ROAD TRIP OF LIFETIME IS IN A COUNTRY YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T EVEN HEARD OF

Contents

Overview
Self drive considerations
Malta regions map
Day 1: East (Valletta,  Sliema & St Julian’s)
Day 2: East to Southeast (In and around  Marsaxlokk)
Day 3: Southwest to west  (Blue Grotto & prehistoric temples)
Day 4: Central (Rabat & Mdina)
Day 5: Beaches on the Western coast
Day 6: North (Gozo & Comino)

Overview

Malta is perfect self drive destination

Malta is perfect self drive destination

Malta is a tiny island nation sandwiched between southern tip of Italy and Northern African countries of Tunisia and Libya. A former British colony, this archipelago is perfect for the Indian traveler with its spicy dishes and widespread English usage. Only 3 of the islands of the archipelago are inhabited. Malta continues to be one of the safest and most peaceful country in Schengen zone, even though the unfortunate migrant crisis has hit its neighbors. Malta has the perfect Mediterranean climate weather almost year round and is relatively cheaper than other Schengen countries. The best time to visit is from May to October. Travelers are drawn to Malta not just for its blue-green beaches but also for the sites of one of the oldest prehistoric temples. This predominantly Roman Catholic country has excellent connectivity with mainland Europe by low cost fliers and has one of the cheapest car rental rates of Europe.  All of this makes Malta the perfect self-drive gateway for 5-7 days.

The capital city of Valletta or the vibrant neighborhoods of Sliema or St Julian’s are central and highly recommended to stay.

Self drive Malta considerations

Narrow Streets in Malta

Narrow Streets in Malta

  • If your hotel is providing airport transfers or you can afford the luxury of both time and money then book your car from rental locations in the city rather at airport. The location charges for airport are significantly higher.
  • Malta has a lot of variety in  manual transmission and its cheaper. If you are comfortable with manual transmission then do opt for it.
  • The roads are single lane and sometimes lanes can be very narrow. Do book a smaller car as it is cheaper and easier to navigate.
  • Expect heavy delays on major roads. The streets are narrow and crowded too.
  • Offline Google maps is excellent. There is absolutely no need to rent a GPS.
  • All sign boards are in English.
  • Malta has one of the highest credit card preauthorization charges for car rental. It is typically above 10000 USD. Ensure that you have increased your credit card limit otherwise you are forced to buy car insurance from the rental company even if it is covered by your credit card.

Malta regions map

Malta Regions Map

Malta Regions Map (Source: wikitravel.org)

Day 1: East (Valletta,  Sliema & St Julian’s)

View from Fort St Elmo

View from Fort St Elmo

Kick start your Malta trip by visiting the Malta tourism office in the capital city of Valletta. Head to the multi level car parking near Triton Fountain and walk towards the Upper Barrakka gardens. The tourism office is situated to its left. The staff at the tourism office are very helpful and will a lot of free brochures are available. Tickets to some of the pre-historic temples need to be purchased from the National Library of Malta and there is constant restoration work going on for the temples. You can get all the latest updates from the tourism office. Then start exploring the oldest part of the city on foot.

  • The old town is listed as UNESCO World Heritage List. Malta has been the home of the Knights Hospitaller for a very long time and the many churches of Valletta are the best examples of it with St. John’s Co Cathedral and St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral being of paramount importance. Do check the timings from the tourist office for the churches as most are closed for 4 hours in the afternoon.
  • The Lascaris War Rooms are a complex underground path of tunnels from the World War era and today it is a public museum.
  • Malta 5D Experience is a complete family attraction and your children are sure going to love it. Similarly visit the Palace of the Grand Masters and few sections are open to the public.
  • Check out some really stunning views of Mediterranean Sea from Upper Barrakka Gardens. You can reach the seaside by taking the Barrakka lifts.
  • For a touristy experience you can take the horse carriage ride of the old town
  • Enjoy some very authentic cuisine in the restaurants near St George’s Square. Rabbit stew and stir fry rabbit are the most unique and popular local dishes which you have to try.
  • Stroll in the steep hilly narrow lanes of the old town and walk towards Fort St Elmo to enjoy few more breathtaking views of the sea.
  • To learn more of the Maltese history do check the museums inside Fort St Elmo and The Knights Hospitallers
  • In the evening, drive along the waterfront passing by Fort Manoel, Sliema Ferry terminal ending in the marina in St. Julian’s.
  • You can also opt to quick drive in the 3 tiny cities of Cottonera. Composed of the three adjacent cities of Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Senglea they are collectively also known as the Three Cities or Cottonera. They are located very close to Valletta.

Day 2: East to Southeast (In and around  Marsaxlokk)

 Marsaxlokk Fishing Village

Marsaxlokk Fishing Village

Ensure that you one of the 5 days includes a Sunday and the South-East region has to be done on a Sunday, primarily because of the famous fish market which is closed on all other days of the week.

  • Fort Rinella is a wonderful attraction which will has brilliant exhibits from the Victorian era including the Armstrong 100-ton gun. The museum is heavy on information and the guides are extremely well knowledged.
  • Marsaxlokk Sunday Fish Market: The biggest fish market of Malta with auctions going on since morning. It also has a big local bazaar where you can find everything from plastic jug to pair of jeans. Some incredible restaurants serve fresh fish delicacies.
  • Take a guided boat tour with a local fisherman.
  • Drive to St. Peter’s Pool for the most relaxing time of your life. The approach road is rocky and there are no clear directions but follow google maps. It’s probably Malta’s best kept secret where you can jump off the cliffs and swim in clear natural blue water or just laze on the rocky shores.
  • For family fun time go to the nearby Xrobb l-Ghagin Nature Park. Photographers will love this place with the unique rocky landscape and the cliffs around it. There are few benches where you can open your picnic basket
  • Drive down to the pre historic temples of Borg in Nadur and stroll on the promenade of Pretty Bay at evening.

Day 3: Southwest to west  (Blue Grotto & prehistoric temples)

Malta has one of the oldest Prehistoric temple sites in the world

Malta has one of the oldest Prehistoric temple sites in the world

  • Start your day by visiting the imposing 5000 year old temples of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra.
  • Have a relaxing lunch near the sea facing restaurants of Blue Grotto. The boat tour at the blue Grotto is must visit attraction in your Malta visit.
  • Drive down by the western coast and take superb landscape photographs from the Mtahleb Cliffs. You can even walk along the cliffs. There are are several caves at sea level called as Ras id-Dawwara.
  • Enjoy the setting sun at the most popular beach of Golden Bay which you will again be visiting on Day 5.

Day 4: Central (Rabat & Mdina)

Time to enjoy the small town life of Malta

Famous flowering tea at Fontanella’s Cafe

Famous flowering tea at Fontanella’s Cafe

  • Visit the official residence of the President of Malta and the beautiful gardens around it at San Anton Palace and Gardens. If you are lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the President.
  • Best way to explore Rabat and Mdina is by walk and park your vehicle near St. Pauls’ church.
  • St Pauls Cathedral, its museum and the catacombs of St. Paul and St. Agatha are all very close to each other and it takes around 2 hours to visit it all. Do it by your own pace.
  • Walk through the Mdina gates and explore the historic walled city of Mdina.
  • History buffs will love the Museum of Natural History inside the walled city.
  • End your day with sipping a cup of the very famous and unique flowering teas at Fontanella Tea Room and enjoy the panoramic views.

Day 5: Beaches on the Western coast

Day of complete beach side relaxation

 Cafe Riviera Martinique, Għajn Tuffieħa Bay

Cafe Riviera Martinique, Għajn Tuffieħa Bay

  • If you still want to visit prehistoric sites then check Skorba Temples else drive to the next destination.
  • Reach Ġnejna Bay and be spellbound by the beauty this region has to offer. Check the fishing villages and check the views from Ġnejna tower
  • Drive further north towards Għajn Tuffieħa Bay which has the best sea views that Malta has to offer from the hillock. Walk towards old defense tower and you have to visit the cafe, Riviera Martinique, at the foot of the access staircase.
  • A bit further north is the most popular beach of Golden Bay. Our personal recommendation is to spend more time at Għajn Tuffieħa Bay since Golden Bay is flooded with tourists.
  • You can also drive till the northernmost tip of Malta island near Paradise Bay and continue with the loop and drive by the sea till you reach Fort Campbell. The town of Bugibba has a few decent seaview restaurants too

Day 6: North (Gozo & Comino)

Azure Window in Gozo

Azure Window in Gozo

  • We keep the best that the region has to offer on the very last day. Gozo and Comino are the other two inhabited islands in the Malta archipelago.
  • There are hourly ferries between Malta (Cirkewwa ferry terminal) and Gozo and you can check the latest schedules. Hop on the ferries with your car.
  • Gozo tourism office is situated in city centre of Victoria. You can get valuable information from the knowledged staff regarding local events.
  • Gozo cathedral is an impressive religious place situated high inside the old walled city. For its tiny size Gozo happens to have a lot of churches, chapels and cathedrals.
  • Drive to the western coast for Azure window. This is the most popular tourist spot in Gozo. It’s a very scenic natural rock arch over the sea. Walk towards the tower on the hillock nearby and take the tour with a local boatman.
  • Beach of Dwejra Bay is a bit south of Azure window.
  • Gozo has its own share of prehistoric neolithic temples and they can be found out at  Ġgantija
  • For mythology fans, check out the Calypso’s Cave which is alleged to be the cave referred to by Homer in The Odyssey. Very close to it is the Ramla Bay beach.
  • For excellent sea diving opportunities then head for Comino islands. Very regular ferries ply between Comino and Gozo. The timetable varies as per the season and checking with local tourist office is recommended. However for most part of the year there are very frequent fairies and boat trips daily.
  • The Blue Lagoon at Comino is the the most scenic spot of the entire Malta archipelago and should not be missed. The boat trip from Gozo to Comino includes a stop over at Blue Lagoon.
  • For Gozo & Comino ferries & boat trips check Malta tourism website.

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