MALTA | Island Cruising Family | Malta is a small rocky island
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July 2019.  I land in Malta and the weather is stunning.  The taxi driver tells me that it’s over 40 degrees Celsius Coming from Dubai, I just receive the comment with a smile; to me the weather is divine and I can already picture myself swimming in the sea. 

I arrived tired but excited at our new rental home in an elite spot in Madliena, warmly greeted by my handsome other half, Cyril.  Having just arrived from the Middle East, I was invigorated by the new opportunities and change ahead for us.  And, with a stunning sea view and serene atmosphere, I finally felt refreshed after my long journey.  

The next morning, I was woken abruptly by the sound of explosions. “It’s okay says Cyril amused, It’s the summer feast season, they are just shooting fireworks. It was 8.00am. He had been here for a week already before I arrived and was now used the the morning’s audio activities.  For me, this was the first season in Malta and this was my baptism into their traditions.  Life here means you live inescapably alongside a vibrant and noisy celebration of literally everything – from the music of bandas, the sounds of street parades and dancing during Carnival, the strikes of church bells, the blast of cannons and the eruptions of fireworks, they continue, day and night!

In the first month we met some fantastic people – both Maltese and from the expat community.  One friend, a British guy called John, had been travelling around the world backpacking and sailing.  He literally fell in love with the place after landing during the summer feast season – it seems that the combination of drinking, loud music and lighting fireworks with a group of locals had totally won him over (I do not recommend this combo!).  He never left the island again and has just married the Maltese woman with whom he shared this crazy first week.

At this point, you have to picture that Malta is a small rock in the Mediterranean Sea, just 27km long and 14.5km wide (246 km2). It is also the most densely inhabited country in the EU. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that there are half a million people living here and so many feasts!  With a summer which last 6 months, they do have a reason to celebrateFor some, this can feel like a party that they never want to leave.

In the last centuries, Malta has been a very agitated island and played a strategic role in international conflicts from the Middle-Ages to Modern days. In 1522, after their defeat in Rhodes against Suleyman the Magnificient to the Knights Hospitalier were left with no base. Malta and its islands were given the Order of St John by the Holy-Roman Emperor (1530). The Knights ruled over the small islands as a vassal state of Sicily, against one Falcon a year, sent annually to the Viceroy of Sicily.


Malta most memorable battle is certainly the one of 1565 known as the Grand Siege of Malta – The Three cities was then the strong place. The Ottoman Empire headed by Suleyman the Magnificent attempted to take the islands, but the invasion was repelled by only 500 men and 6000 foot-soldiers. The siege was the climax of an escalating contest between the Christian alliances and the Islamic Ottoman Empire for control of the Mediterranean. This was a huge victory for the Christian Alliance.

The Order continued to rule Malta for over two centuries, and this period was characterized by a flourishing of the arts and architecture and an overall improvement in society. Caravaggio painted there one of its ‘claro-oscuro’ Masterpiece that you can still admire today the Cathedral of St John. The Order reigned until 1798 until the French expelled them and brought disaster ruining a large part of Malta cultural heritage. The Maltese found support with the British to fight the French occupation and things went well until the WWII which brought again bombing and terror.


So, if you think you might suffer PTSD from explosive noises, Malta may not exactly be the place for you.  However, if history is your thing, Malta is a fascinating

Walking by the Capital and the Three Cities massive fortifications, you will immerse yourself in the rich past and feel the immense wealth of these days.

The Saluting Battery of La Valletta (16thcentury) regularly shoot canons from the Upper Baraka Gardens, just facing Fort St. Angelo. To complete the picture, note that there are almost as many churches in the island that the number of days in the year, every house has at least two churches nearby. To us, it meant that our pontoon was lying in straight line between the large churches of Birgu and Senglea, each of them running a competition of inventive carillons and decorative lights at each feast (which are also numerous).

Some of our favourite experiences in Malta were our night-time explorations of the streets of the old towns.  To soak up their inner spirit and appreciate the architecture in peace was quite a treat.   Originally, the sidewalks did not fit into the narrow streets of the historic cities constructed in the pre-car era – they were added later.  So having space to meander and admire without the worry of being ran over was just precious.
Malta is a captivating mix of old, older and even older.  And at the end of a warm day, you’ll find the elderly sitting on camping chairs on the road itself, enjoying fresh air and a neighbourly chat.  Going out at night you might spy a 1950’s car in mint condition in front of a stone facade dating from the XVI century quite a travel in time.
In the South, the smallest streets are so narrow that only three people can walk alongside each other at a time – barely a car’s width.  This quaintness is no obstacle to the feast season which sees the streets decorated with lights, heavy bright red curtains, statues and theatrical facades.
Whilst the cities’ energy and character were wonderful, for me, Malta’s real beauty lies in its islands and shorelines, places of true calm and beauty.  Compared to its Mediterranean neighbours, Malta has a particular concentration of dramatic cliff views, interesting limestone geologic formations, caves and large natural arches. North of Malta, the small island of Gozo also offers many treats to the adventurer.  The former majestic Azure Window, a 28m high pillar in Dwejra sadly collapsed in stormy weather in 2017 but there is another stunning arch in the north of Gozo. Our French friend, who visited us initially for a month, developed a special addiction for hiking in Gozo. After a year of trekking the Maltese islands, he affirmed Gozo secret paths to be endless, and until this day he survives us on the island, still trekking in Gozo and calling us to say how happy he is. Who said Gozo was small?
In a year and a half spent in Malta, we loved cruising around, waking up alone in its bays and lagoons with singing birds.  And we were enchanted by the vibrant colours of the sea – ranging from turquoise to emerald, especially around the island of Comino. 
Our favourite anchorage is in Riviera Bay (also called Miracle Beach by the locals) with the Singita Restaurant and Beach Club. Riviera Bay has a magical landscape for hiking, offers superb snorkelling and swimming, and is a fantastic departure for SUP treks. And when sea conditions allow, this is also the nicest surf spot.
A short sail away from Grand Harbour is Il-Hofriet, another pristine mooring constituted of two bays linked by a hole in the cliff (Hofriet means hole). It is nearby the famous St Peter’s pool, a swimming area and popular diving spot. The whole coast on this side offers beautiful trails and views.

We have frequently been asked by families how many days are necessary to visit Malta. People generally plan Malta for a small escape and often spend a week thinking this will be more than enough or even too much. 

However, it depends on the experience you want. Do you want to do the cultural visits but also relax with the kids at the beach and enjoy a boat trip? Want to try some adventure experience: diving, SUP Trek, climbing? Rather plan 2 weeks.

A day charter sailboat trip gives an experience of Maltese islands, but we advise the 2 to 4 days charter for an authentic discovery of the natural landmarks and sleep aboard to experience Riviera, Il Hofriet and Blue Lagoon, sunrise swim in the bays, paddle to the caves and Blue Grotto, etc.

Kids and Family visits*:

  1. Storeroom live music and Jazz – Ta’xbiex 

  2. Offbeat Music Bar

  3. Trabuxu Bistro – Valletta

  4. Yard 32 -Gin bar – Valletta 

  5. 59 Restaurant (fine dining) –Valletta

  6. Malta artisans market – local food-arts-crafts

  7. Piccolo Padre Restaurant – Balluta Bay Sliema

  8. Caviar and bull – Corynthia Hotel St. Julian

  9. Madliena Lodge – Madliena

  10. Café Del Mar – St Paul

  11. Shop Perruche Fashion/ jewels – Valletta

  12. I am an Indian Soul – fashion Gzira

  13. Find the door – Artists collective –  Birgu 

  14. Chill Café – Sunset dreaks- Vittoriosa Waterfront

  15. Hammetts restaurant Senglea 

  16. The Vinum Wine Bar – Mdina

  17. House of Gozo – Cultural Gift shop -Victoria

  18. Munchies – beach restaurant – Mellieha Bay

  19. Singita Miracle Beach – Cocktail Bar – Riviera Beach

  20. Malt Jazz Festival – Mid-July


Boat rentals / Yacht Charter from Tax’biex Marina:

Malta SUP Sea Treks (FaceBook) – Hidden spots, marine caves, geology and marine life

Malta Surf School (FaceBook): Surf lessons, board and wetsuits rentals at Ghajn Tuffieha