Malta Island

Malta Island is the largest of the three main islands within the archipelago that makes up the country. It is the most populous (Comino has fewer than a dozen inhabitants) and the many things to do on Malta Island are what draw the largest percentage of visitors. In the last twenty years, holidays to Malta Island have begun to receive some competition from Gozo—the second largest island in the archipelago.

The largest city on Malta Island is Valletta, which is also the country's major port and capital. Many of the things to do on Malta Island revolve around this city, which has a long and rich history. A good percentage of visitors to the country are the passengers on cruises that stop in the city's fortified Grand Harbor only for a night or two, enjoying tours of the magnificent palaces and cathedrals built by the Knights of Malta.

If your Malta Island vacation lasts more than a couple nights and you are up for some physical activity, you might find yourself hiking along the Dingli Cliffs. Dingli is a small town to the southwest of Rabat and Medina, and is known for these fabulous cliffs with breathtaking views. It's possible to hike here on a continuous route above the sea for up to twelve miles. The paths aren't as formalized and marked as the famous hiking trails in Corsica, but you will find good routes. There are also good alternatives to hotels in this rural area—rustic farmhouses that serve as charming bed and breakfast inns.

This is the highest point on Malta Island, rising dramatically almost 1,000 feet above the sea. Scarred with white limestone, they resemble the famous white cliffs of Dover in England. Picturesquely perched on the edge is the little St. Mary Magdalene Chapel. The soft stone of the cliffs mean there a number of caves in the cliffs, both above and below the water. Because of the underwater caves, this is a prime spot if your holidays to Malta Island include scuba diving.

Some of the most fascinating things to do on Malta Island are tours of the ancient megalithic temples. There are seven on the islands of Malta and Gozo that comprise a single UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ones on Malta include Hagar Qim dating from about 3,600 to 3,200 B.C, and located in the southern part of the island about a mile from the airport. Also in this area is the Mnajdra Temples complex dating to the same period. Other historic structures include the ornate seventeenth-century St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina, built in honor of the saint who was shipwrecked here according to legend. Here also are the extensive subterranean St. Paul's Catacombs. In nearby Rabat is a simpler church and grotto built on the spot where the saint may have stayed after his shipwreck.

Your holidays to Malta Island might involve more modern vacation pursuits. There are several beautiful beaches and lovely beach resorts on the island. Most of these are located on the eastern side of the island where you will also find some lively nightlife. Look particularly around St Julians, Paceville, and Mellieha. There are also some more secluded beaches on the south side of the island around the town of Marsaxlokk. This area also contains the famous Blue Grotto—not to be confused with the equally famous Blue Lagoon on Comino Island.

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