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A Guide to Malta's Islands

With its fascinating history and beautiful year-round climate, Malta is an unforgettable destination for those who prioritise sightseeing and local culture over sunbathing on the beach. Picking the right resort is an essential part of making sure you get the most out of your trip, but with three inhabited islands and so many towns to choose from, it can be difficult to decide. Read on to find out where you should stay on your holiday in Malta.

Malta

Malta is the country’s main island where the majority of the hotels and sights are. The north side of the island is home to Malta’s best beaches – Mellieha Bay and Golden Bay – while the capital city of Valletta is a treasure trove of Maltese history and impressive landmarks. Malta is the island with the best public transport, so if you want to be able to get around easily without hiring a car, this is the island to choose.

Valletta

Valletta is Malta’s capital, the historical centre of the island and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you can explore the breathtaking interior of St John’s Co-Cathedral, visit the Grand Master’s Palace where the President of Malta currently has his office, and the new Parliament Building that opened in 2015. Valletta Waterfront is an area that has recently been redeveloped and now has a large choice of restaurants, bars and shops as well as lovely views of the harbour. The capital tends to be frequented by culture vultures and older couples looking for a relaxing break.

Valletta, Malta

Qawra/Bugibba

The two neighbouring resorts of Qawra and Bugibba on Malta’s east coast enjoy the best of two worlds – there are plenty of amenities and transport links, without being as busy or loud as some of the island’s bigger towns. Having been developed with tourists in mind, they have plenty of good hotels and facilities that make them appealing for families, and the bus terminal makes it easy to get out and about on day trips around the island. There are plenty of bars and restaurants, plus a cinema and casino nearby, but note that there is no large beach or sunbathing spot.

Bugibba, Malta
Image credit: slava296 / Shutterstock.com

St Paul’s Bay

St Paul’s Bay is a large area on the north east coast, whose old town has now almost encompassed Qawra and Bugibba next door. This lively and varied resort includes a lovely coastline and a large shopping centre, and although there’s no real beach there are several good swimming spots along the rocky coast. In fact the area is popular for snorkelling and scuba diving, so there are several shops around the coast where you can rent equipment. The good mix of things to do here makes it ideal for young couples or families with older children.

St Paul's Bay, Malta

Mellieha

Mellieha is a small and quiet town tucked away on Malta’s north coast, but it’s hiding the island’s best beach, Mellieha Bay. Here Malta’s mainly rocky coastline is transformed into a long stretch of golden sand, where sunseekers flock to lie on the beach loungers or get involved in watersports. Mellieha also has a quaint old town offering mazes of narrow winding streets and authentic Maltese restaurants, or you can head to the waterfront for a delicious meal of fresh seafood. This area has fewer hotels than most, so book early to make sure you don’t miss out.

Mellieha, Malta

St Julian’s & Sliema

St Julian’s and Sliema are Malta’s party districts, where young locals and visitors gather to drink and dance the night away in the countless bars and nightclubs. Paceville, a neighbourhood just west of St Julian’s, is the busiest area and offers a very affordable night out – drinks are cheap, club entry is usually free, and most places are open until the early hours of the morning. There are plenty of hotels and St Julian’s is centrally located for travelling around the island, but the area is dominated by young clubbers and pub crawlers.

Sliema, Malta

Gozo

Gozo is Malta’s second largest island, but is significantly smaller than Malta island both in terms of size and population. It’s the more rural choice, known for its walking trails, beaches and beautiful green scenery, and its most famous sight is the Azure Window, a huge rock arch near Dwejra Bay. If you want to explore Gozo properly it’s worth your while hiring a car, as public transport is fairly limited.

Victoria

Victoria is Gozo’s island capital, a hilltop town with an ancient walled citadel at its centre. Its location makes it a great vantage point to enjoy sprawling views of the whole island, and Victoria also offers the majority of Gozo’s cultural landmarks. Here you can visit Gozo Cathedral and St George’s Basilica, both plain from the outside but with incredible painted domes inside. There are also a number of museums and it’s a great location for shopping – as well as high street stores and shopping arcades Victoria has several open-air markets selling local delicacies.

Victoria, Gozo

Marsalforn

Marsalforn is Gozo’s main tourist resort where you’ll be able to find all the amenities you need while enjoying a town that has maintained the charm of its fishing village roots. The seafront is lined with bars and restaurants and is a nice place to wander on an evening, and there’s a small pebbled beach with calm, pleasant swimming conditions. In the summer it’s Gozo’s main nightlife hub, but out of peak season it’s much quieter, and its scenic location in a deep valley only adds to its tranquil atmosphere.

Marsalforn, Gozo
Image credit: Alizada Studios / Shutterstock.com

Xlendi Bay

Xlendi is only a small resort, but is popular with both locals and visitors due to its breathtaking beach, sheltered from the elements by cliffs and offering lovely clear water for swimming and snorkelling. The beach is mostly rock, but on one side bathing platforms have been built where people can sunbathe or jump off into the ocean. The resort itself offers a range of lovely seafood restaurants and Maltese gift shops, and La Grotta, Gozo’s most famous nightclub, is found here. This makes weekends busy, but weeknights are generally much more peaceful. 

Xlendi Bay, Gozo

Comino

The smallest of Malta’s inhabited islands is Comino, located between Malta and Gozo. There is only one hotel here so most tourists just come here for a day trip from one of the larger islands, but there are plenty of reasons to make the journey. The whole island is car-free and has only a handful of permanent residents, so if you visit in low season Comino can feel like a deserted island. It’s popular with snorkelers, scuba divers and walkers, but its main attraction is the Blue Lagoon, a sheltered inlet of glittering blue water on top of white sand that’s enjoyed by guests as a natural swimming pool.

Comino island, Malta

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