Malta - Where the history and culture of the Mediterranean meet a 21st century European nation.
It is easy to dismiss the Maltese Islands as yet another typical tiny Mediterranean destination, enjoying almost year-round sunshine, crytal-clear seas and a general air of laid-back relaxation typical of the southermost regions of Europe.
In fact, the island nation of Malta offers much more - standing out as a destination unlike any other in the world, proudly boasting over 7000 years of history, an unrivalled melting pot of civilisations, cultures and heritage while firmly rooted in the present: a thriving, modern member of the European Union, with a flourisihing economy, multilingual population and state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure.
For over 70 centuries, the enviable location of Malta, Gozo and Comino a2 the crossroads of the trade routes between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East meant that the leading powers throughout history all claimed their stake on the islands, shaping our identity, heritage and outlook, leaving behind countless archaeological, architectural and artistic gems, but above all firmly ingraining a tradition of hospitality that visitors to the islands will be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
It is therefore no surprise that tourism is Malta's largest industry and since acquiring independence just over half a century ago, the Maltese Islands have become a premier destination for group and individual travel of all kinds, catering for sun and sea worshippers to language students, cruise liners to backpackers, convention and business travellers to art and culture aficionados and much more.
Boasting industry-leading accommodation, venues and infrastructure, state-of-the-art digital communication platforms and a dedicated workforce that is as natively bilingual (with most speaking third and even fourth languages), Malta is but a short direct flight away from all major European airports, served by larger airlines and low-cost and charter operators alike.
Enjoying over 300 days of sunshine a year, Malta, Gozo and Comino boast a summer season that runs from Beginning April (or earlier) through late October or early November, with an average temperatures that vary between 25-35 degrees in the warmer months and daytime lows that rarely dip below 10 degrees in the "coldest" months.
Despite its size, the Maltese archipelago offers sun worshippers a variety of sandy and rocky beaches (9 of which have been awarded the coveted blue flag certification of excellence), secluded coves, world-renowned diving spots and truly memorable sailing opportunities. Needless to say, all 4- and 5-star hotels offer top-notch poolside experiences to just kick back and relax without having to move a finger.
From the first Sicilian settlers around 5000 BC, onto the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Carthaginians through the Punic Wars and beyond, through the periods of Byzantine rule and the
Arab conquest, onto the Normans, Sabians, Angevins and Aragonese, the better known Knights of St. John, the short lived French conquest of the islands and the century and a half of British rule, Malta's past is interestingly chequered.
Besides evident linguistic influences shaping the present-day Maltese language, a natural affinity for trade and playing host to visitors, the rapid succession of periods of colonisation of the islands has left us with unparalleled treasures of art and architecture - from the neolithic temples that predate the pyramids of Eygpt by over a thousand years, to the mind-boggling underground Hypogeum, to the fortified cities of Mdina and the capital Valletta, countless ornate cathedrals and churches, materpieces by Caravaggio, Preti, Rubens and a plethora of art collections.
For lovers of all things historic, archeological and artistic, Malta is simply blissful. Nowhere else can such a variegated collection spanning millennia, styles and different cultures can be found in such an easily accessible location.
With Valletta readying for its stint as Europe's capital of culture in 2018, Malta's capital city is witnessing an unprecedented regeneration. From the brand new Renzo Piano-designed project encompassing Valletta's city gate, Parliament House and a 1000-seater open-air performance centre to year-round events, from the rekindling of life in the once-infamous Strait Street as an entertainment and arts venue through to aesthetic and architectural embellishment works, the 500-year old fortified city built by the Knights of St. John is a true gem, an unmissable visit, no matter how long one stays over in the Maltese Islands.
Where to stay and what to do:
The best known hotel chains can all be found in Malta, with an eclectic mix of boutique, 4- and 5-star properties (and an upcoming 6-star luxury hotel), all offering industry-leading amenities and facilities, business centres, conference and meeting venues. Given Malta's size and climate, nightlife is varied, abundant and never more than 10 minutes away at most.
With an interminable list of restaurants for all budgets offering local and all major cuisines, nighclubs, themed bars and pubs, 4 casinos and year-round cultural events, Malta is simply not a vanue where one can get bored.
For those preferring a more secluded and sedate stay, the Island of Gozo, with its verdant countryside backdrop and a slower approach to life offers a more relaxed alternative to the decidedly more cosmopolitan eastern coast of Malta, spanning from Valletta's grand harbour to the commercial heart of Sliema to the nightlife and tourism hub of St. Julian's, stretching up the coast to the package-holiday and family-favourite tourist towns that make up St. Paul's bay.
Tiny, it may very well be, but Malta has managed to capture the hearts and imagination of visitors for centuries on end and we look forward to welcoming you to your new favourite destination in the Mediterranean!