Many people will react with quizzical incomprehension when you mention the tiny island nation of Malta. ‘What is Malta’ being a common response.
But although it is small in size, there is a lot packed into this small country in the centre of the Mediterranean. For those who are less familiar with Malta, here is a handy A to Z guide to get you up to speed.
A – Malta’s Airport is consistently rated as one of the best in Europe, and it’s a nice stress-free welcome to the country.
B – Banda Clubs are village groups which organise music and festivities for the lavish village feasts which occur in the summer time.
C – Caravaggio came to Malta, and left behind one of his greatest works: ‘The Beheading of John the Baptist’ in St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta.
D – Ghar Dalam (meaning ‘cave of darkness’) is Malta’s oldest prehistoric site, and is where artefacts were found of the very first human settlers in Malta.
E – Easter is celebrated with fireworks, music, processions and plenty of good food.
F – Every tiny village will have its own festa, a riot of noise and colour, punctuated by fireworks and noisy marching bands.
G – Gozo is Malta’s smaller sister island, and is a more tranquil and laid back version of the main island.
H – The Hypogeum is an ancient underground burial chamber, and one of the true wonders of the island.
I – In Homer’s Iliad, Odysseus was said to have spent 7 years in Malta, bewitched by the nymph Calypso. You may find yourself similarly bewitched by a visit to the island!
J – St Julians is the main centre for dining, drinking and dancing in Malta
K – The Knights of St John had a huge influence on the island when they arrived in the sixteenth century, and they are responsible for constructing Valletta much as we see it today.
L – You will see the brightly coloured Luzzu fishing boats in various parts of the island, particularly the charming little village of Marsaxxlok.
M – Mdina is known as Malta’s ‘Silent City’ as there are very few vehicles permitted in this ancient city.
N – The Nadur carnival is the Maltese version of the more famous Brazilian carneval, and takes over the tiny Gozitan village of Nadur for a few days every Spring.
O – The eye of Osiris is painted onto the prow of fishing boats to provide luck for the fishermen as they set out to sea.
P – Paradise Bay is one of the beautiful sandy beaches on the north coast of the island.
Q – A Qassatat is a type of pastizzi, a cheap and delicious (if not particularly healthy) pastry snack you can find everywhere on the islands.
R – Malta has been governed by many invaders over the centuries, and the Romans were among the islands conquerors. While they have not left too many visible sites behind, you can visit the remains of a Roman villa in Rabat
S – Malta is one of Europe’s top Scuba destinations, and wrecks have been sunk all along the coastline to provide quality diving experiences.
T – Malta hosts no fewer than 7 Megalithic Temple sites, including the impressive Ggantija Temples which features stones so large that for centuries locals believed they were constructed by a race of giants.
U – UNESCO has listed 3 sites in tiny Malta as World Heritage sites. They are the ancient Temples, the Hypogeum, and…
V – Valletta. The whole city (all 1km square of it) is listed as a World Heritage site, and walking the narrow streets is a great way to spend an afternoon.
W – The Weather in Malta is the envy of the rest of Europe, as there are more hours of sunshine here per year than in any other European country.
X – The Heritage Trail in Xemxija allows you to commune with nature, and to discover ancient landmarks and sites dotted along the trail.
Y – Yachts berth at marinas across the island, and the clear blue waters of Malta attract those who love water sports and activities.
Z- Zebbug is one of the oldest towns in Malta, famous for it’s raucous festivals as there are three different banda clubs competing to create the most spectacular firework display.
So that’s at least twenty-six good reasons to pay a visit to Malta next time you are considering a European vacation. It’s only a tiny dot on the map, but this country really is one of the jewels of the Mediterranean.