The origin of the term Malta is uncertain, and the modern-day variation derives from the Maltese language. The most common etymology is that the word Malta derives from the Greek word μέλι (meli), “honey”, possibly due to Malta’s unique production of honey.
Malta is a southern European country in the Mediterranean Sea 80 km south of Sicily and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. Malta covers just over 316 km2, making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. Thus it has always been at the crossroads of the trading and warring routes of this land-locked sea. The capital of Malta is Valletta. There are two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta is chiefly composed of limestone with no hills higher than 300 metres and no rivers. On the South-West side it is guarded by high cliffs whilst on the North-East side, the shore is indented with sheltered harbours. These proved to be very attractive to the sailors and navigators that sailed the Mediterranean.
Malta’s location has given it great strategic importance throughout history and a succession of powers including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St John, French and the British ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the eurozone.
The origin of Maltese history goes back to some 4500 years BC, when some people from the neighbouring island of Sicily, who could see the island lying on the horizon, decided to cross the narrow waters to investigate. This obviously could not have happened unless these people had skills in sailing or rowing some form of craft which was large enough to carry with them their belongings, which included such animals as sheep, goats and cattle, as well as seeds like wheat and barley.
These people settled on the island and sheltered in the many caves which exist there. The earliest inhabited cave is called ‘Ghar-Dalam’, the cave of darkness, where remains of these people and their artefacts give us an insight into their way of life. They cultivated the land, growing wheat and barley and practised animal husbandry.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and is an Apostolic see. According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul was shipwrecked on Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.
Malta is a favoured tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most prominently the Megalithic Temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
The Maltese archipelago lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean, 93 km south of Sicily and 288 km north of Africa.
The archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino with a total population of over 400,000 inhabitants occupying an area of 316 square kilometres.
Malta is the largest island and the cultural, commercial and administrative centre. Its capital, Valletta, named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, a French nobleman who was Grand Master of the Order of St. John and leader of the defenders during the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565. Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site for the massive number of historical buildings found in a tiny space. The Museum of Archaeology in Valletta houses an exceptionally rich collection of prehistoric artefacts. A fairly impressive art collection may be viewed at the National Museum of Fine Arts. In Valletta as well one finds the War Museum at Fort St. Elmo where every Sunday a military parade in period costumes is re-enacted. In the capital be sure to visit the Grand Master’s Palace and St. John’s Co-cathedral where Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John and St. Jerome can be admired.
Gozo is the second largest island and is more rural, characterized by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture. It is renowned as the mythical island of Calypso, where Ulysses spent to its shores for a seven-year hiatus. Baroque churches and old stone farmhouses dot the countryside. Gozo’s rugged landscape and spectacular coastline await exploration with some of the Mediterranean’s best dive sites. The island also comes complete with historical sites, forts and amazing panoramas, as well as one of the archipelago’s best-preserved prehistoric temples, Ġgantija.
Comino, the smallest of the trio, has one hotel and is largely uninhabited. It is a paradise for snorkelers, divers, windsurfers and ramblers. Only 3.5 square kilometres, Comino is car-free and apart from one hotel, is virtually uninhabited. The island’s main attraction is the Blue Lagoon. In summer, this sheltered inlet of shimmering aquamarine water over white sand is very popular with day-trippers. Comino is also worth a visit in winter and is ideal for walkers and photographers. With no urban areas or cars on the island, one can easily smell the scent of wild thyme and other herbs.
Furthermore, there are others places that we recommend to visit for its culture and history.
Mdina: Malta’s well-preserved quiet old capital. It highlights its cathedral, dedicated to the conversion of St. Paul. The Arabs were also responsible for the street pattern of Mdina. Streets are narrow and meander into each other.
Rabat: hosts numerous historical attractions such as St. Paul’s catacombs and the Domus Romana (previously known as Roman Villa).
Cottonera: The name used when referring to the three historic and ancient cities of Birgu (Vittoriosa), Isla (Senglea) and Bormla ( Cospicua), three towns conglomerated by 16th-century fortifications called the Cottonera lines. In Vittoriosa you could visit the Maritime Museum, housed in a former naval bakery, and the Folk Museum in the Inquisitors Palace, the former seat of the Inquisition in Malta. In SengIea, it houses two interesting churches, St. Philips and Our Lady of Victories. And in Cospicua, there is a magnificent Parish Church, with its Oratory full of unique masterpieces, the Cottonera line and the St. Clements Retrenchment.
Marsaxlokk is a traditional fishing village located in the south-eastern part of Malta. A big market is held every Sunday where one can get the best fish available, the Lampuki is the best. The sight of the traditional boats (luzzu), fishing boats built according to a design dating back to the Phoenicians. And it was the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Juno.
Sliema: one can still see one of the thirteen watchtowers built by Grand Master Martino de Redin.
Bugibba: From its humble village beginnings, Bugibba has developed over the years with St. Paul’s Bay into one of Malta’s largest tourist resort conurbations. It is near to Mellieha, Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bays which are some of the best sandy beaches to be found on the Islands.
Mellieha: Further north from St Paul’s Bay. It sits on top of a hill. Its positioning provides commanding views of the northern countryside, the sea, Comino and Gozo. Surrounded by the largest and some of the most wonderful sandy beaches on the Islands. Two miles from Mellieha lay the Popeye Village which was built as a filming set for the 1980 film “Popeye”.
Hagar Qim and Mnajdra – Two very beautiful stone age temples set on the cliffside of south west Malta. Their majesty is now protected by tents and a 2 storey new building nearby.
Golden Bay: One of Malta’s most beautiful sandy beaches, on the northwest coast of the island.
Blue Grotto: A series of seven caves and inlets on the southern side of Malta famous for deep blue waters and spectacular natural rock formations. The Blue Grotto may be accessed by small traditional boats, skippered by cheerful Maltese guides, which leave from a well-signposted pier just off the main road along the south coast.
Clapham Junction – An area of western central Malta where deep ruts in the bedrock appear to have been formed in the remote past by wagons or carts. Some of these ruts cross rock-cut punic tombs, proving that the ruts existed before the tombs. In the vicinity, there are large caves which used to be inhabited by troglodytes.
St.Thomas Bay: A quaint inlet, 1km beyond Marsaskala, with a sloping, built up area on one side, and barren white cliffs on the other. There are 2 small sandy beaches ideal for swimming in summer. Beyond Munxar Point there are amazing, very high, white cliffs, with 2 large and deep caves.
St.Peter’s Pool: A natural inlet located south of Malta, (Delimara area). It looks like a natural swimming pool carved into the rocks.
Mosta Dome: the third largest dome in Europe and the ninth largest dome in the world. On April 9th 1942, a bomb struck the church whilst a religious ceremony was taking place with more than 300 people attending. Luckily the bomb didn’t explode.
Mgarr: one of Gozo’s prettiest coves with fantastic views of distant cliffs. Take in the marvellous walls and bastions of Fort Chambray or visit the megalithic temples of Ggantija that date back to 3200BC.
Enjoy this ancient and picturesque island. Malta, the most beautiful!!