Sitting pretty in the heart of the warm Mediterranean Ocean, just south of the Italian island of Sicily, Malta has a lot to offer. Here are five reasons you need to put this often-overlooked destination on your winter escape wish-list:
1. Admire the architecture and art
With three UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites including the cobblestoned streets of the capital city Valletta, Malta is home to some of the oldest Megalithic structures, temples and ruins in the world, dating from between 3600 BC and 700 BC. Caravaggio’s famous artworks - the Beheading of St John the Baptist and St Jerome Writing, can also be found here.
2. Sample the local cuisine
While there is an abundance of fresh seafood to enjoy including the popular fish pie, the national dish of Malta is actually a rustic rabbit stew called Stuffat Tal-Fenek. Make sure you also try the Kinnie (a local soft drink made with Chinnotto bitter oranges), Pastizzi (ricotta filled filo-pastry) and Timpana (baked macaroni).
3. Explore surrounding islands
Take a trip to the idyllic nearby nearby Islands of Gozo and Comino! Less developed than the main Island of Malta and accessible by boat, Gozo; with its quaint villages and pristine beaches, and Comino; a nature reserve known for its birdlife, are the perfect place to get some peace and quiet, and relax.
4. World-class beaches, snorkelling and diving
Known for its unspoiled white sand beaches, Malta is also one of the best diving spots in Europe, with a number of sunken WWII ships along the coastline to explore. The clear azure waters at the Blue Lagoon, located just off the island of Comino, are also a great swimming and snorkelling spot.
5. Visit Hollywood movie locations
Used as the dramatic backdrop for a number of blockbuster movies and television series, you've probably seen Malta featured in movies like Gladiator, Troy, Pirates of the Caribbean and World War Z. Scenes from Game of Thrones, returning to our screens next month, have also been filmed here. Visit the filming locations and recreate your favourite scenes!
Tourism is alive and well in Malta and its mild weather makes it a welcoming destination year-round, but unlike neighbouring European countries, it hasn’t been overrun by tourists - yet! And it's never been easier to access thanks to new flights to the capital city of Valletta via Doha from Qatar Airways.