Malta, Gozo and Comino…
has long been a travel priority of mine. Located in the central Mediterranean Sea, 80 km south of Italy’s Sicily, it is the southernmost country in Europe. 98% of Maltese people can communicate in English. This is a big convenience. You can ask anyone anything in English and get information quickly. Everyone who travelled to other parts of Europe knows very well that communication with locals is an important thing.
For some time work and other activities did not allow me to go longer. However, it turned out that at the end of August there is a possibility of reconciling duties with this idea. Nice promotion of a flight from London was a perfect incentive to buy, it remained only to plan where and how to explore Malta, finding suitable accommodation.
There were still some questions – to visit only Malta and the other 2 islands at another time? If all, is a week in Malta, Gozo and Comino enough? Is the end of August still too hot (daily average 31.8 degrees Celsius) for comfortable sightseeing and relaxation? Are the stories about difficulties in using public transport exaggerated? As usual, curiosity about the world and the desire to check everything on our own won out.
Malta How to get from the airport
There are several ways to get from the airport to almost anywhere on the island. The most popular places to stay are Valetta, Sliema and St Julian’s, the more northern ones like Bugibba or Mellieha and the southern ones like Marsaxlokk. I personally highly recommend the Valetta area, especially Sliema. I found that Sliema and St. Julian’s is a great base for most points of interest on the island. Next time I will definitely stay in this town as well, possibly in the capital.
Public transport in Malta has a very bad opinion in terms of punctuality and it can be assumed that the bus we are waiting for at the stop will not arrive on time, regardless of whether you check the time of arrival at the stop or on the carrier’s website.
The advantage is that the buses here are modern, air-conditioned vehicles. After the old ones, which appeared on the island’s streets a few years ago, there are only a few left and they are only an additional tourist attraction. Remember that the desire to use public transport in Malta must be signalled to the driver by a wave of your hand at the stop or a button inside the bus (if you want to get off at the next stop)
Seaside resorts and larger, sandy beaches are mainly located in the northern part of Malta. The largest beach in Malta is the beach at Mellieħa Bay. It is famous for its sandy beach about a kilometer long and for its shallow waters.
The second largest is the beach at Golden Bay. Both of these beaches have sunbed, umbrella and water equipment rentals, as well as a number of bars and restaurants. Lifeguards are present on the beach daily from June to September. This is one of the most recognizable spots on the island. The best way to get to the sandy beach from Sliema is by bus 225, which takes about 1 hour. See for yourself, it’s really cool place.
The probability of cloudless sunny weather in Malta is 71% per year. Malta is one of the few places in Europe where it is green all year round. This can be seen at every turn.
From the bus stop at Golden Bay, you can take the #101 to Popeye Village. The bus runs every hour.
It is a kind of amusement park in Malta in the municipality of Mellieħa, on Anchor Bay. The park takes the form of a village that was built during the last 7 months of 1979 for the movie Popeye, which was filmed here in 1980. Today the village is open all year round to tourists as an open-air museum and family entertainment complex, and is one of Malta’s tourist attractions. Popeye Village is a fun attraction for children. Older visitors will surely be interested in taking pictures from the Anchor Bay located on the opposite side of the headland.
We return to Golden Bay. Literally a few hundred meters away, on a cliff overhanging the sea, there is a tower, which offers a beautiful view of the entire area.
Right next to it begins another beach definitely worth a visit. See for yourself that from one of the points towering over it we will also see an amazing view of the beach is Ghajn Tuffieha. If you want to get directly here, without getting on Golden Bay, you should get off at the Riviera stop. This is a frequent beach destination for tourists and locals alike. Heading further into the next bay, you will come across a phenomenal rock formation and another beach.
Malta also has over a dozen other major beaches scattered throughout the archipelago. Currently, eight beaches in Malta have earned the right to use the Blue Flag symbol.
This time more secluded and wild. This is where you will find the highest viewpoints in this part of the island. I personally consider it to be one of the most beautiful.
Due to the fact that it is my first full day in Malta I stay in this area practically until the end of the day. Just before evening I return to the hotel. I must admit that the buses starting their routes are quite punctual and leave according to the schedule at the bus stop.
Considering the frequent rides and transfers, the cost of 21 € for the whole week quickly pays for itself. Another option is a 12-ride ticket. It costs 15 € and can be used with a traveling companion. You can transfer to other buses on this ticket, as long as the trip does not take more than 2 hours on this ticket.
When planning this trip, I wondered whether to take the time to visit the island of Gozo. It is located only 25 minutes by ferry from Malta. I decided, however, to spend one full day visiting it. It is best to arrive at the ferry port in Cirkewwa first thing in the morning. The bus ride from Sliema (bus number 222) takes about 1.5 hours. The ferry crossing literally takes 25 minutes and costs €4.65 round trip (paid on the way back).
In Gozo we have several options to explore the island. Remember that the previously purchased bus ticket in Malta, will also be honored here. I decided, however, for the first time in my life to take the tourist bus option, the so-called Hop on Hop Off. Yes, this is the double-decker, with a panoramic view from the upper deck. Sightseeing with its help has a lot of advantages. There are two companies to choose from – the green line and the red line.
At a small expense of 20 € (on the Internet a little cheaper, about 15 €, but from a good source I know that now you can still buy from a representative of the company in the waiting room at the port of Malta in Cirkewwa ticket for Hop on Hop Off even for 10 €), we have a full day tour with the possibility to decide which of the several points of interest to us on the island, we want to see and devote some time to them. In specific points, and there are as many as 15 of them, on two routes (purple and blue), we can get off the bus, being sure that in 45 minutes there will be another going further.
The bus starts directly from the ferry port in Mgarr. The first bus leaves at 09:45, the last at 17:30. Thanks to Hop On Hop Off, I was able to stop in several of the most interesting places. It takes about 150 minutes to fully tour the entire route without leaving the bus. Below you will find a list of places the buses reach.
Another point, this time definitely of historical or, more precisely, archaeological character, is the Ġgantija temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two megalithic temples have been preserved here, among the oldest free-standing structures in the world, which most likely were also the sites of a prehistoric fertility cult.
Now I head towards Marsalforn Bay, a former fishing village, which now looks more like a sizable tourist-oriented town.
Lots of taverns with fried fish and other seafood. The smell is everywhere. There are no long sandy beaches, there is one, besieged in the season by locals and tourists. The rest of the coastline is made of concrete fragments located next to the promenade with a few steps directly into the water. Within a few kilometers are located salt pans (Salt Pans).
The capital of Gozo is Victoria (another name Rabat), the largest city on the island, which is worth spending a lot of time on, not only for the citadel towering over him, but also the beautiful narrow streets. They are a great place to escape from the crowds and the scorching afternoon sun.
Any connection from one part of Gozo to the other always goes through Victoria. It is easy to reach from here for example the recognizable place, which is certainly Azurre Window. And actually it was, because some time after returning from Malta, it turned out that after this famous, rocky arch there is not much left. This place in the days of its glory really made a big impression on me.
After returning to Sliema it turned out that in the evening there will be a festival in nearby St. Julian, which is literally in the immediate vicinity. So in the evening there was a big fete with an orchestra, fireworks, lots of attractions in the streets. It was fabulous!
Valletta – Capital of Malta
The next day I decided to go back to the idea of reaching the Dongli Cliffs again. From Sliema we can take bus 202 to Rabat (Mdina) and from there 201 to the cliffs. But I still want to visit Valetta, from where I will go to the former capital, Rabat, and from Rabat to the cliffs.
Valetta is the southernmost European capital city. With 320 monuments, Valletta is one of the most dense historic areas in the world. It is on the UNESCO world heritage list. It was chosen as the European Capital of Culture 2018.
Valletta’s main street is Republic Street (malt. Triq ir-Repubblika) starting at the city gate and ending under the walls of St. Elmo’s Fort.
Valletta itself is beautiful, both during the day and at night, when the lights fantastically illuminate the most important monuments. One of the must-see places are the Barrakka Gardens, both in the lower and upper parts of the city. The city is beautiful both during the day and at night. Be sure to come to the gardens after dark. You will fall in love with this place.
As you may already know, there are cliffs in the southern part of the main island, in some areas of Gozo and on several smaller islets in the archipelago. The main stretch of cliffs in the archipelago are the Dingli Cliffs. They are worth seeing, especially since the Maltese cliffs are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I catch bus 201 from Mdina (Rabat), which runs only once an hour.
The cliffs seem like the end of the world. Apart from a poorly traveled road there is no infrastructure, but the wildness of this place has some power of attraction. It is worth walking a little further from the bus stop, especially since the next bus will arrive in less than an hour. It’s worth checking at the bus stop on the opposite side what time the next bus will be so you don’t miss it. There is no place where you can take shelter from the ubiquitous sun. It is worth to get enough water in advance.
Just by the steep cliffs, we will find information about the death of a German tourist, which is a clear warning against too much confidence in this place. An observant eye will also notice car wrecks several meters below. But the most unusual is the view of the entire coastline, which is the southernmost part of Europe.
From here, we can continue on the 201 towards the Blue Grotto, or return via Rabat to Sliema.
Blue Grotto, is another rock formations. I had planned to take pictures of this place from the cliffs, but this time I decided to take a short motorboat ride. I warn you right away that I expected something more. The pleasure does not last long, on the motorboat with 8 other people we admire the caves from the water part, but there remains some unsatisfaction. The biggest impression, however, is probably the colour of the water and its transparency in the caves. The blue is magical. The whole thing costs 8 euros, which is still quite a large amount for 25 minutes spent in a motorboat.
However, if you decide in this way to get to know this place better, it is worth coming here before noon because of the lack of crowds, as well as better light for taking pictures. It is also worth to visit Marsaxlokk, recommended by Karol Rolling with the Wheel, which is one of the pearls of must-see what to see in Malta. It is important, however, to get there at the right time (equally beautiful is also during the sunset) and thus still admire the colourful fishing boats located in the harbour.
As I mentioned earlier, Sliema has a great location. It is close to Valetta, but also to the Three Towns which are only a little further away. These are Bormla, Birgu and Isla. As always, I get there via Valetta on another day. This place, although definitely not beach related, will become my favorite. I start from Birgu ( another name is Vittoriosa).
In Birgu there are monuments from the times of the reign of the Joannits on the island, among others:
-Fort of the Holy Angel – which is an extraterritorial property of the Sovereign Order of Malta
-Inquisitorial Palace from 1535, where you can visit the courtroom, prison cells and the courtyard where executions took place.
Birgu is surrounded by city walls from the mainland. You can get here by bus from Valetta or by ferry (runs from the lower part of Barakka Upper Gardens).
In planning my daily activities very helpful was the Services Malta platform thanks to which I could find many attractions on the island.
The next days I spent on the beach, until finally the day came to return home. I decided to make the most of that day, especially since my return flight was not until 10:30 pm.
I spent this day mostly on Comino. As in the case of Gozo, we can get there from the ferry port located in Cirkewwa. As soon as you get off the bus, you are sure to be accosted by salesmen from Comino Ferries, handing you a flyer and inviting you aboard a small boat. We can also get to Comino from Marfa. The trip lasts only 15 minutes and costs 10 euros round trip. The first course starts at 9:10 am, the last one at 3:40 pm in summer or 3:10 pm out of season. The return from the Blue Lagoon can be combined with a tour of the caves, provided that you decide to return after 12:30 p.m. More and more tourists appear at the Blue Lagoon in the morning.
No wonder, since we can swim in the azure clear water. There is no typical sandy beach, so we will be forced to seize a small patch of rocky space. The island of Comino itself is not large and lacks a developed infrastructure. Although we will not die of hunger or thirst here, because a lot of food trucks. Each of them offers basically the same thing, namely fast food sold around the world. It is worth devoting a moment not only to swimming, but also for a short walk. Just a few dozen meters from the crowds of tourists you will find nice bays, to which small ships and yachts arrive every now and then. This small island also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of numerous water sports such as riding on an inflatable banana, parachute flight pulled by a motorboat, etc.
When going to this place it’s worth taking special water shoes with you to protect your feet from rocks and stones. Flip-flops may not be enough. Anyway, it’s not the only place in the archipelago, where these shoes turned out to be salvation.
I took the night plane home, but I know I will come back here again soon. This island has some kind of extraordinary power of attraction 🙂 I highly recommend this place.