Malta Teaser: Direct flights to Mediterranean magic from Cork and Dublin
Direct flights can whisk you away to a Mediterranean archipelago with a difference, says Conor McCrave.
For an island just 25km long and 15km wide, you'd be surprised how much there is to do on Malta.
Within hours of arriving, I walked the narrow streets of Valletta, soaking up Arabic, Lebanese and Italian influences. Soon, I was exploring a cathedral, taking a gondola ride through the harbour, and travelling on a Segway tour. You can, of course, just fly 'n' flop on a sun holiday. But it's worth going off-lounger too.
Food & wine
Most Maltese restaurants have a feeling of home cooking - so much so, you may feel like you've stepped into the chef's own kitchen. Fresh pasta and spaghetti are top of almost every menu, a real reminder of how close Malta is to Italy. 'Fenek Moqli', or fried rabbit, at the 122-year-old Rubino's is as good as local specialties get.
Maltese wine may also be among the world's most underrated. Many local vineyards are small and family-run, with most of their produce consumed on the island, so do as the Maltese do and drink homegrown.
On the island of Gozo, the Ta' Mena Estate is a small farm holding making reds and whites you won't find anywhere else. A must for connoisseurs and curious alike.
Valletta's St John's Co-Cathedral sees Baroque-style walls lined with gold and tombstones of the Knights of St John. From there, hit the highest point of the city, the upper Barakka Gardens, with views over the Grand Harbour.
Malta's position as a filming hotspot has cemented the appeal of its rich history and those limestone buildings. Movies including Troy and Munich were filmed here, and many locations featured in Game of Thrones. Before collapsing during a storm in 2017, the famous Azure Window (or blue window, above) was a hit with GoT fanatics, and remaining locations still draw fans today.
Beyond the capital
Try a Segway tour of the island’s coast and countryside, or a trip through the historic cities of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. Founded by the Knights of St John, they’re much more tranquil than Valletta. We whizzed about on electric buggies (rolling-geeks.com).
Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies to Malta International from both Dublin and Cork. Tour operators include concordetravel.ie, mercuryholidays.ie, budgettravel.ie and sunway.ie.
If you're lucky enough to grab a deal, stay at the five-star Corinthia St George in St Julien's (corinthiahotels.com). See also maltaireland.com.
Flights are longer than you may think, at 4.5 hours.