Small but mighty
For such a small island, Malta packs a lot in. You’ve got beaches, chic harbour towns, and enough centuries-old sights to keep you busy for weeks. It’s a real up-and-comer on the clubbing scene, too, and has a calendar that’s crammed with carnivals, festivals and parties.
When it comes to history, Malta is up there with Italy and Greece. The island boasts so many sights, it’s been described as an open-air museum. You’ll find the best of the bunch in the UNESCO-listed capital, Valletta. Must-sees include the 16th-century St John’s Cathedral and Casa Rocca Piccola, a grand palazzo.
The beach scene
Malta’s other big draw is its coastline. It’s pretty rugged, with rocky coves mixed in with a few sandy spots. The biggest swathe of sand is at Mellieha Bay, while resorts like Qawra and Bugibba have flat rocks and platforms for stretching out in the sun.
Sliema, on the east coast, is a former fishing village that’s now better known for its stylish restaurants and wine bars. Wander north along the promenade and you’ll hit St Julian’s, an upmarket town with a decent helping of bars and clubs.
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Qawra – pronounced awra – is a charming, purpose-built resort in north-east Malta. The town is set around scenic St Paul’s Bay, with luxury, high-rise hotels hugging the seafront. It works on 2 levels – as a vibrant summer destination, but also as a stress-free place to enjoy a winter break. And it blends seamlessly into Buggiba, its bolder, brasher, bayside neighbour, which boasts a pretty harbour and a waterpark along its brand-new promenade.
Mellieha Bay is a low-key place perched on the north coast of Malta. The sleepy old town sits up on the hill and comes with a smattering of churches, restaurants and shops – not to mention a great coastal view. And at the bottom of the road is the piece de resistance – a lovely sandy beach, one of just a few on the island.
On the northern tip of Malta, bubbly Bugibba is one of the island's most in-demand holiday playgrounds. Commanding centre-stage on St Paul’s Bay’s rugged 5-kilometre coastline, this small town is crammed with modern hotels and apartment blocks, and has recently had an expensive makeover. Judging by the attractive main square and the promenade, where the brand-new Bugibba Waterpark now resides, it’s been money well spent.