Reputedly the second-most densely populated area on Earth (after Hong Kong), Malta challenges the first time visitor as to what they think they know about this small 90-square mile rock that lies between Sicily to the north and Libya to the south. Boasting the world’s oldest free-standing structures — yes, they’re said to be older than Newgrange — Malta is an island of contradictions that will delight the eye, ear and palate of even the most discerning traveller.
For starters, they speak English and drive on the left-hand side of the road so you feel comfortable right from the time that you land at Luqa airport after a flight from Ireland. Flight duration is similar to the Canaries at around four hours and fifteen minutes. Having ben conquered by Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Normans over the course of its tumultous 7,000 years of history, Malta is like a living museum with treasures to match. The old capital of the island Mdina is a case in point with magnificently preserved buildings, churches and palaces at every turn. Indeed, you might be surprised to find that within one of the main churches within the walled city of Mdina, can be found an ornately-carved door of ancient Irish bog oak, said to have been brought over to Malta from Ireland back in the 14th century!
Contrasting with the antiquities of places like Mdina and Valetta itself are the newer suburban developments in places like St Julian’s where you can stay in world-class resort hotels like the Hilton and enjoy fresh seafood that would happily adorn any Michelin-starred restaurant at home. Best of all though are the prices. A glass of wine will typically cost just €2 and a respectable lunch can be had for under a tenner, happily stretching your budget further than you would expect.
Malta continues to suffer to some degree from outdated perceptions of what it’s really like and which market it is likely to appeal to. many people still assume that Malta caters primarily for the over 50’s and whilst it is certainly true that the older generation have come to appreciate the island’s charms, it is safe to say that it has also been ‘discovered’ in recent years by the younger set who are more than happy to appreciate its guaranteed sunshine, unpolluted waters, cheap cost of living, great night-life and friendly and accommodating locals. Indeed, Malta is probably one of the safest places around and ideal for families although bear in mind that beaches are few and far between and located primarily in the Northwest of the small island.
If you love your Mediterranean lifestyle but are looking for something a bit different but not too unfamiliar, then you should definitely add Malta to your ‘To Do’ list for 2012.