ADVERTORIAL • May 2021
Just three hours from the UK, boasting a balmy year-round climate and a glorious array of archaeological and historic sites, the Maltese islands have every ingredient for a great getaway. Executive Club Member and frequent visitor Ally Wybrew takes it all in
The world-renowned Maltese islands play host to more than 100 reef, cave and wreck-clad locations, all offering excellent visibility year-round, making it easy to spot Mediterranean regulars such as scorpion fish, octopus and Moray eels. Enthusiasts should head to Gozo and explore the vibrant new ecosystem surrounding the collapsed Azure Window, as well as the breathtaking Cathedral Cave. PADI qualifications are available to anyone over ten years old from 49 different dive schools, or starters can opt for a day-long ‘Discover Scuba’ session.
Jutting into the Grand Harbour are the imposing ‘Three Cities’, neighbourhoods of ancient fortifications: Birgu (built before the Middle Ages and appointed Malta’s previous capital by the Knights of St John in 1530) and 16th-century Senglea and Cospicua. Filled with museums, churches and intricate back streets, this enclosed, foot-friendly area is easily accessed via car or traditional luzzu boat. Overlooking Valletta, it provides a less seen but equally beautiful view of the capital and some great spots to bed down for the night.
Malta’s history is writ large on every stone on the island, and its capital, Valletta, is a Unesco World Heritage Site, featuring more than 320 historical sites within its walls. Take in a few of them with an afternoon surrounded by flowering plants and trees in the Lower Barrakka Gardens, a tranquil escape perched above the Valletta bastions at the mouth of the Grand Harbour. Looking out on to the Three Cities, it’s one of the best spots in town to take in the incredible atmosphere of the region.
What better way to take in the islands’ staggering vistas than over a picture-perfect picnic? Hop on a ferry to the less populated Gozo, pick an outdoor dining spot (try the cliff-edge Ras il-Wardija Bronze Age temple in St Lawrenz) and tuck into a hamper provided by Gozo Picnic. Offering a variety of home-cooked, locally sourced meals (including vegan, gluten, dairy-free and alcohol-free options), this family-run company lays out luxurious spreads and picks them up afterwards, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
Cross Malta’s coordinates with its illustrious history and you get a gastronomic experience like no other, something recognised by its inauguration into the Michelin family last year. The buzzy food scene is proudly local, with dishes influenced by Sicilian, North African, British and French flavours. And, as English is a dual national language, ordering is a breeze. Take a tour of the islands’ five Michelin-starred restaurants, including Valletta’s Noni (the place to try rabbit, Malta’s national dish), Under Grain, and De Mondion in Mdina (whose snail ragout is a must).
Agriculture is in Malta’s DNA, and a host of converted farmhouses offer luxurious private accommodation for those seeking a secluded escape. Though steeped in history (many of the properties are more than 400 years old) the farmhouses often offer modern comforts such as private pools and food deliveries on arrival. Prefer room service and a mini-bar? Choose from a generous range of boutique hotels (we love The Saint John, Valletta, for its cool blend of modern and classical) scattered throughout the islands.
With dramatic cliff edges, endless ocean views and ancient ruins, the islands provide superb terrain on which to reconnect with the great outdoors – particularly in spring when temperatures are cooler and the ground is green and lush. Historical, coastal and foodie-themed walking routes for every experience level are available online across a variety of locations. Those chasing the perfect Insta shot should head high up in the hills of Nadur village to Gozo’s Tal-Mixta Cave.
Heritage Malta’s new culinary concept (tastehistory.org) allows visitors to dine in the same surroundings that knights, corsairs and inquisitors enjoyed hundreds of years ago – and even sample the food they would have eaten then. Inspired by the country’s museums, ancient recipe books and kitchen inventories, a team of curators and chefs have recreated dishes such as ‘the paupers’ frugal snacks’, ‘the inquisitor’s Lent dinner’, ‘the corsair’s celebratory dinner’, and ‘the merchant’s decadent dessert’.
British Airways flies direct to Malta in just over three hours. To find out more, click here