Magical Malta: Is this the Med's best holiday island?
From Segway tours to Instagram-friendly cities, Malta is just a direct flight away...
Are you a lover of fine food, friendly locals and fabulous scenery? Malta has it all, says Amy Molloy.
Set the mood
Malta was a trip of first experiences.
I ate a whole rabbit, rode a Segway and hung off the back of an electric buggy as we made our way across this beautiful Mediterranean country.
The island is any Instagrammer’s dream, with its turquoise coloured waters and unique limestone architecture.
Movie buffs - and Game of Thrones fans - will also be in their element. As a GOT nerd, getting to walk around Mdina (the original Kings Landing) was incredible.
Sadly, the famous Azure Window that featured in the show is gone (the sea arch collapsed in a storm last year), but I made up for it by Segwaying past the impressive St Paul’s Cathedral, where Daenary’s Targaryen married Kahl Drogo.
Fictional TV shows aside, this country is steeped in real history - World War II wounds in particular are still visible as some buildings remain damaged from the bombings during the Siege of Malta.
It all adds to the country’s character and the history tours on offer will leave you educated and respectful of the Maltese culture.
Gluttony is another word that sums up my trip. I definitely put on a good five pounds, but have no regrets as the food was delightful... every restaurant we ate in seemed better than the last.
A personal highlight was Il Kartell on Gozo island (kartellrestaurant.com). ‘Local octopus’ may not sound appetising to some, but it was one of the nicest things I’ve ever tasted. The restaurant is located right beside the sea so you have a lovely view of the Mediterranean's crystal blue waters as you dine.
Trying rabbit, a national dish in Malta, was also a guilty pleasure. It was extremely tasty but visiting a local family farm on Gozo the next day - where they had pet rabbits - set the guilt off!
I stayed at the Corinthia Hotel in St George’s Bay (corinthia.com; rooms from around €225), where I woke to this view every morning (above).
The best thing about the hotel was definitely the breakfast. The buffet selection was great and there was also a chef on hand to make any omelette of your choice.
Its location is also hard to beat. Paceville in St Julian’s is the main bar scene and it’s just a ten minute walk from the hotel.
Valletta is European Capital of Culture 2018 (valletta2018.org) and well worth a visit. The Valletta Pageant of the Seas is held in June, lighting up the Grand Harbour with fireworks.
While there, make sure and hail a dghajsa, a gondola shaped water taxi that brings you around the harbour.
Evening time is best, as you can watch the sun set over the majestic port and experience the full grandeur of the city’s gateway.
Something fun to do
My favourite experience of the whole trip was riding a Segway.
Segway Malta (segwaymalta.com; from €45) offer tours around the beautiful village of Dingli, taking you through historical and fascinating places with stops at the magnificent Dingli cliffs and throughout the rugged countryside.
It's a fun way to explore - the Segway might seem daunting at first, but once you learn to relax and get the hang of it, you won’t want to get off.
I’ll never complain about rush hour traffic in Dublin again!
Malta, due to its small size and increasing popularity, can’t seem to cater for all the vehicles on the island. Getting from A to B can be a nightmare. However, hopping on an electric buggy with a group of friends will add a bit of craic to the situation.
Rolling Geek's cars (rolling-geeks.com; from €60 per car) are great value for money, but be prepared to get lots of angry beeps from road-raging locals.
Get me there
Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies direct from Dublin to Malta five times a week through summer and three times weekly in winter.
Several Irish tour operators offer package holidays to Malta, including Concorde Travel (concordetravel.ie), Mercury Holidays (mercuryholidays.ie) and Budget Travel (budgettravel.ie). For more, see maltauk.com.
Amy travelled as a guest of the Malta Tourism Authority. For more information on the archipelago, visit maltaireland.com.
Read more:Dive into Gozo: Why Malta's little sister island is an underwater paradise