Malta Teaser: 10 things you really have to do on this incredible island
Malta is a patch of holiday heaven in the Med, says Louise Kelly, who picks 10 great reasons to visit.
Spending a long weekend on a gastronomy trip across the Maltese archipelago was hardly going to be a chore, but I was genuinely taken aback with just how much culture beauty and craic the three islands had to offer.
Yes, craic! You heard me - the Maltese are great fun, so get your witty comments finely honed and prepare for a sun holiday to remember.
1. Hail a dghajsa - and check out Malta's Grand Harbour in style
Used to ferry sailors and seamen ashore at Malta's Grand Harbour, the dghajsa is a gondola shaped boat that acts as a sort of water taxi.
For purely aesthetic purposes, this is the only way to cruise around the majestic port. From the Upper Barrakka Gardens, we accessed Valletta Waterfront via the Barraka Lift and hopped aboard to experience the full grandeur of the city's gateway.
Top tip: Hold on to your sun hat and leave concerns about getting a little wet from sea spray far behind you. And don't forget the photo...
2. Get the tightest calves in all of Europe - tackle those hills
Prepare for the burn when taking in the sights of Malta. And I don't mean dousing yourself in sunscreen either. Meandering around Valletta can be particularly tough on the calves as the capital city is renowned for its steep streets.
Top tip: Taking the zig-zag option through less intimidating inclines can help you get where you want to go.
3. Take a picture of all those knockers
For those without the filthiest of minds, I am speaking about the most ornate door knobs that feature quite heavily on all of the buildings around Malta - and all shapes and sizes are available for sale in the city of Valetta.
Top tip: Don't try to snap a knocker on an open door - you're not going to make any friends blocking people's access to stores (I'm speaking from experience, here).
4. Get invited to someone's wedding
Having seen some of the potential venues where one could celebrate their day of matrimony, I was extremely jealous upon meeting a colleague on the return flight who had actually attended a wedding there. The potential photo album and yummy spread would convince the homiest home bird to look at weddings abroad.
Top tip: It might be best to keep your nuptial plans to yourself on your return lest you scare the bejaysus out of your partner.
5. Jump off a boat into the Blue Lagoon
This is exactly as amazing as it sounds.
The wind in your hair as you speed out to Comino, the picture perfect water colour, the surprisingly warm temperature when you jump in... Make sure to get someone to stay on the boat to take a snap of you to capture the moment.
Top tip: flashing the colour on your return in the Irish Sea (or indeed the Atlantic Ocean) is only for the very brave, at least 10 months of the year.
6. Catch the bees making sweet honey
The ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melitē) meaning "honey-sweet", reportedly due to Malta's unique production of honey as a result of a particular species of bee living on the island.
Whether truth or fiction, donning the apiarist hat and finding out the genuinely fascinating work of the keeper of bees was one of my trip highlights.
Top tip: Don't let the beekeeper convince you that the cheap plastic bug toy he placed in the hive earlier is actually the Queen. Because that would be embarrassing.
7. Spread your taste bud wings and prepare for the meat sweats
Our tummies took us to restaurant Diar il-Bniet (diarilbniet.com) which is essentially an extension of the family run farm in Dingli where its produce is sourced.
We literally rolled out the door (not dissimilar to anywhere else we took up a knife and fork on the archipelago) .
Top tip: Leave the thoughts of your old pet Thumper behind and try the stewed rabbit (fenek). It's delish.
8. Recreate your fave Game of Thrones scene
Renowned for playing host to an impressive list of famous film scenes, and having visited the rather surreal Popeye set, the obvious thing to do was find one of the many locations GOT was filmed upon and have a go at the acting lark yourself.
Top tip: Mdina or 'The Silent City’ with its fortified high walls was the location for Kings Landing. Think capture of Ned Stark outside the brothel.
9. Attempt to enter St John's Cathedral in stilettos (and fail miserably)
In a semi-shrine to the controversial artist Carvaggio, this baroque work of celestial beauty takes the breath away of even the most philistine. Our stern but frankly hilarious guide Vincent deBono put paid to any messing in our quarter.
Top top: Put the shawl on and take the heels off or you'll be waiting outside for your companions.
10. Make yourself look teeny tiny standing on top of The Azure Window
This natural 20m high limestone arch holding solid over crystal clear waters in Gozo is only a small (but significant) part of the beauty of this island. A definite 'to be continued' location as the short visit couldn't do it justice.
Top tip: Put four and eight together and you get... Well anyway, it's the backdrop for the Daenerys and Khal Drogo wedding in GOT Season 1.
Louise flew to Malta with Ryanair (ryanair.com), which flies direct from Dublin five times weekly in summer and three times weekly in winter.
She stayed at The Corinthia St.George’s Bay in St Julians (corinthia.com).
Irish tour operators running packages to Malta include Concorde Travel (concordetravel.ie), lowcostholidays.ie, mercurydirect.ie and Budget Travel (budgettravel.ie).
For more info, see visitmalta.com.