Malta: golden sands

What to do


Beaches

Peppered around Malta's striking coastline are some truly spectacular white sandy beaches.

Overlooked by the Golden Sands Resort, Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bay are Malta’s finest beaches. Here, the warm, golden sand slopes into the cool, crystalline ocean to create the perfect place to bathe.

The most popular of the Maltese beaches, Ghadira Bay offers a wide variety of water sports, including windsurfing, kite surfing, canoeing, water-skiing and some of the best scuba-diving in the Mediterranean.

Not far from Ghadira Bay, Armier Bay is a quiet shore in a tranquil, green location, lined with kiosks, bars and small restaurants. Not usually frequented by many, this beach is the perfect place to escape the popular tourist zones.

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Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto is the largest and most astounding of a series of caves which can only be reached by boat from the picturesque harbour of Wied iz-Zurrieq. The serene boat trip allows you to marvel at the magnificent cliffs which soar out of the Mediterranean Sea.

The boat enters under a colossal arch into an immense 140 foot cave. Here, the incredibly clear deep blue water merges with the pure, white sand. The phosphorous qualities of the diverse marine flora give the ocean an ethereal luminosity.

The caves radiate from the reflection of the dark cobalt water and sparkle orange, purple and green from the rich minerals tucked into the surface of the rocks. In this setting, it is easy to imagine the sweet songs of the mermaids who, according to local myth, seduced sailors with their anguished songs.

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Hal Saflieni Hypogeum

Providing an insight into a forgotten prehistoric civilisation, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is an ancient underground temple which begs to be explored.

This clandestine labyrinth is a truly humbling construction. Built before the great pyramids of Egypt, every room and passageway was hollowed out by hand. This makes each elliptical chamber and winding tunnel even more impressive and astounding.

Upon arrival you are given a headset which provides information and interesting facts throughout the hypogeum excursion. Then in a small group of around ten visitors you have the amazing opportunity to explore the temple. The group is led by a guide who provides additional information and is pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Only a limited number of visitors are permitted to enter the site each day. Therefore, it is advisable to book as early as possible so you don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience.

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Mosta and Naxxar

Woven into each other, Mosta and Naxxar are both rich in historical, archaeological and cultural hotspots.

Absolutely bursting with interesting sights to see, Mosta and Naxxar draw many visitors throughout the year. Windmills, fortifications, farmhouses, valleys and catacombs are only some of the many sights on offer.

One of the biggest tourist attractions in Mosta is the immense parish church of St Mary’s which is dominated by the enormous dome known as Mosta Rotunda. In WWII, this dome was pierced by a German bomb which clattered to the floor, yet miraculously didn’t explode. Always believed to be part of a miracle, this 200kg bomb is located in a small museum in the town.

Dotted with little shops and cafes, Naxxar is home to the lavish Palazzo Parisio, an opulent mansion which overlooks the village’s main square. This exquisite Maltese and Italian craftsmanship has withstood the test of time and is open for public visits.

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Three Cities

The Three Cities offer an intriguing insight into authentic Maltese life as well as a glimpse into the island's rich maritime past.

These cities can rightly claim to be the cradle of Maltese history, as Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua have provided a home and fortress to almost every person who settled on the islands.

The local communities here celebrate holy days better than anywhere else in Malta. The most spectacular event is the Easter procession, which features statues of the risen Christ carried by people running through the crowded streets.

There are many historical and religious sites to see within The Three Cities – such as St Lawrence’s Church in Vittoriosa, the Redeemer statue in Senglea and the Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Cospicua.

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Sliema and St Julians

Sliema and its immediate neighbour, St Julians, are the places to see and be seen. Together, they comprise the island’s major commercial and residential areas, as well as offering the best nightlife in Malta.

Both towns have many cool bars, sensational restaurants and buzzing nightclubs. Incorporating glamorous Sliema, vibrant and energetic Paceville and the laid-back St Julian’s, there is nightly entertainment to suit all ages and tastes.

From top-class restaurants, intimate watering holes, a casino and high-octane clubs – there really is something for everyone.

The shops in Sliema are amongst the best on the island. It is worth searching for traditional crafts such as Maltese lace, fine silverware and the local pottery which defines the art of the area.

The bay of St Julians is lined with cafes and restaurants – a lovely place to sit and watch the fishermen bring in their catch of the day.

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Boat Trips

Malta boasts one of the most magnificent coastlines on the Mediterranean and the best way to experience the natural beauty of its hidden coves, breath-taking lagoons and dramatic cliffs is by boat.

There are many trips available, from day-long tours, to sunset evening cruises and even an excursion onboard a party boat. The two most popular trips are the Grand Harbour tour and an excursion to the Blue Lagoon, located a short distance from Comino.

The Grand Harbour tour is an exploration of one of the world’s greatest natural harbours and its history. Aboard a traditional Maltese Dghajsa, you will discover the role that the harbour has played in Malta’s rich and colourful past.

Enjoy an excursion to the Blue Lagoon, where you will have the chance to swim and snorkel in the stunning bay. The sheltered waters are crystal clear, allowing the pure white bed of the lagoon and the creatures swimming above it to be seen perfectly.

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Gozo

Separated from Malta by five kilometres of sparkling blue sea is the beautiful island of Gozo. Smaller, more rural, and more laid-back than Malta, Gozo is one of the most untouched islands in the whole of the Mediterranean.

The spectacular coastline which frames the island is not only breathtaking, but also shrouded in myths and legends. Calypso’s cave, tucked into the towering cliffs above Ramla Bay, is where Odysseus was said to have been seduced by the love-sick nymph Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey.

A trip to Gozo would not be complete without a visit to the Citadel – the heart of the island. This astounding walled metropolis has stood here for centuries, but the citadel itself has existed since Roman times.

Breathtakingly beautiful, the Citadel boasts a fine Baroque cathedral, encircled by bastion walls and offers incredible panoramic views reaching across the entire enchanting island.

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Comino

A short boat trip away from Malta lies the island of Comino – a nature lover’s paradise and diving hotspot. Comino is a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of Malta's towns and its serene beauty soothes the soul.

The island is a true Garden of Eden – there are no urban areas, no cars and no roads. Instead, it is a haven for exotic wildlife and has something to offer the whole year through.

In the winter, the island embodies the perfect place for leisurely walks and offers fantastic opportunities for photographers.

During springtime, the air is perfumed with the strong scent of cumin and other wild herbs. At this time, the island also becomes home to the migratory birds which flock to Malta’s warm climate.

Come summer, Comino is at its most vivid as the aquamarine waters sparkle in the sunshine. The white, pristine sand at Santa Marija Bay and the warm, calm water makes it the ideal place to enjoy a picnic and a swim in the afternoon.

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Temples

​​These prehistoric megalithic temples and underground chambers can be found all over the island of Malta. They are mysteriously fascinating because there are no certain answers to how or why they were built or for what they were once used.

Many of the temples have been declared UNESCO world heritage sites as they are the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

The best way to see these incredible structures is definitely on an excursion where a guide will take care of everything so you are left to enjoy the magnificent history and stature of these truly incredible places.

Take a trip into the past and explore the Ġgantija temples painted by the German artist Brochtorff, or marvel at Ta’ Ħaġrat – originally the location of a fabulous double temple. To see one of the best preserved temples, visit Tarxien where you can still witness the richly decorated stones complete with carved patterns.

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Markets

The markets of Malta provide more than simply a place to buy your everyday groceries. Throughout history, they have been the ideal place for locals to socialise – catching up with the gossip and the latest neighbourhood news. These strong traditions are one of the many reasons they are so interesting to visit.

In addition to commonplace markets which offer household goods, food, clothing, music and toys, there are two markets in Malta which have become so popular that they are a regular feature on many tours and excursions.

In Valletta on a Sunday, you will find a fantastic flea-market, perfect for treasure hunting through masses of bric-a-brac, antiques and book stalls.

Another favourite is the fish market held in Marsaxlokk. Here, the colours and smells are intoxicating as tables are laden with a huge assortment of the freshest fish on the island.

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Valletta

Framed on either side by two stunning, natural harbours, Valleta was built on a narrow peninsula by the Knights of Malta to fulfil their desire for a fortress. Once you get inside the imposing bastions and fortifications, the city reveals its softer side in the form of delicate honey-tinted streets.

By day, the capital city of Valletta is bustling – locals spill out of cafes which line the uneven cobbled side streets. But as the sun sets and night begins to take over, the city calms down.

Other than a handful of restaurants, Valletta all but shuts down in the evening and the streets slowly empty. If you are fortunate enough to still be in the beautiful city at this time, you will find that you have the miniature metropolis to yourself and may discover that this sleepy city still dreams of the bygone era of its Knights.

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Marsaxlokk

This enchanting little fishing village is situated on the south-east coast of Malta. One of the few areas to be seemingly unaffected by tourism, Marsaxlokk remains the island’s prettiest and most authentic port.

The beautiful harbour, with its brightly coloured boats bobbing up and down in the glistening bay has given Marsaxlokk the honour of being Malta’s most photographed resort. Here, life continues as it has done for generations, maintaining the village’s sleepy charm.

In addition to the famed luzza boats, colourful fishing nets adorn the quay which – with the tight-knit fishing community who work at the harbour’s edge – completes the traditional scene.

People come from all over Malta to explore the fish market held every Sunday next to the harbour and the availability of such fresh fish also means that there are many fantastic seafood restaurants in the area.

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Mdina

Also known as The Silent City, Mdina is Malta’s most hauntingly beautiful city. From its elevated position, Mdina towers above the rest of the island and its elegant cathedral dominates the skyline.

Its honey-coloured buildings and shady, curving streets emit serenity and seem to absorb the quiet sounds of daily life.

Seemingly, the modern times have been unable to penetrate the city’s looming bastions and the tiny city remains as it has for centuries.

By the day, the entire city is truly captivating with is magnificent vistas, sense of culture and history, and enchanting architecture. At night, it becomes magical as a hush descends over the lamp-lit streets and, according to Maltese legend, the ghosts of Mdina’s past wander the ancient streets.

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