When: Aug-Sept 2018
Hotel: Hugo’s Boutique Hotel – Adults Only
Why Malta: Malta is one of those places that in Europe you hear about a lot (I don’t know if it is talked about that much in the States yet), and it has become a popular place to visit in recent years. In 2018, we branched out a little more to farther reaching/harder to visit places and Malta was one of those places. I wanted to go to a place with a mix of history and resorts for Labor Day weekend, and Malta seemed like the perfect place.
The Trip: When I started researching Malta, I knew the biggest challenge was going to be figuring out where to stay. I knew the capital city of Valetta would be a good choice because it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2018, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Center. But, the pull of rooftop pools and crazy sea views from St. Julian’s, a town about 20 minutes outside of Valletta, was too hard to ignore. I booked an Adults Only hotel in the middle of Paceville, and took a chance on the reviews about the loudness of the area. The reviews weren’t lying – it is a loud area (if you’re in Europe and need a place to party, this is it). But, it was nothing a little white noise app and travel fan couldn’t handle. I would maybe stay in Valletta next time, but for what we wanted this time, it was perfect.
Also perfect was leaving the crazy rain of Stuttgart and landing in warm Malta in the evening. If you can avoid it, don’t rent a car in Malta – the drivers are insane (and we’ve driven in Greece, Italy and Puerto Rico), and the roads aren’t great. Here’s one thing we really loved about Malta – there are White Taxi stands in key locations, and you tell them where you want to go, and then pay the reasonable rate in advance, so the taxi driver can’t scam you. There is also public transportation, but honestly, I wouldn’t rely on them as most looked past every time we saw one.
We got in late on Friday, so we checked in and then took a walk through the raging party that was the neighborhood we stayed in. If I was in college still, this would be a dream area.
Before heading to Malta, in addition to researching what to see, also learn about the history. It was under British rule for more than 150 years before earning its independence in 1964 (they still drive on the left side, and while many speak English, the official language is Maltese). The country’s fortitude during WWII is amazing, and was key in the Allied victory in Northern Africa (which sits quite close to Malta). Due to its location, it’s definitely a country in contrast – some areas look European, others more Middle Eastern…it’s definitely a little surprising when you first get there.
One of the things I really wanted to do was make sure we explored the northern islands of Malta – Gozo and Camino. There are multiple ways of doing this, but I knew I wanted to see it from the water to be able to enjoy the Cliffs of Gozo and to see the azure blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. So the plan for day 1 was a jet ski trip around the islands of Gozo and Comino. I didn’t put much else on the itinerary, because this took up most of the day, and being in the sun, and jet-skiing all day, I knew we would be exhausted.
Day two was about enjoying the pool area (the whole point for booking the hotel!), before heading to Valletta for some exploring. Valletta is actually quite tiny, but is actually really charming with streets that are just made for wandering. There is one long main pedestrian street, but the side streets are super inviting that it’s easy to veer off. We made sure to wander down there, stopping by the Barrakka Gardens for panoramic views of the east side of the harbor, before circling back around to the other side. It is a really, really nice walk.
Final Impressions: Malta was nice. Was it one of my favorite places ever? No. Would a couple more days there have changed that? Probably not. But I liked it, and we had a fun weekend. It has gained popularity over the last couple of years, but it is still missing that “wow factor” that people find in the Greek isles or the coast of Italy. I know some people who loved it, and I know some people who thought it was dull (it is definitely not that) but it’s just your travel preference. I do wish we would have had a little more time because there is so much to see on the island, but a long weekend is enough to get the feeling for the island. I enjoyed the weekend overall, and I still think everyone should go because it does have a little something for everyone.