Germany’s ‘Die Welt’ recently described Malta as ‘the island of culture’. Listed second in the newspaper’s top places to visit in 2017, Malta certainly lives up to the hype. The island’s culture is based on a history that dates back to the dawn of civilisation, has been enriched by numerous foreign influences and plays a large part in the island’s storied charm. But there is more to this small island nation than its most apparent associations. Malta is a place for sunrise yoga and nightly DJ sessions, for swimming in the crystal-clear Mediterranean Sea and visiting megalithic temples, and for top culinary experiences and breath-taking country walks. It is hard to think of a destination that appeals in equal measures to backpackers and honeymooners, foodies and fitness enthusiasts, as well as those seeking the most luxurious experience.
A mixture of exciting urban renewal initiatives and investment in all-year round leisure facilities have further upped Malta’s appeal and helped attract almost two million tourists in 2016 – a record-high for the seventh consecutive year.
A Slice of Paradise Anchored in the crystal-clear waters of the central Mediterranean, the Maltese archipelago is situated just 90 kilometres south of Sicily and 300 kilometres north of Africa. Malta’s proximity to Europe means it is relatively easy to reach. From most major cities such as London, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome it takes just two to three hours’ flying time to reach Malta International Airport, the island’s only airport. With around 300 days of sunshine per year, and temperatures rarely dropping below 15 degrees Celsius even in winter, Malta is an ideal holiday destination year-round. The peak holiday season is July to September, however, the milder temperatures of spring and autumn attract tourists keen to explore the island’s rich history and cultural heritage. Visitors can choose from a wide range of accommodation options. From the global brands and the most luxurious hotels to more economic ones appealing to the budget-conscious traveller, Malta has it all. Malta also has a thriving boutique hotel scene. Set in historic palazzos, their classic but contemporary look suits everyone from business traveller to families. Most hotels are located in tourist areas such as Sliema, St Julian’s and St Paul’s Bay. However, one of the best things of compact Malta is that wherever visitors chose to stay, they will not be far from everywhere else.
Explore & Experience
Malta prides itself on being all things to all people. It can offer action or relaxation, peace and quietness or excitement. For lovers of music, theatre and the arts, there is an extensive cultural calendar. For visitors interested in sports, it offers practically any activity, from golf and tennis to horse riding and hiking through Malta’s rural landscape. The seas around Malta and Gozo are clean and clear and offer an unlimited variety of water sports. Sailing, snorkelling and windsurfing are superb, and as a scuba diving location, Malta ranks among the best in the world. Yachting and sailing holidays are also on offer. Most of the picture-postcard bays are found in the northern region of Malta and the islands of Gozo and Comino, although there is no shortage of natural beauty anywhere on the archipelago. Malta’s vast special interest sector has also inspired many visitors to put the island at the top of their holiday list. Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (M.I.C.E.) tourism has been on a steady growth path in recent years due to the many suitable facilities that are widely available. With some of Malta’s temples being over 7,000 years old and 365 churches – one for each day of the year – Malta is a hotspot for cultural and religious travel. Easter processions and Christmas festivities, as well as the traditional Maltese ‘festas’ complete with fireworks and band marches, are a spectacular sight for foreigners to enjoy and participate in.
More than Sun & Sea
Malta offers everything that is quintessentially Mediterranean. However, at the same time it has a tad of Berlin’s or Barcelona’s atmosphere, and trendy bars and artsy hangouts are drawing an increasingly younger crowd to holiday on the island. While some might come to learn the English language (on average 75,000 students visit the island per year), others are attracted by a nightlife that takes them from dusk till dawn. Big music events happening in Malta, including Annie Mac’s acclaimed ‘Lost and Found’ in spring and June’s Isle of MTV, have become fixed dates in the European festival calendar. July 2017 will see the first edition of ‘Unite with Tomorrowland Malta’, an offshoot of the world-famous electronic music festival that takes place in Belgium.
Malta’s cruise sector also goes from strength to strength. Some 700,000 passengers are expected to visit Malta as part of their itinerary in 2017. Valletta Cruise Port has a long list of clients, including AIDA Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and MSC Crociere to name but a few. The port has also built up a strong relationship with TUI Cruises, which has made Malta its homeport for its Mediterranean cruises. Going forward, the industry seeks to encourage repeat visits from those travellers who only had ‘a taste’ of Malta while on shore. Malta’s rise to the top of the ILGA Rainbow Europe ranking in 2016 is making the country also an increasingly popular destination for LGBTIQ tourism and same-sex weddings.
Hip and Historic
Malta is proving that hip and historic aren’t opposites. The Malta Tourism Authority has set its sights on further developing the country as a holistic destination, and the industry is upbeat on prospects for the sector in areas such as medical and sports tourism. There is also a potential for investment in upscale entertainment venues, gourmet restaurants and high-end shopping facilities. Meanwhile, Malta’s smaller designers are luring tourists with a style of their own, and restaurants with imaginative menus as their main attraction are ensuring that there is always something new to experience.