Malta’s glorious landscapes are a picturesque patchwork of rugged limestone cliffs, verdant terraced fields and mystical Megalithic ruins. It’s little wonder that the archipelago is brimming with extraordinary natural wonders that have inspired Greek mythology and folkloric legends. From ancient cave networks and must-visit swim sites to mysterious sinkholes and unique flora and fauna, here we explore the seven Maltese landmarks that make up the archipelago’s seven wonders.
Cast adrift in Gozo’s Dwejra Bay, Fugus Rock is a tiny islet that soars up 60 metres above the sea. Whilst similar islets pepper the coat of the Maltese archipelago, Fungus Rock is special due to the rare plant, cynomorium coccineum that grows upon it. Prized in European, Arabian and Chinese herbal medicine, this unique plant was venerated for its alleged therapeutic properties. The Knights of Malta fiercely guarded this Maltese landmark’s precious crop, gifting cynomorium coccineum to most distinguished visitors.
According to local legend, the pine tree at the base of Saqqajja Hill was struck by lightning and overnight changed into the shape of Jesus on the crucifix. Since that fateful night, it has been known as the Jesus Tree. With its gnarled branches contorted into the shape of a cross and its trunk bursting from the bark in a Christ-like form, the resemblance is certainly uncanny even to the most atheist of onlookers.
Located near the remote town of Qrendi, Il-Maqluba (meaning ‘upside down’) sinkhole is a true geological wonder. Formed in 1343 following a horrific storm, the 160-foot wide and 50-foot deep hole appeared in the landscape. Foliage has since reclaimed the vast hole, creating a garden of bay, gum and carob trees. Myths and legends swirl around Il-Maqluba’s creation: it’s said to be the wrath of God destroying a village of evil people that once inhabited the area.
The Inland Sea is a small landlocked lagoon fed through a small tunnel in the limestone cliffs, which joins it to the Mediterranean. It’s an unmissable Maltese landmark. Just large enough to accommodate little boats, the tunnel serves as a gateway for visitors to be transported into this picturesque corner of Gozo. The Inland Sea is a favourite with divers who love its calm shallow waters and rich marine life.
With gastronomic influences from all over the Mediterranean, there is a rich mix of gastronomy to experience in Malta. For an authentic experience, try pastizzi, a savoury pastry filled with cheese or mushy peas – and do not be surprised if you spy rabbit on the menu as it is a very popular dish on the island. And, of course, the fresh seafood is divine. As with many European countries, it’s usual to eat out quite late, so book a table for 8pm onwards to experience a great atmosphere. While Malta isn’t necessarily the cheapest European destination for dining, if you are used to eating out in the UK, you will find the island pleasantly affordable.
Making the most of the great outdoors is a prerequisite of any Mediterranean island visit. For a leisurely approach to activities, the island of Malta has many walking routes – and this is also a great way to drink in the beauty of the landscape. However, thrill-seekers will rejoice at the array of activities and watersports available here. There’s rock climbing, water skiing, sailing and wake boarding to name a few. Diving is another popular pastime here with unique dive sites including wrecks and caves.
Of course, Malta is a popular destination come summertime - the lure of the clear blue skies, slow heat and golden sands is enough to tempt anyone. However, thanks to its positioning, it benefits from a Mediterranean climate, which means relatively warm temperatures even during the winter months. In November, you can expect an average temperature of 17°c, for example.
If an alfresco bar for sundowner cocktails is what you’re seeking, then you can take your pick of wonderful locations perched by the sea. Not only do you get to soak up the final warming rays of the day, it’s the most beautiful way to watch the sun set over the island. But if your heart is set on a night to remember then head to Paceville: the epicentre of the island’s party scene. Here you will discover a different side to the island – expect lively clubs and late-night bars.
Are you an art lover or culture vulture holidaying in Malta? Well, you’ll be pleased to find that this Mediterranean island may be small, but it packs a punch when it comes to art and culture. Here are six recommended destinations to add to your itinerary to experience the best of Malta’s art scene.