My trip to Malta came during the heatwave known as Lucifer. Aptly named after the devil himself and as one local tour guide put it so simply… “because it has been as hot as hell”.
Met by temperatures surpassing 45oC according to the local pharmacy indicator, I arrived in the town of Mellieha. Home for the next week would be at the beautiful ‘Maritim Antoinette Hotel and Spa‘.
Everything from the staff, location, room and views were astonishing. Two outdoor pools; an indoor pool with hot tub; roof pool and a terrace bar with restaurant. After a slight problem with the first room, we were put into an amazing room with a view of stunning Mellieha!
Uncharacteristically and mainly down to the last minute nature of the booking, I went to Malta totally ignorant of any culture or any real knowledge of…well anything to do with the country. So with no expectations on arrival, I was absolutely blown away by every aspect that the beautiful archipelago had to offer.
That’s right, it is in fact an archipelago; with 7 islands making up the nation. The three inhabited islands being; Malta, Gozo and Comino. The latter has a population of JUST 5 people when I visited! The other 4 islands all being tiny and one of which being a nature reserve inhabited totally of birds.
Malta is dripping in history everywhere you look. From the ancient walled city of Mdina (pronounced Im-dena), the modern-day capital of Valletta and the town of Mosta. The latter hosting the 3rd largest unsupported dome structure in the whole of Europe. Not to be sniffed at for a place just 316 km².
The latter has also been housing a lodger since the 1940’s… and un-exploded German Bomb which can still be seen in the building today!
All you have to do is look around any street of Malta and you would be forgiven for thinking you had gone back in time. Things really have not changed for centuries.
It is clear to see why so many film directors have chosen to film in this beautiful country. Troy, Assassins Creed and Game of Thrones to name but a few hits you will recognise Malta in.
The architecture and landscapes are the stuff of dreams for travellers, photographer’s and movie directors alike. It really is no wonder why so many Hollywood directors are drawn here.
The site in which Mdina is set dates back THOUSANDS of years. Although, it was originally founded as Maleth in around the 8th century BC. Mdina was the Maltese capital prior to Valletta and was most likely favoured for its high setting and fortified city walls.
I could write all day about the stages of history that flow through this city’s walls; from the 8th Century settlers, to the Romans; to the middle ages; Christian and Muslim crusades, all the way to WW2. Then their independence in 1961.
The city boasts its own astonishing cathedral as well as 7 other chapels and churches. This is all within the walls of a city that is under 1km². It is a labyrinth of tiny streets and alleyways that open up to the entrance of the stunning St Paul’s Cathedral in the centre of the city.
You can see that the architecture has not changed in hundreds and hundreds of years. However, don’t mistake this place as just a tourist hot spot. It is also home to around 300 people.
Game of Thrones fans may recognise the entrance (pictured above) as ‘The Red Keep’. Malta being the original site used as ‘Kings Landing’ in the first season. This was then moved from the second season to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Top Tip For Mdina
Tourists are met with the option of a guided tour via horse and cart through the ancient city. I decided to explore the maze of alleyways and archaic structures on my own. I loved the feeling of just wandering around somewhere drowning in such history. I’m not being a fan of using animals for tourism purposes, plus my feet work just fine!
Now, this is my BIGGEST tip of anywhere I visited in Malta. Get to Mdina early!
I arrived at around 9 am and at this time there was barely a soul around. With most gift shops, cafes and restaurants closed until 10.30 am, the hour and a half I had prior to this made the trip!
Being able to walk down the narrow streets and take photographs galore without the intrusion of other visitors was absolutely priceless!
Trust me, by 10.30 you were beginning to battle your way through crowds of tourists. As you will find out as you explore my site and Instagram page, I love photography. So it really was extra special to have had the opportunity before the hoards arrived to photograph such an amazing place.
Make sure you take a trip into the historic museum on Malta’s dark past and see why this destination may not have been paradise for all who resided here!
The Blue Grotto
Another trip took me to the south of the island to the tourist hot spot known as the ‘Blue Grotto’ and the fishing village of Marsaxlokk.
This organised trip was over half a day, 08.30 till around 2 pm. This was ideal in the shear heat that was being experienced and felt was a perfect amount of time before getting back to cool off poolside.
There is a choice of a guided tour or none guided and the cost difference is really minimal. I would highly advise taking the guided tour because the information you get about everyday life and the places you pass really is priceless. As I mentioned above, Malta has such a rich history, it would be a shame to miss out.
Also, lets face it, you would only be sitting there looking out of the window most probably wondering about the things the tour guide would actually be telling you anyway!
At The Grotto
The Blue Grotto is a series of caverns accessible by boat where, before 1 pm, a unique natural phenomenon can be witnessed.
The location of the caves combined with the sunlight leads to the water showing numerous shades of blue. Several caverns mirror the brilliant phosphorescent colours of the underwater flora; other caverns show a deep dark shade of blue.
This area was also one of the many filming sites used during the filming of Troy. Also being a great spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. The boat trip out to the caverns takes around 20-30 minutes and costs an additional 8 Euros.
Again, try and get there as early as possible as the queues to the boat do start to back up as buses of tourists all seem to arrive in their hoards. Definitely worth the trip!
Landscape, Sea And Sunsets
Malta really is amazing on so many levels and is a photographer’s dream for landscapes, architecture and natural scenic beauty.
With all I have written about, I haven’t even mentioned the unbelievable standard of food no matter where I ate!
There really is something for everyone in this beautiful country and apart from the state of some of the roads, I would challenge anyone who visits to find a fault with this tiny nation.
Malta is not just for those looking for photo opportunities but you will do well to keep your hands off your camera trying to capture every aspect of this awe-inspiring place.
One last bit of advice I would give is to take time out to watch the wonderful sunsets on offer. Get to one of the rooftop bars or restaurants, take time to just enjoy one of natures gifts and watch how the rustic medieval buildings seem to magically change colour as the sun is lost on the horizon.
I really cannot recommend this wonderful place highly enough. With regular flights from all over Europe at very reasonable prices, it really is a must-see place!
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