Travel

Majestic Malta

Jemma Sadrugu is a self-confessed ‘sucker for blue lagoons’ having chased them all over the world. Her most surprising find though was in Malta in the middle of the Mediterranean.

June 13, 2018
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Pacific Island Living

Pacific Island Living

June 13, 2018

I am a sucker for blue lagoons. I’ve chased them all over the world, in search of the clearest, bluest most pristine waters. On my daily trawl of #BlueLagoon on Instagram I started to see this vivid dream-like lagoon over and over again, that wasn’t from the usual culprits of Fiji and Vanuatu. It was somewhere much further away and a place I was much less familiar with – Malta. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure where it was … Eastern Europe maybe? Or somewhere between Croatia and Hungary. I didn’t even know it was an island! So the mission was set, I had to go there.

Malta is a melting pot of European and north African cultures due to various eras of foreign rule and its location in the centre of the Mediterranean between Sicily and the north east coast of Africa where Libya and Tunisia lie. It’s made up of three strikingly different islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino. The islands enjoy year-round tropical weather, averaging 30°c in summer, 15°c in winter and without any real threat of a rainy season. Malta is the largest and most developed island, the country’s financial and touristic hub, while Gozo is popular for its adventure activities and rural allure. Comino is the most intriguing of the three, the smallest at only 3.5km2 and home to the Blue Lagoon.

If you’re visiting, it is definitely worth checking out all three islands as each offers something exciting and unique for the inquisitive traveller.

Malta

All flights touch down on the mainland of Malta, where the country’s only international airport runs regular and direct services all over Europe. In under a 20-minute drive you will be in the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Valletta, one of the most majestic walled cities in Europe. It sits on a hilltop high above the sea surrounded by striking yellow bastions, impressive forts and a 15th century Cathedral dedicated to John the Baptist. Spending a day meandering on foot around the old town of this historic city will take you through cobblestoned piazzas, in and out of museums, and along the Upper Barraka Gardens for an exquisite view of the harbour.
The majority of the resorts and sites to see are on the northern coast of the island between Valletta and St Paul’s Bay. If it’s nightlife you’re looking for, head to St Julian’s and Sliema where there are pubs and bars galore that are reminiscent of the club strips in Phuket. Alternatively, explore the southern part of the island for quaint fishing villages where you can feast on fresh seafood in between exploring local markets for unique Maltese treasures.

There are numerous sandy bays and swimming coves dotted around Malta that are easily accessible by foot or bus from the resort areas, though many of these are overcrowded and packed with sun revellers toe-to-toe, like many of the European hotspots in summertime.
Here, away from the package holiday crowds on the mainland,

Gozo

is where you will find a much more authentic experience of Maltese culture. Hire a car and drive to Cirkewwa at the northern tip of Malta to jump on the ferry for the 20-minute crossing to Gozo. Things are slow paced and quintessentially rural here, with working farms and lush vineyards stretching across the majority of this flat island. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out, where you can dine alfresco and be served up exquisite dishes of fresh produce that is sourced solely from the island and accompanied with organic red wine from the fancy Ta’Mena farm estate.

If you’d like to do something other than eat amazing food and drink copious amounts of hangover free wine (well, actually no hangover is not guaranteed), you could spend weeks exploring the wildly romantic and rugged landscape on Gozo. Overlooking the island’s sandiest beach at Ramla Bay there’s Calypso Cave, where in Homer’s Odyssey, Calypso kept Odysseus her ‘prisoner of love’ for seven years, or there’s the Neolithic temples of Ggantija dating from around 3500 BC. Though the main drawcard that gets people over to Gozo is the Azure Window located on the west coast of the island in Dwerja, famous for its dramatic coastal scenery.

You may have spotted it in Hollywood blockbusters like ‘Clash of The Titans’ and ‘The Count Of Monte Cristo’, though it may not feature again after a subcontractor from the ‘Game Of Thrones’ damaged a protected ecosystem in the area. This 50-metre high, flat-topped, natural limestone wonder was created when two sea caves collided. The iconic window has widened significantly over the last 30 years, with a large part of the arch’s supporting side collapsing in 2012. Due to inevitable erosion and continual rising waters the arch may cave in within decades, leaving a stack in the ocean only adding to the geological wonders in the area. This area of Gozo is just as fascinating underwater. Overlooking the Window lies the Blue Hole, which starts in a 10metre-wide inland sea pool and is rated as one of Europe’s top dive spots for its abundance of marine life and unique caverns, swim-throughs and chimneys to descend down.

Comino

The northern hemisphere’s very own Blue Lagoon can be found on the tiny island of Comino which sits in between Malta and Gozo, and is popular with day trippers from both islands. This intensely cyan-hued pool has formed between Comino and its tinier rocky islet, Cominotto. Its beauty is best experienced first thing in the morning before the throngs of people land on its shores.
There are a few patches of sand around the lagoon that are mostly occupied by €15 a day sunloungers, while everyone else makes do with any vacant patch of rock they can find. You won’t want to be sitting down anyway, the water is so enticing that you will want to wade ankle-to-hip deep or float lazily around all day long. If you’re after a secluded Castaway Island style stay you can spend the night at Comino Hotel, the one hotel on the island (open May to October) and enjoy having the lagoon to yourself once the daytrippers have set sail back to the mainland.

How to get there?

You can get relatively cheap and mostly direct flights with Air Malta, Vueling and Easyjet from various hubs around Europe like London, Barcelona, Athens and all major cities in Italy.

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