When I told one of my friends who had been to Malta just a few months ago that I would be spending 6 days here, he told me I would be bored. It's a small country with not much to do, he said. And while it is small, and the sites are limited compared to other destinations, there is plenty to do and I was far from bored. Every day I spent in Malta my love for the tiny nation grew and grew.
I arrived around 10:00 PM on Thursday, and after a long day in Athens and an exhausting month of moving non-stop, I decided to splurge for a cab to my hostel so I could get to bed. It was €20, which while expensive isn't as bad as some places I've visited. I got settled in to my 12 person dorm, my home for the next 6 nights and took a much needed shower before crashing for the night.
My biggest decision of the trip so far was deciding whether I should set an alarm to wake up for the hostel's free breakfast or sleep in. I decided to not set an alarm and let my body decide for me, and it decided free breakfast was in order. Afterwards, I did a bit of site-seeing around Sliema, a city across the bay from Valletta where I was staying, to see the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Balluta Bay.
In my brief excursion I quickly realised the heavy influence of the British empire on this tiny island. Driving on the left side of the road, the outlets, and the iconic red telephone booths.
Soon it was time to relax. And relax. And relax.
The next day I made my way into Valletta, the walled capital city, a UNSECO World Heritage Site, and where most of the main sites on the island are located. I decided to do the 90 minute free walking tour which covered all of the main sites including the Parliament building, the Church of Our Lady of Victory, the Upper Barrakka Gardens, St. John's Co-cathedral, and St. George's Square. This was probably the best walking tour I've ever done - covering a lot quickly in a fun and engaging way.
After the walking tour I dashed back up to the Upper Barrakka Gardens for the noon cannon firing. Every day at one of these cannons fires at noon and 4:00 PM. You can pay to stand down at the platform, or go to the gardens for free.
On the bus ride back to Sliema I emailed Golden Bay Stables up in Mellieha to ask about their sunset ride sometime during my stay. They quickly responded to saying the only availability they had was for that day. So looks like I was trekking across the country that evening. Which sounds daunting, but when you remember how tiny Malta is, you realise that it's very easy. Plus I paid €21 for the 7-day unlimited bus pass, which covers all of Malta. That's right, instead of city-wide transportation, Malta does country-wide transportation. That's how small this place is.
After changing and eating lunch, I made the one hour bus ride to Mellieha for the ride. No matter how long I spend away from horses, getting back in the saddle will always feel like home and I am so glad I decided to do the sunset ride.
Sunday was going to be a jam-packed day of me attempting to see all of the major sites aside from those around Valletta and Gozo, which I would be doing later on. This included Mosta, Mdina, Rabbat, and Dingli.
Mosta was not somewhere I had initially planned on visiting. But when my flight was landing, I saw this magnificent domed building and was completely awe-struck by it. I wasn't sure if it really was that incredible, or if it just looked that wondrous from the sky because it was smack in the middle of such a small country - both in terms of geography and buildings - but I decided I wanted to find out for myself. I easily figured out that it was the Mosta Rotunda (a 30 minute bus ride from my hostel), and it turns out it was a little bit of both.
Up next was Mdina - another 30 minutes by bus. For Game of Thrones fans out there, you might recognise this historic capital city. Somehow the first few weeks of my trip become a Game of Thrones tour, between Dubrovnik, Meteora, and now Mdina...I should probably watch the show now. Within the fortified city is Fontanella Tea Garden, which not only has delicious cakes the size of your face, but also provides you with some magnificent views of Malta's countryside.
I walked to Rabbat, the neighbouring city, to see the Parish Church of St. Paul and the catacombs.
Now it was time to get on another bus to head to the Cliffs of Dingli. A quick note about public transportation in Malta. Google maps works incredibly well here, knowing all of the stops, routes, and scheduled times. That said, the buses don't always run on time. Sometimes they are early, sometimes late, sometimes they don't show at all. The buses are reliable enough to know that eventually you will get to where you want to go, but unpredictable enough to give you a healthy dose of nervousness.
Upon arrival at The Cliffs of Dingli, I realised just how magnificent they are. At moments you feel like you are in a desert with lizards and cacti surrounding you. And then there's the dramatic cliffs and beautiful setting sun. You can also see the uninhabited Maltese islet Filfla, which is closed except for researchers with special permits.
The next day was another day of relaxing - and some prep work for the upcoming weeks of travel and some errands. But my final full day in Malta was a trip to Gozo. There are plenty of buses that take you to the ferry from around the country, and from Sliema the bus is about an hour. The ferry is another 30 minutes, and then you are in Gozo.
Within the capital of Gozo - Victoria - you can go up to the Cittadella for some incredible views of the island (but alas, when I went the lighting made getting a good photo difficult). But the real gems of the island are along the coast. Namely, the Blue Hole - where the Azure Window used to stand. The Window collapsed earlier this year, but it's still a popular destination for snorkeling and short boat rides around the cliffs.
However, what isn't popular at all and is still intact is the Wied il-Mielah Window. It stands a mere 5 kilometers away from the Azure Window. No buses come here, so you can either take a cab or rental car, or if you're on a budget like me (or just feeling adventurous) you can walk 2.5 km from the closest bus stop. It's definitely worth the trek.
There's plenty of other things to do on the island as well, including Ġgantija which is the oldest man-made structure in the world. And if you can, try and catch the ferry back right at sunset. You won't regret it.
And with that my time in Malta was complete.