Let’s get one thing straight from the off – Malta is an absolutely fabulous little country. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in terms of things to do, places to see and experiences to, er, experience.
For those of you who know little about this group of islands, here is a little background. Firstly Malta is compact. The entire country has a surface area of just 316 km. But rather than work against it, this small size just serves to make visiting Malta a more intense experience with everything accessible to everyone from everywhere.
The country is made up of three islands with Malta the largest, Gozo second and the tiny island of Comino wedged in between its two larger neighbours.
In terms of history, Malta has plenty of it with 7,000-year-old temples which outdate the pyramids and Stonehenge. There are also numerous fortified cities around the island, a legacy of the country’s long association with the knights.
Due to its geographical location at the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta has always been popular with the bigger European countries – a popularity that often involved people invading and occupying it.
Today, however, Malta is a totally independent country and fiercely proud of it. A member of the European Union, Malta’s economy is increasingly based on the service industry boasting, as it does, a fine pool of human resources. Information Technology is playing an increasing role in the Maltese economy as are industries like language teaching and call centres.
In terms of climate, Malta is what you would describe as typically Mediterranean. Hot, Long sunny days make up more than half the year with a summer that lasts for anything up to six months. And winters aren’t exactly cold either although they can be a bit on the damp side.
The local currency is the Euro, which was introduced in January 2008 replacing the Maltese lira. The time zone is central European – in other words GMT+1 and the official languages are Maltese and English.
Malta is also a very religious country with the vast majority of inhabitants Roman Catholic. So no great surprise then that there are enough churches scattered around to allow you to visit one every day for a year without ever going to the same one twice.
More than anything else though, Malta has one superb unique selling point – its people. You have to go a long way to find a more kind, warm and welcoming collection of individuals.
But wouldn’t you be surprised to learn that on such a small archipelago, there are more than 101 things you can do when visiting.
It is a well-known fact that Malta offers fantastic sea enjoyment facilities – swimming, diving, scuba-diving, snorkeling, boating, sailing, yachting, canoeing, water parachuting – the list is endless.
But did you know that you can go hill-climbing or go-kart racing in Malta, or watch glass blowers while they create mind-boggling glassware, see Maltese lace weaved the way it was hundreds of years ago, or watch the F1 Powerboat Race from breath-taking close distance.
Did you know that you could visit the President’s Palace and see how the Knights of Malta built their wonderful palaces, or experience the events of the Great Siege in 1565 in a two-hour musical epic.
Did you know that St John’s Co-Cathedral, once the conventual church of the Knights of Malta, houses Caravaggio’s famous painting “The Beheading of St John the Baptist” (1608), the only one signed by the reckless artist.
When you visit the silent city of Mdina by night – the city fortress built by the Knights of St John – you may well seek the ghost of a knight who, legend says, killed himself after the woman he loved rejected him.
You can also visit Olly’s last pub, where British actor Oliver Reed died on 2 May, 1999 aged 61, after a typical drinking session in The Pub, one of Valletta’s numerous watering holes.
And what about the picturesque Popeye’s Village, where the box-office hit “Popeye”, starring Robin Williams and Shelly Duval, was shot. The recent blockbusters “The Gladiator” and “Helen of Troy” were also shot in Malta, at the Mediterranean Film Studios.
So if you thought that Malta was just another boring island with nothing to do and nowhere to go, you couldn’t be more mistaken. Just log on to http://www.101malta.com and see for yourself – you won’t be disappointed!