YOU CAN TRAVEL from one end of the Maltese archipelago to the other in two hours, but it would take months to experience everything this small island nation has to offer. You might find yourself with a long To-Do list — explore ancient maritime culture, rugged coastlines, and medieval cities still bustling with energy — but short on time. Here are 5 excursions that will help you capture the full flavor of Malta, all in one long weekend.
Paceville, located centrally on the island’s east coast, is the hub of Malta’s nightlife and a great base for day-trips throughout the rest of the archipelago. Ryan’s Pub is a favorite of students from the local university. Here, they’ll make you a mean vodka-Kinnie — vodka mixed with a local soda. For a late-night snack, head to one of the many bodegas or food windows for some pastizzi, a ricotta-filled pastry and a bag of fried Twistees.
This walled city is just under a half-hour’s drive from the capital, Valetta. It’s easy to forget in the narrow stone alleyways, that people still live here, and Mdina it’s not just a medieval museum. Mdina is famous for its tradition of blown glass, and you’ll find an abundance of craft shops with souvenir-worthy glass vases, chandeliers, and trinkets.
Marsaxxlok’s harbor features Dghajsa and Luzzu boats — brightly-colored fishing vessels and water taxis. On Sundays, there is a sprawling fish market, where you’ll find the freshest fish in Malta. Marsaxxlok is also the home of Torta del-Lampuki, a delicious fish pie and local delicacy, which you can find in many of the restaurants.
The Blue Grotto
A short drive from Marsaxxlok, the Blue Grotto is a natural system of sea caverns, popular for snorkeling and rock climbing. If you arrive in the morning the surrounding water will mirror multiple shades of blue depending on the sun’s position. Take the old stairs down along the cliff face to explore the area from sea-level; just keep an eye on the tide — it can flood the walkway and make your return slippery.
Fungal Rock sits just off the coast, on the island of Gozo, just a short ferry ride from the main island. Hike to the edge of the jetty for the best view, or spend the day discovering all the nooks and crannies. You can easily pass an afternoon trying to find them all, or laying on the rocks in the sun. The area has also become a popular site for divers. If you have the right training and equipment, venture underwater to explore the rock formations, in what’s been called a “diver’s paradise.”
With the recent collapse of the Azure Window, a famous Maltese attraction was lost, but since it was filmed various popular movies and TV shows, you can see it on a screen. If you want to see it in reality, you’ll need to scuba near Fungal Rock, where the window’s remains have sunk to the sea floor.