Malta, Gozo & Comino
FACTS ABOUT MALTA
Malta is an island located in the Mediterranean Sea, 93km south of Sicily and 230km from the nearest point of the North African mainland. It is an idyllic holiday destination for families, couples and single travellers with a wealth of history and cultural activities for all. Alternatively, the are multiple beaches, bars, restaurants and world class shopping available for a relaxing time in the sun.
The capital city is Valletta
There are approximately 417,608 inhabitants living on the island
The currency is Euro
Malta is part of the European Union
Malta’s sister islands are Gozo and Comino
There are two official languages, Maltese and English
HISTORY OF MALTA
Malta’s first inhabitants came from Sicily, and they were mainly fishermen, farmers and hunters. The first villages formed in 5,000 BC and the villagers mostly lived in caves.In 4,000 BC the most distinguished period in the Maltese history began, when it is believed that the first temples were built. To this day, temples built during that time can be found around the island, such as the Ggantija temples. These are believed to be older than the Stonehenge temples, and they form part of the UNESCO world heritage.
In 1,000 BC Malta was invaded by the Phoenicians, who used the islands for the market trading due to its strategic position in the Mediterranean sea.
Following the Phoenicians, other cultures have come to Malta and influenced the island, such as the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Byzantines.
The Arabs ruled Malta for 220 years in 870 AD and they had a major influence on the Maltese language, making it the only Semitic based language written in Latin.
The medieval years began when the Normans conquered the island in 1090, after expelling the Arabs. After the Normans other invasions followed until the Knights of St. John conquered Malta in 1530 and lasted for 268 years. The main influence of the knights was the change of the capital city from Mdina to Birgu and then to Valletta. Both Birgu and Valletta were built thanks to their strategic position, as they are close to the sea and therefore were used as harbours. When the Turks tried to invade Malta in 1565, the Knights of St. John defended the island and built fortifications around Valletta, Birgu and Senglea. On the 8th September the war ended as the Turks retreated, and to this day the date is celebrated and remembered as the victory of The Great Siege.
In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Malta and his rule lasted only two years, as the Maltese rebelled with the help of the British, who then conquered the island in 1800. Malta became the headquarters of the British navy because of its excellent position and harbours.
During World War II, in 1942, Malta received the English George Cross for their bravery and it has been part of the Maltese flag ever since. In 1964 Malta requested independence through a referendum, and on the 21st September of that year they gained it, with Queen Elizabeth II still head of state. Ten years later, on the 13th December 1974, Malta became a republic. In 2004 the island joined the European Union, and is today the smallest member state.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN MALTA
Malta’s capital city, Valletta, is a must see for those who are visiting the island. Surrounded with picturesque architecture, history and filled with shops, restaurants and bars, this city is very welcoming. Because of its rich history it has become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Mdina, Malta’s former capital city, is a fortified city found in Rabat. Due to the fact that not many cars are allowed inside the city and its small population, Mdina is also known as the Silent City. Known for its beautiful view of Malta and history, Mdina is a major touristic attraction and a must see for those visiting the island.
THE THREE CITIES
Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua are three fortified cities found in the south of Malta, and together they form the island’s famous Three Cities. These cities are rich of history, dating back to the Phoenicians, and can give a true glimpse at the authentic Maltese life.
Gozo is one of Malta’s sister islands and is located only 25 minutes away by ferry. Although very close to Malta, Gozo is known to be more rural and peaceful. Gozo is three times smaller than Malta, but nonetheless there are many sites to see, such as the famous Azure Window.
Comino is the smaller of sister islands in Malta and is famous for its crystal clear water in the Blue Lagoon. Many come on the island to dive, snorkel or simply relax by the sea. What is interesting to know about Comino is that no one lives on the island, and just one hotel can be found there.
THE BLUE GROTTO
A popular attraction in Malta is the Blue Grotto, situated in the southern coast of the island. This site is very popular because of its location it is recommended to visit it in the early hours of the day when the sun is still low to enjoy a better view.
THE MEGALITHIC TEMPLES
It is believed that the oldest freestanding temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site named Ggantija, a temple that dates back to 5,000 BC and is found in Gozo. Along with this temple, there are another 5 megalithic temples around Malta that are listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites; these are ĦaġarQim and Mnajdra both found in the village of Qrendi, Ta' Ħaġrat Temples and Skorba Temples in Mgarr, and the Tarxien Temples in Tarxien.
THE MOSTA DOME
The third largest church dome in Europe is Malta’s famous Church of Assumption of Our Lady, also known as the Mosta Dome. The church is known for what is believed was a miracle, when back in World War II a bomb went through the roof of the church, with hundreds of people inside, but did not explode.
FORT ST ANGELO
Located in the centre of the Grand Harbour of Birgu, Fort St Angelo is a large bastioned fort that dates back to the medieval period when it was originally built as a castle. Between 1530 and 1690 the Order of Saint John rebuilt it as a bastioned fort. The fort was used during attacks and wars, and although it was damaged during World War II, it was later restored.
The world’s largest cannon, a 100-ton gun, is found inside the Fort Rinella in Malta. During World War II, the fort was used by the British to surveille the coast. Today the fort has been turned into a museum open to the public.
The highest point of Malta is found in Dingli Cliffs, approximately 220m above sea level, dropping right down to the sea. The beauty of this location is the outstanding views one can enjoy, with breathtaking sunsets and relaxing walks along the cliffs.
ST PAUL’S CATACOMBS
Located close to Mdina and Rabat, the St Paul’s Catacombs are evidence of the early signs of Christianity in Malta.
Malta is one of the most popular diving destinations in Europe, with plenty of wonderful sites and perfect weather conditions and water clarity. With over 40 diving schools on the island, you can either enjoy an introductory dive or start a beginner course.
THINGS TO DO
WITH KIDS IN MALTA
The film Popeye was filmed in Malta in the 1960’s and the set for the movie, now known as ‘Popeye Village’, has become a major attraction. Everything from this place will remind you of the famous film, from the houses to the characters ready to entertain you.
SPLASH AND FUN WATERPARK
Keep your kids entertained with water slides, the wave pool and fun activities at Splash and Fun Waterpark. Perfect for families with children of all ages and adventurous parents
MEDITERRANEO MARINE PARK
At the Mediterraneo Marine Park in Malta you can educate and entertain your children at the same time. The park offers the opportunity to better understand dolphins, sea lions and parrots by watching shows and interacting with them. There is also the opportunity to swimming with the dolphins.