Colourful encounters in Malta

Our Malta tour is an enduringly popular solo holiday, with over 300 days of sunshine every year, fascinating historical stories and vibrant attractions at every turn, it's an island of colourful contrasts that you won't want to miss.

With over 7,000 years of history, it would be remiss not to start off with some of the historical stories surrounding this island marvel. Prepare to immerse yourself in a small island that's rich in personality...

Temples to treasure

Incredibly, Malta is home to remains from the Neolithic period, and visitors can see mysterious temples including Ħaġar Qim (standing stone). This unusual megalithic building features passages that give way to chambers which were adorned with historical carvings and statues that relate to fertility.

Many of the items restored from the temple are now housed at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta so worth a visit to fit all the pieces together.

Works of art

When the Knights of St John were bequeathed Malta by Charles V, it was a defining era, and after the Great Siege of 1565, the artistic and cultural influences of the island we see today, really began to emerge. The knights commissioned some of the world's most famous artists to embellish churches and palaces with their finest frescoes.

The best place to view some of these works yourself is St Johns Co-Cathedral, home to Caravaggio's dramatic works including 'The Beheading of St John' and 'St Jerome Writing' which rub shoulders with other ornate works.

A docu-drama in the Caravaggio Wing of the cathedral documents his life, including his acceptance into the Order as a Knight of Obedience and his dramatic escape from imprisonment in Fort St Angelo.

The construction of the church was completed soon after the Great Siege and over the years many knights bestowed many gifts of art to the church, from tapestries to statues, helping to shape the jaw-dropping interiors you see today.

Gardens to gifts

If there's one good thing about Malta, you don't have to venture far to stumble upon a historical gem. Even strolling through the capital of Valletta will reveal age-old bastions, ornate architecture and cobbled streets.

The Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens are the perfect place to visit, not only for delving further into the historical roots of the island, but for some of the best views and a little respite from the bustle of daily life in Valletta below.

Resting above the Grand Harbour, the colonnaded gardens were built in 1661 as the private gardens and exercise area for Italy's Knights of the Langue.

Despite being subjected to some damage during WWII, the gardens were fully restored to their former glory. Today, as well as uninterrupted harbour views, look out for the garden's collection of statues that depict people and scenes throughout history. One of the most noteworthy is the local sculptor, Antonio Sciortino's 'Les Gavroches'. The replica shows three Parisian street children hurrying forward, said to highlight the extreme hardships of the Maltese in the early 20th century and inspired by the Victor Hugo novel, Les Miserables.

Considered one of Malta's top treasures, the statue has been commemorated on stamps, coins, phone cards, and in 1951, a small bronze model was also cast and presented as a gift to Princess Elizabeth (the late Queen Elizabeth II).

Salute to a holiday well spent

The Saluting Battery, overlooking the Grand Harbour, is one of the oldest of its kind still in operation today.

Used for over 500 years to protect the harbour from attack, and for ceremonial welcomes, the Battery once served as a clock, firing daily at sunrise, noon and sunset. 

A military marvel, the daily salutes at midday and 4pm offer a little pomp and ceremony, and for even more historical discoveries, the museum's collection of 300 years of military history should prove fascinating.

Festive fun

There is always some kind of event or celebration to look forward to in Malta, with a thriving annual calendar rivalling that of many European cities, from music to theatre, sports to fiestas.

But if we had to choose one time of year to zero in on, December's festive celebrations would be a good contender.

Our Christmas breaks let you revel in the excitement of the season, and allow you to discover some of the local charming, if not unusual, traditions that shape a Maltese Christmas.

The locals go big on decorations so look out for an assortment of displays during your island explorations, from the traditional loud and rather gaudy colourful displays, to the more muted illuminations.

A well planned trip to Malta with its beauty and history, with a local guide who conveyed it. We stayed in a beautiful hotel with many amenities and good food. Our Holiday Director, Caroline Godfrey, was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and fun, creating secret Santa, quizzes and raffles to keep Christmas enjoyable.

Melinda

Look out for window displays of vetches, a type of sprout, grown from seeds in the lead up to Christmas, and used as a sprawling decoration to celebrate the season.

Midnight Mass is both a cultural and religious tradition, and visiting one of the island's stunning Baroque churches is an experience in itself. Following tradition, the sermon is typically delivered by a young child. This custom is said to stem from Luqa altar boy George Sapiano’s sermon back in 1883, with the same practice followed ever since.

In the early hours of the Christmas morning, villages organise street processions, with children carrying lamps through the streets and singing traditional songs - it really is a sight to behold.

And of course there's the nativity displays, festive artisan markets and past events including Fairyland complete with ice rink, live music and a ferris wheel - Malta is transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland that will bring back fond memories of your own festive traditions and celebrations.

Whenever and however you choose to visit Malta, there's always something to celebrate - even just the glorious Mediterranean weather!

Let us take you there

  1. Valletta and the Hidden Gems of Malta

    Malta's history is firmly in focus on this fascinating tour, which includes trips to Valletta, the fishing village of Marsaxlokk and the city of Mdina, considered to be the jewel of Malta.

    • Return flights
    • 7 nights in a 4-star hotel
    • 11 included meals: 7 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners

    8 days from
    £1,424
    was £1,499
    Explore
  2. Just Landed

    Christmas & New Year in Malta

    Unravel the fascinating history and natural wonders of Malta and its sister island Gozo as you celebrate Christmas and New Year on these delightful islands.

    • Return flights
    • 10 nights in a 4-star hotel
    • 21 included meals: 10 breakfasts, 1 Christmas lunch, 10 dinners, including New Year's Eve gala dinner

    11 days from
    £2,599
    Explore
  3. Just Landed

    Christmas in Malta

    An intriguing history and many ancient treasures are yours to discover as you explore the beautiful island of Malta on this Christmas break.

    • Return flights
    • 5 nights half-board in a 4-star hotel
    • 11 meals: 5 breakfasts, 1 Christmas Day buffet lunch and 5 dinners including a Christmas Eve buffet dinner

    6 days from
    £1,799
    Explore

Photo credits: Thanks to Visit Malta, @Olly Gaspar and @HayleaBrown