A last minute revision to our gap year itinerary saw me and my companion descend upon Maltese culture for just over a week and a half. It wasn’t nearly long enough for us to explore half of what this little cluster of Islands has to offer but here are some of the highlights of the trip.
There are three Maltese islands; Malta is the largest, Gozo is 8km to the north-west and Comino is midway between the two. We headed for Valletta, Malta’s capital city. My companion had read somewhere that Lord Byron called it ‘a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.’ Well, if it was good enough for that old romantic it was good enough for us. If you fancy yourself as a bit of culture vulture then head to the Palace of the Grand Masters. Inside, the rooms and passages are supremely adorned with magnificent Gobelins tapestries, paintings and armour. Entrance to the Palace cost us 10€ but if parliament’s not in session you get to go for free! If churches are more your thing be sure to visit St John’s Co-Cathedral. The exterior is dull but inside it’s more opulent than the Palace; there are marble floors and a mural on the ceiling to rival Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (kind of). Fellow backpacker and I were left staring in awe.
While you’re in Valletta it’s worth going for a stroll around the perimeter of the city. You get the best views of Marsamxett Harbour and Grand Harbour this way, and there are plenty of open-air bars to quench your thirst en route, but if walking for hours in the sun doesn’t do it for you, you can do what we did and take a horse-drawn cart around the city. Maltese people are famous for their gregarious natures and our driver was no exception treating us to an informative and passionate Maltese history lesson!
After our stint in Valletta we headed to Comino which, my next door neighbour of all people (she’s ancient and a native Maltenese) informed me, has excellent diving. Having tried and previously failed to acquire my PADI certificate (I couldn’t equalise on the last and most shallow dive) I opted for the less brutal but equally awesome Discover Scuba Diving Course. We met some other backpackers there who had extended their stay to do the dive at the Santa Maria Caves. Fish you’re likely to bump into include octopus and moray eels which aren’t that scary close up. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Nemo but he’s said to frequent nearby waters. The day’s dive cost an affordable 77€ and the guys at Subwayscuba were professional and made us feel completely at ease.
Amid the sightseeing and diving we seriously indulged our waistlines. The excellent Maltese cuisine makes it impossible not to. Go to local haunt Mamma Mia in Ta’ Xbiex which is located on the quay of the yacht Marina. They’re always busy, portions of steak and sea bass are huge and you get superb views. Starters range from 1.50€ to 6.95€, main courses from 6.50€ to 18.95€ and desserts from 3.00€ to 4.00€.
Author Bio: Monica Adorno is a snowsports writer living and working in London. She spent her university days hitch hiking across Central America and South East Asia. She plans to conquer Mount Everest and marry explorer Bruce Parry!
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