Flights To Malta

It has been said that the Maltese islands are the 'open air museum of the Mediterranean', offering 7,000 years or more of history to explore with numerous cultural, historical and megalithic sites unique in the world. The islands boast prehistoric ruins older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt, and are steeped in the legacy of the medieval order of the Knights of St John, who used the island as their stronghold for defending Christendom.

The main island of Malta, covering just 95 square miles (246 sq km), is also a popular holiday destination because of its secluded bays and sandy beaches, washed by unpolluted clear blue waters. Set against the backdrop of the island's scenery and its honey-coloured stone buildings, Malta is alluring and fascinating.

Malta and its little sister island, Gozo, are not stuck in a time warp, however. The islanders enjoy life to the full, and the calendar is liberally sprinkled with summertime 'festas' with fireworks and revelry in every little parish in honour of the village patron saints, as well as the major carnival in early spring every year. The capital, Valletta, besides offering some awesome Baroque buildings and fortifications as its main sightseeing attractions, is bustling and bursting with restaurants and cafes. The island's compact size is also a plus for visitors; it takes no more than an hour to drive between any two points on the main island, and there is very little open space. The dense population means that the island is virtually one large urban area, with buildings occupying every inch.

Malta lies about 60 miles (97km) south of Sicily and 160 miles (257km) north of Libya, a strategic position in the Mediterranean that has made the islands a crossroads of history. The last occupiers were the British, who granted Malta independence in 1964, but the biggest and most unique influence was left by the Knights of St John, to whom the island was donated in 1530; the Knights reigned supreme over the island for 270 years, building magnificent churches and monuments to themselves.

Malta has its mysteries too, in the form of 30 prehistoric sites boasting massive Neolithic temples, considered to be the oldest freestanding stone buildings known to man.

Currency

The currency was changed to the Euro (EUR) on 1 January 2008 (Maltese lira are no longer accepted). Banks, ATMs and exchange bureaux can be found all over the islands, as well as foreign exchange machines in the tourist areas.

Currency

English and Maltese are the official languages; Italian is also spoken

Attractions

While on holiday in Malta there are various wonderful things to see and do, as well as beautiful island beaches to enjoy. Visit St John's Co-Cathedral to see Caravaggio's painting and the inlaid tombstones covering the Cathedral floor. Still in Valletta, the Malta Experienceillustrates the history of Malta at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. The Three Cities are home to architectural displays of the island's maritime history, while Hagar Qim has a prehistoric temple complex with the oldest human structures in the world. Dive into the 'blue hole' at Dwejra's secluded pebbled bathing pool, and visit Marsalforn for great restaurants and bars. There is a wealth of historical sightseeing for tourists, and combined with the hedonistic glories of the Mediterranean coast this makes Malta a superb travel destination.

Getting around

Getting around in Malta is made easy by the cheap and reliable public bus system, which has an unexpected charm due to the use of vintage buses. Services radiate from Valletta, so you may find yourself doubling back to get to other destinations. The buses can be uncomfortable in extreme heat since none are air-conditioned, but the short rides make it bearable. You can pick up schedules at terminals or on the buses themselves. You can also take the white taxis that will transport you anywhere on the island, or local pre-booked black cabs that are cheaper. Hiring a car in Malta is another option, and you can do so at many hotels, harbours, and the airport. Another pleasant transport alternative is hiring a bike, which you can do in Valletta.

Climate

Malta has a typically Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters, very similar to the climate in southern Italy and Greece. Almost all the rain falls between October and March making the rest of the year consistently dry. The temperature is fairly constant in Malta and there are frequent and often strong winds. It is humid year-round, seldom falling below 40 percent. In summer temperatures frequently reach 30ºC (84ºF) and can rise above 35°C (95°F), but thankfully the heat is often tempered by sea breezes. July and August are the hottest months. In spring and autumn a hot wind, known as the Xlokk, sometimes brings high temperatures and humidity and autumn does get sporadic rainfall. Winters are mild with daytime temperatures seldom falling below 50°F (10°C). Nights are somewhat colder. Snow never falls in Malta.

The wonderful Mediterranean climate makes Malta a year-round travel destination. The peak summer months are the most popular with tourists but some prefer to visit in spring and autumn, between April and early June or in October, when the heat is less oppressive. If you are travelling primarily for historical sightseeing then winters can be a pleasant time to visit, as it is less crowded and slightly cheaper.