, established in 2001, is the regulatory body of the telecommunications sector.
Sports and Recreation
As a consequence of its colonial history, Malta developed a sporting tradition much influenced by its former British rulers, with an emphasis on polo, rugby, athletics (track and field), and especially football (soccer). The national stadium at Ta’ Qali is the site of important local and international football matches. A national basketball league was formed in 1960, and there are dozens of amateur teams throughout Malta and Gozo. Swimming, water polo, billiards, and tennis are also popular sports. Malta made its Olympic debut at the 1928 Summer Games in Amsterdam.
Government and society
The 1964 constitution, under which Malta became an independent monarchy and parliamentary state, was amended in 1974 to make Malta a republic within the Commonwealth. Malta is currently a unitary multiparty republic. The Maltese parliament consists of a unicameral House of Representatives and is fashioned on the British model. Members of the parliament are elected by proportional representation for five-year terms. An amendment adopted in 1996 guarantees a majority of seats to a party receiving more than 50 percent of the total votes cast in the general election. The parliament appoints the president, who is head of state. The president acts on the advice of the cabinet, which is headed by the prime minister, who is the head of the government.
Local government was established in Malta in 1993. The country is divided into 68 localities, 14 of which are in Gozo. Each locality is administered by a local council elected by the residents of the locality by proportional representation every three years. The Department for Local Government oversees the councils.
Maltese law, which was codified mainly during the period from 1854 to 1873, is largely based on the Napoleonic Code and Napoleonic law. Criminal proceedings and fiscal and maritime legislation follow English common law, but judicial precedent is not binding. Maltese is the language of the courts. Civil and criminal jurisdiction is almost exclusively vested in the Superior Courts and the Court of Magistrates. The chief justice and other members of the judiciary are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister.
Maltese citizens aged 18 and older are eligible to vote. The island is deeply polarized in its politics; since independence the two major parties, the Nationalist Party (Partit Nazzjonalista; PN) and the Malta Labour Party (Partit Laburista; MLP), have alternated in power. The Democratic Alternative (Alternattiva Demokratika; AD), also known as the Maltese Green Party, is Malta’s third party but has not secured a parliamentary seat since its founding in 1989. Voter turnout in Malta has traditionally been high, with generally more than nine-tenths of eligible voters casting ballots.