Located right in the middle of the Mediterranean, the Maltese Islands are some of the richest in the region - promising diverse culture, a dynamic history, welcoming people and eclectic attractions.
With an area of just 316sq km, the Maltese Archipelago is one of the smallest in the world. Yet it is also one of the densest, with over 417,000* residents. Only the three largest islands - Malta, Gozo and Comino - are inhabited. Within the country there are 67 local councils; 53 in Malta and 14 in Gozo. The Islands are enviably located in the passageway between Africa and Europe, 93km south of Sicily and 288km north of Libya.
Malta is the largest of the three islands, and remains the cultural, commercial and administrative centre. Gozo is the second largest island and more rural; it is known for its more abundant countryside and open spaces. Comino, while largely uninhabited, is a popular destination for day-trippers and hikers.
Visitors to the Islands are often attracted to the archetypal, Mediterranean climate, which is typified by hot summers and mild winters. But there is a lot more to keep them busy, including expansive beaches, a thriving nightlife and 7,000 years of intriguing history.
* Official Statistics drawn from NSO Publication - Malta in Figures 2011
||Maltese and English (both official)
||230 Volts, 50Hz. UK-style three pin square plugs
||L-Innu Malti, with lyrics by Dun Karm Psalia and music by Robert Sammut
||The Maltese Cross
||National Order of Merit (Ġieħ ir-Repubblika), Midalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika
The Maltese Flag is made up of two equal vertical bands of white and red, with a representation of the George Cross in the upper hoist-side corner. It is alleged that these colours date back to the rule of the Knights of St John, while the cross was awarded to the islanders by King George VI of the United Kingdom for their bravery and gallantry World War II.
|New Year's Day
||Feast of St. Paul's Shirpwreck
||Feast of St. Joseph
||Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul
||Feast of the Assumption
|Feast of Our Lady of Victories
||Feast of the Immaculate Conception
The history of the Maltese Islands is rich and varied. In fact, its 7000 years of history date back to 5200BC and start with the arrival of man. Subsequent important dates include St Paul’s Shipwreck in 60AD, which marked the arrival of Christianity to the Islands, the Great Siege in 1565, Malta gaining Independence from Britian in 1964, becoming a Republic in 1974 and the joining of the European Union in 2004.
Today there is so much to learn thanks to the many historical sites dotted around the Island. There are many areas of heritage and culture to be explored such as:
- The Grandmaster’s Palace
- The Sacra Infermeria
- St John’s Co-Cathedral
- Palazzo Falson
- The Museum of Fine Arts
- The War Museum
- St James Cavalie
- The Mosta Dome
- St Paul & St Agatha’s Catacombs
- The Hypogeum, the Temples and Ghar Dalam
You can learn more about Malta’s colourful past and present in the museums that commemorate every era, from prehistory to the story of Malta in World War II.
Rich history, unique attractions, spectacular entertainment… Malta's got it all.
From the oldest temples in the world, to splendid palaces, a stunning Caravaggio work of art, intricate handmade lace creations and numerous state-of-the art cinemas, the Maltese Islands are the perfect mix of old and new with something for all tastes and ages.
And let's not forget the magnificent views. Because of its location in the heart of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and its stunning architecture, Malta has caught the eye of many film directors, featuring in award-winning films including Gladiator and Midnight Express.
World Heritage Sites
Malta’s Temples and the Hypogeum are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The imposing Ggantija Temples in Xaghra, Gozo, are the oldest temples in the world. They are fascinating and mysterious because no one really knows how and why they were built. In the past, some people thought giants built them because of their gigantic stones.
Discover more about Malta’s fascinating past through its many museums. See the original Sleeping Lady artifact discovered at Hal Saflieni temple in the Museum of Archaeology and get a taste for the simple rural life, crafts and trades of Malta hundreds of years ago at the Folklore Museum.
As you would expect of a maritime nation, the Islands have plenty of memorabilia charting their seafaring past. See an authentic Maltese ferry boat at the Malta Maritime Museum and go on a voyage back in time to when Malta played an important role in both World War I and II at the National War Museum.
The buildings housing these museums are also gems in themselves. The National Museum of Fine Arts is housed in an exuberant Rococo building while the Ta' Kola Windmill, still in working condition, promises a step back in time to Malta’s rural times.
Churches and Religious Sites
The Maltese are among the oldest Christians in the world and you can find an amazing 365 churches on the islands – a very high number for such a small space. Many are dedicated to St Paul, who was shipwrecked in Malta in 60 AD, and St John.
St John's Co-Cathedral is a gem of Baroque art and architecture and boasts the stupendous painting by Caravaggio called The Beheading of St John. The dome of the Mosta Church is the fourth largest in the world. It is famous because, during WWII, a bomb pierced the dome and fell to the Church floor without exploding – saving the lives of those parishioners present.
The ornate Mdina Cathedral contains magnificent works by Mattia Preti, while pilgrims and any curious tourist should visit the Ta’ Pinu Basilica, which famous for supposedly saving Gozo from the plague and now home to hundreds of mementoes from grateful worshippers.
Fortifications and Towers
You'll never be far from an entertaining theatre show, a comedy sketch, a classical concert or a music gig in Malta. Watch a clever play at St James Cavalier, enjoy an opera at The Astra Theatre or The Aurora Theatre in Gozo, or perhaps listen to a classical concert at The Manoel Theatre. This theatre is worth a visit simply for its magnificent architecture, dating back to the time of the Knights. It is reputedly Europe’s third-oldest working theatre.
If you’re up for a laugh or want to watch a gripping thriller, head to one of the many cinemas across Malta and Gozo.
Sports and Activities
Malta's beautiful year-round weather makes it ideal for a number of sports and outdoor activities. Deep sea scuba dive in the Mediterranean Sea and witness Malta’s stunning underwater world or board a yacht to sail around the islands. Take a special tour of Malta's countryside on a bike adventure or test your aim with clay pigeon shooting.
With 7,000 years of history, the cultural attractions on the islands are abundant. Cities such as Valletta, Mdina, Rabat and the Three Cities hold cultural gems and sites found only in Malta. Brave the Mdina Dungeons, explore Malta's religious history, take a Medieval pilgrimage or experience an unforgettable night of Maltese folklore.
Whether you're in or above the water, the Maltese Islands are full of natural wonders and distinctive beauty. Explore the picturesque cave that is the Blue Grotto, retrace part of Homer's Odyssey at Calypso's Cave, where the beautiful nymph Calypso is said to have kept Odysseus as a prisoner of love for seven years, and marvel at the spectacular natural Azure Window, which is a giant doorway through which you can admire the blue expanse beyond the cliff.
Dubbed the "Mediterranean's mini-Hollywood", Malta has become one of Europe's most popular film and televisionlocations. The islands have been home to Hollywood blockbusters such as Gladiator, U-571, The Count of Monte Cristo, Troy, Munich and prestigious dramas and sitcoms such as BBC's Byron, ITV's Coronation Street and Canale 5's series of six TV movies, Souvenirs. Visit Popeye's Village which was originally the set for the film Popeye.