Is Malta a good vacation spot?

We won’t be ready for another overseas trip for years and years, so this is all speculative, but… every time House Hunters International goes to Malta, it looks absolutely gorgeous. I’d like to imagine it’s a great place to check into a plush hotel, lay out by the pool, lay out on the beach, and eat some great food. Am I right?

Malta is similar in a lot of ways to southern Italy only with a more recent British influence. It’s comparatively more safe than southern Italy, though.

I’ve been twice, a long time ago. Great climate, lots of cool historic sites, nice people. English is either a 2nd official language or at least widely spoken. I don’t remember any beaches. I’d go again.

Good question, I would love to go however :smiley:

I’m going in August with three kids. Got a great hotel deal in the Excelsior, but now thinking that maybe we should have booked accommodation in St Julian’s rather than Valletta. Not really a biggie though We plan to hire a car, and for once we’re going to a place where they drive on the correct (left) side of the road.

My main worry is the heat, but our kids are used to travelling in Italy and Spain in the summer, and if the hotel and car are air conditioned, we really should be okay.

Looking forward to: Historic sites, weather, watersports, food, no language barrier

Slightly worried about: Weather (again!), reputation for crazy driving, and hoping there will be enough for kids to do.

Family members have been and highly recommend it.

Galwegian, one thing I do know about is heat. Make sure everyone has lots of light clothes and drinks lots of water… and wears lots of sunscreen.

I haven’t been there myself, but friends who have like the place.

Spent a summer there once.

There are only a couple small sandy beaches and they get packed. Rental chairs are staked out early in the morning.

The history of the place is pretty amazing. There are walled cities built in medieval times that are still vibrant towns today, There are archaeological sites and ancient temples that pre-date the Egyptian pyramids by thousands of years.

There are art museums with works from some of the Masters. I remember standing in front of a huge Caravaggio and there was no rush. No huge crowds.

And there is clear, warmish water with some pretty decent scuba diving.

However… the food. Bleech! Hope you like rabbit in tomato sauce.

Decent scuba diving is good; my husband I love to do that. Lots of wrecks, I assume?

And what precisely do you mean by bleeeech food? Rabbit in tomato sauce sounds like it could be a delicious mediterranean dish, if made well.

hibernicus/hibby took a holiday there not too long ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you PM’d him he’d probably tell you a lot about it. (He’s in Japan now so it might take a bit before he sees a PM).

Some great wreck diving indeed. They have added a few since I was there last.

The tugboat Rozi, the Um El Faroud, the HMS Maori, and a few others were on the regular circuit.
The food… lack of variety and/or inability to cook anything without boiling or frying the hell out of it. Local farming was tough due to little summer rainfall and arid, rocky soils so local veggies were scarce.

Every restaurant breakfast was a British breakfast special , with little else on offer. Beans, a tomato slice, eggs, and a couple rashers or sausages. Every day… for an entire summer. I frequently grabbed a couple pieces of fruit from a street vender instead. Would have killed for pancakes, a waffle, ham, just plain cold cereal, or anything not smothered in those sickly sweet tomato-y beans.

Every dive day (I dove Mon-Sat every day for some serious courses I was taking) lunch was from one of the food stands near whichever dive site we happened to be at. Didn’t matter. They ALL had a choice of ham and cheese or tuna sandwiches on bone dry hard roll bread. These people didn’t seem to believe in mayo. Nearly every day… for an entire summer. Add crisps and a drink and it was only a lira, so at least it was cheap.

Dinner… Rabbit is the national dish. Severed smothered in a watery tomato sauce with onions and peppers. Just not my thing.

Pastas were uniformly overcooked. Malta has been conquered many times with the Maltese language adapting many words. Apparently they never picked up al dente when the Italians were in charge.

I had found a few local places serving almost passable pizzas, but oh that penchant for watered down sauce. :rolleyes:

I once saw a paper cup from Pizza Hut in the gutter. Excitement! I hadn’t seen a Hut in my first month or so on island so I had to seek it out. After much searching I found it and ordered a personal pan pepperoni. “Pepperoni? What is this?” the waitress said. This was not going to turn out well. And it didn’t.

However I didn’t starve. There was a McDonalds for emergencies. I spent several evenings over at the kitchen at the local bocce club talking the cook through preparing something palatable. And after an evening building towers with the Cisk beer cans (small diameter, the size of Red Bull cans) I could always rely on the kebab place to provided sustenance.

We stayed on Gozo rather than the island of Malta itself for a family holiday last year - we’re going again with more of the extended family this year.

We thought it was excellent for a family holiday. We got good weather, found a great beach (I think Gozo may be better than Malta in this regard, because it’s less developed) and found the place really friendly. If this analogy means anything, it’s like being on the Isle of Wight if the Isle of Wight had been much more heavily mixed up in the Crusades.

We were self-catering, but when we did eat out we had a much better experience than Iggy seems to have done. Didn’t have rabbit once, or any problems with pasta etc. But it is true that Malta’s poor growing climate means most food/cuisines are imports, and we’re obviously more used to British style cuisine (e.g. Full English and mayo-free rolls). NB -if you were paying in lira, Iggy, it’s at least 10 years since you were there, so things may have improved!

The history on Malta is fascinating, and Valetta and Ramla especially offer a lot both in terms of sights and “experiences” most of which were good value. The one downside of being on Gozo is that the ferry to Malta is 20 euros, so we didn’t make too many trips over and had to squeeze a lot in when we did go.

If you’re on Malta itself, it takes 40 mins to drive from one end to the other - everywhere is easy to get to, so for a hotel stay I’d pick somewhere near a quiet beach and visit the more built-up areas rather than vice-versa.

I just wanted to post a follow-up in case the OP or anyone else is still interested. As I said upthread, we were planning a family holiday to Malta for early August.

Most of the tourist industry centres around Sliema or St Julian’s, but we stayed in Valletta, and enjoyed it immensely. It was very hot and dry: averaging about 36°C most days. Valletta is very compact, and you can get around easily on foot, but it’s very hilly, especially in that heat.

We got bus tickets for €12 for a week, and you can go anywhere on the bus. The old rickety old fashioned buses that Malta was famous for are now gone, and there is a new fleet of air-conditioned, comfortable buses running. I didn’t get a car in the end, because I didn’t really need one. For such a small island nation, I was surprised at how built up the eastern side of the island is, and to be honest with the very good bus service, a car would have been more of a hindrance than anything else. Most of Valletta is pedestrianised anyway. It’s a beautiful city, and a great place to wander in and hang out. There are lots of historical sites in the city itself and immediate environs we could easily walk to.

We found it very friendly: much more so than a typical Spanish or Portuguese resort: the fact that there was no language barrier may have helped a lot with this. Actually, there was one guy who was doing tours of the sea caves at Comino when we were at the Blue Lagoon: we were on a very slow boat back, and he offered us seats on his power boat straight back to our hotel at a discount. When I told him I didn’t have the cash on me, he brought us back anyway, saying we could sort it out the following day!

Water sports of all kinds are big business, with everything from banana boats, to paragliding, to speedboat rides, boat trips to quiet lagoons, sea cave trips and diving. The beaches, though, are small and packed: mostly it’s a rocky coastline.

The food was pretty good actually: we had some really nice meals in Valletta and Sliema, and one or two not so nice ones in the usual outdoor city square tourist oriented restaurants. I only saw rabbit a couple of times on menus, advertised outside a couple of fairly grim looking old-fashioned places. There were a lot of British stores like M+S, Debenhams and C+A especially in Sliema, and plenty of English language bookshops thankfully.

Can’t really comment on the night-life, because with small kids we didn’t really see any of it. However, there seemed to be fireworks every night due to some festa or another, and even though we didn’t travel to the festa, we could see and hear the fireworks every night from the hotel.

Overall, for the same money as a week in a Med or Canarian tourist trap, we had a completely different experience, felt we got better value for money, and we had a ball. I’ll definitely go back, maybe around April or May when it’s a little cooler, and easier to explore.

Sounds like you had a nice vacation. I would love to hit Malta up one of these winters.

About the heat: is Malta a place where it’s just hot, and you suffer through it, or a place that has AC in every restaurant, shop, hotel, etc. turned up to meat-locker levels?

It was well set up for the heat, probably more so than a lot of other places I’ve visited in Spain and Italy There’s AC pretty much everywhere, and very welcome it was too at times!

In a couple of squares, there were open fountains: I mean, just sprays of water set into the pavement with no surrounding basin or or wall, just a drain in the ground. The smaller kids had a ball skipping in and out of the jets of water to cool off and it was warm enough that they would be dried off in twenty minutes.

I’ve only been to Malta once, and I went in April so the heat wasn’t a problem (in fact the cold was more of a problem when I tried sleeping on the beach after a night out when I’d spent my cab fare, but I digress…). I liked it, but I do remember the landscape being pretty barren. It’s not really a very scenic nation, would you agree?

Depends what you mean. The countryside had that parched barren look that you often see around the Mediterranean, but I thought that some of the views around the Grand Harbour, both from the land and the sea were amazing.

That sounds a bit ambiguous to me. :dubious: