When travel once again opened up, I knew where I wanted to head off to straight away – for me it had to be the island of Malta
I wanted sunshine and crystal clear water to swim in, I wanted a bit of luxury and pampering, a warm and safe environment where I could indulge in top class food and wine. It had to be somewhere where language was not a problem and there were plenty of opportunities for walking, shopping and enjoying the unique sites. It was actually six years since my last visit – how time flies – and after two years of lockdown, I was like a greyhound just let out of the traps! So off I went with a Ryan Air flight from Dublin taking just three and half hours and a speedy taxi ride taking me to the newly refurbished Marriott Hotel in St. Julians, I was soon ensconced in my luxury sea-facing balcony room for a well deserved week of perfect holiday.
Malta has always been a destination of choice for discerning holiday makers from Ireland, because it really does have it all. History and culture in spades – you will never tire of visiting the 365 churches that are scattered throughout this little island – and that is not counting the ones on the smaller island of Gozo. Then there are the twenty four heritage sites and museums where you can learn more about the fascinating and unique history of this Mediterranean archipelago. If you want to do a little research before you go, visit www.heritagemalta.org
If you are looking for something more active than just swimming in the unspoilt and un-crowded beaches, you can try scuba diving. If you have never done this before, this is the best place to learn. And if you would like to do your own tour, there is no better way than to head off driving your own Rolling Geek. This is an electric buggy – if you are used to driving a golf buggy – this will be a piece of cake. Because the car has an inbuilt two way communication system with the office watching over you all the time you explore the 18 km route, they will put you right if you get lost. This was definitely a fun way to explore, each car takes four people, with one driving, one front passenger, and two sitting at the back. More on www.rolling-geeks.com
And talking about golf – this is another new attraction in Malta. And the Marriott Hotel will arrange tee time for you at the 18 hole course at Marsa – www.royalmaltagolfclub.com
No visit to Malta is complete without taking the ferry over to the smaller and quieter island of Gozo. It takes just twenty minutes to cross over and once there the scenery will take your breath away. Home to the beautiful Blue Lagoon and caves, this pristine island has to be one of the most unspoilt places on earth. I actually met a woman from Cork there who now lives on Gozo permanently, with just her dog for company and the Blue Lagoon right beyond her front garden. It is hard to imagine anywhere more idyllic. But if like me, you are just over for a day visit, you should definitely take a chauffeured Tuk-Tuk tour to discover the heart of the little island. (www.yipppeemalta.com) Our driver was great fun and a great storyteller and we saw and learnt more during our time with him than we could have possibly done on our own.
And back to my wish list for this wonderful week away. I knew that Malta had grown and developed quite a lot since my last visit and I was keen to experience some of it. First of all was the recently reopened and refurbished Malta Marriott Hotel, and I could not recommend it highly enough – www.marriott.com There are also a number of small historical houses that have been transformed into exclusive boutique hotels with anything from one to ten bedrooms. Along with the accommodation choices, I was thrilled to learn that Malta is now home to five Michelin Starred restaurants, and indeed the prestigious guide also recommends no less than thirty one Maltese restaurants in their guide. Food is now a major attraction for the visitor to Malta. Added to that is some of the best local wines, at excellent prices, that accompany such great food. Whilst I remember enjoying lovely food on my previous visit to Malta, things have certainly moved up a notch in the intervening years. There is a lot of activity going on in Malta these days, I did see quite a few cranes which reminded me of Dublin during the boom, but further development can only mean more jobs and prosperity for the local population of this small island and more attractions and options for the visitors. And although the island is small, there is a great sense of space and nature. From Saint Julians you can walk all the way to Sliema staying by the coast, with the lovely promenade to your left (on your right on the way back!) and you can stop at a coffee shop, a restaurant, a bookshop, or just a sit down to look out at the clear blue sea, feeling relaxed and savouring the atmosphere. Which for me is exactly what a great holiday is all about.
If you want help planning your trip, Alpine Sterling DMC has been helping travellers experience the best that the Maltese Islands have to offer for the last 50 years. Whether travelling for business, leisure or a special interest, their international team are dedicated to curating tailor-made programmes that give visitors a real insight into their islands’ culture, history and traditions. The team, led by Warren Zahra, all share a mutual passion for the Maltese Islands and their enthusiasm shines through as they share the best things to do, sites to visit, and places to stay in Malta and Gozo. For information on how Alpine Sterling can make your trip to Malta truly unforgettable, please visit www.alpinesterlingdmc.com or contact Warren Zahra directly on email@example.com
See www.ryanair.com for best available offers for flights to Malta. There are direct flights from Dublin year round. From 27th March until October 2022, there are also flights direct to Malta from Shannon Airport.
Tour operators from Ireland to Malta:
Sunway Holidays: www.Sunway.ie
Cassidy Travel: www.cassidytravel.ie
Budget Travel: www.budgettravel.ie
All information on the Maltese Islands and things to do is available at www.visitmalta.com