My first travel steps in the new year led to a previously unexplored island – Malta. As well as starting the year with a new unvisited destination, Malta is also my 50th country visited. Here are five reasons why Malta is a definite yes for me!
Island life, culture, history
Malta is a beautiful island country. Life here is characterized by a calm and relaxed pace that is influenced by its rich cultural history and beautiful nature. There are several UNESCO World Heritage sites in Malta, including the ancient capital of Mdina, the megalithic temples and the historic city of Valletta. The island is also famous for its baroque architecture. Probably because Malta is a relatively small island (just over 500 000 inhabitants in 316 square kilometres), there is a strong sense of community. The Maltese are known for their warmth and hospitality and there are many social and cultural events throughout the year.
Sea and sun
The climate is Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild, humid winters. The island gets plenty of sunshine throughout the year (an average of 300 days of sunshine is said to occur), which means that you can enjoy the fresh air at any time of year. The island is surrounded by crystal clear waters and Malta is famous for its beautiful beaches, which are among the cleanest and safest in the world.
Maltese cuisine is influenced by the island’s location, mixing Mediterranean, North African and Middle Eastern flavours. The emphasis is on freshness. Both fish and seafood and traditional Maltese dishes are on the menu. Maltese cuisine is also renowned for its use of aromatic herbs and spices, which add depth and complexity to many dishes. Here are five typical dishes:
Pastizzi – consists of pastries filled with various fillings (most often cheese or peas), eaten for breakfast or during the day as a popular snack.
Ftira – traditional Maltese bread, often filled with tomatoes, olives, tuna and anchovies and is a popular street food.
Rabbit stew – a traditional Maltese dish made with rabbit meat and slow cooked with onions, garlic, potatoes and red wine. I swapped it for the amazing octopus stew due to my pescetarian nature.
Lampuki Pie (lampuki fish pie) – a savoury pie made with lampuki, a type of fish found in Maltese waters, followed by potatoes, onions and tomatoes.
Bragioli – consists of thin slices of beef which are stuffed with a mixture of breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley and then slow-cooked in a tomato sauce.
Super cool! Considering the quality that Malta provides to its visitors, the prices are more than affordable. A meal in a mid-range restaurant can cost around 15 to 20 euros per person (we found amazing quality for less), while a home-brewed beer in a bar or pub can cost around 2 to 3 euros. A bottle of a solid local wine in a restaurant can be ordered from 10 euros. We travelled by public transport for 2 euros, Uber is also not the most expensive. Last but not least, Malta can be reached from Central Europe for an affordable price and not even a two-hour flight.
Running – as always
I like to combine the pleasant with the useful while travelling and running gear is my essential part. Malta kicks off for many runners the new sports season, with both half marathons and marathons being run here in early February. I’ve chosen a 21km course to kick off my 2023 season, which is incredibly scenic. During the race, runners will pass by some of Malta’s most famous landmarks and historic sites. The course runs through a mixture of urban and coastal terrain and is quite hilly for a road run – I climbed 166 vertical metres. The tour of the city sights, however, was well worth it: Grand Harbour, Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens, the Sliema and St. Julian’s waterfronts, and more. For the start of the season and considering the elevation, the final time wasn’t the worst either: 1 hour, 31 minutes and 35 seconds.
Malta is a truly unique and fascinating destination where every visitor will find something to enjoy. Whether you are looking for sun, sea, cuisine, culture or adventure, this small island state in the heart of the Mediterranean is definitely worth your attention.