Staying only 3 days in Malta is impossible to see all the wonderful sights. However, here are the highlights you should put first on your list when you arrive at this beautiful Mediterranean destination.
Any visit to Malta should begin in Valletta. Malta’s unique capital is the smallest national capital in the European Union. That makes Valletta a perfect city to explore by foot, especially with its narrow alleyways that resemble an open-air museum. It’s easy to reach Valletta from the airport on the X4 bus (runs every 30 minutes, takes 25 minutes, and costs €2) or by taxi (15 minutes, approximately €16).
The most iconic structure in the city is St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Unlike many cathedrals, it is the painted and gilded interior that most impresses visitors. This Baroque cathedral is a popular destination, so visitors should aim to get there early in the morning. Also, ensure you dress modestly. The clerics don’t like to see you arrive in shorts and a T-shirt. The cathedral was built by the Knights of the Order of St. John, and 375 knights were laid to rest beneath its marble floors.
The Grand Master’s Palace is where the leader of the Order of St. John once lived. Now it holds the office of Malta’s President. The staterooms are open to the public, including the Throne Room, the Tapestry Hall, the State Dining Hall, the Ambassador’s Room, and the Page’s Waiting Room. The palace armory contains armor and weapon once owned by the Knights of the Order.
If you have time, check out the Upper Barrakka Garden. This viewpoint offers scenic views of the Grand Harbour and is the location of a daily cannon shot ceremony held at 12 noon and 4 pm. This ceremony originates from an old tradition of greeting foreign vessels with a shot when they sailed into port.
If you wish to fully appreciate the culture and variety of Malta, you should take the ½-hour ferry to Gozo, the second-largest island of the Republic of Malta. The crossing from Cirkewwa to Mgarr Harbor passes Comino Island. Comino Island is the most popular snorkeling spot in Malta, with sea caves and diverse marine life as well as the beautiful Blue Lagoon. Much like with the main island, the best way to explore Gozo is by hiring a car.
Dwejra Bay is the most popular destination on Gozo, renowned for the Azure Window rock formation which unfortunately has collapsed into the sea, Inland Sea, Fungus Rock, and the Blue Hole. This Blue Hole is a world-class scuba diving spot that is also popular with snorkelers and free divers. This geological feature is a circular rock formation formed by a sinkhole through the local limestone. It is only 16 feet by 32 feet in size but 50 feet deep.
Approximately 30 feet down, an archway allows access from the Blue Hole to the open sea. Opposite the archway, there is a big cave that scuba divers love to explore. The walls of the hole are home to sponges, coral tubeworms, and other marine creatures.
While on Gozo, check out the Ggantija Temples, a unique archaeological site. This megalithic temple complex was constructed 5,500 years ago during the Neolithic period, making them older than the pyramids and amongst the oldest structures in the world. Ggantija means Giants, and the site is named after giants who locals believed built the temples. There are other megalithic temples around Malta, but this complex is the oldest.
To explore the rest of Malta, it’s best to hire a vehicle. The bus routes were not designed with the attractions in mind, and the schedules are sometimes misleading. And the next stop on your list should be Mdina.
Mdina is the old capital of Malta and is located atop a hill just 8 miles west of Valletta. It is a historic fortified city where cars are forbidden. However, you can park your hire car in the free parking lot just outside the city and explore on foot.
Because of the lack of vehicles and ancient streets, Mdina is sometimes known as the Silent City. Its buildings are a mixture of the finest examples of medieval and baroque architecture. St. Paul’s Cathedral is an impressive baroque structure dedicated to the Apostle who was shipwrecked in Malta. In fact, you can walk from Mdina to the neighboring town of Rabat to visit the cave where locals believe St. Paul took refuge.
As soon as you enter Mdina main gate on the right you find the Mdina Dungeons Museum a real realistic and agonising story of medieval episodes which happened in Malta many hundred years ago. Do not miss to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral located at the centre a splendid baroque style architecture.
While in Mdina, you may enjoy a visit to the famous Fontanella Tea Garden. You may have to wait to be seated because it is a popular café. The upper floor of the tearooms offers the best views of the surrounding countryside. The tearooms are renowned for their homemade cakes.
Just 5 miles south of Mdina is Malta’s highest point, Dingli Cliffs. You can enjoy a relaxing walk atop the cliffs and experience panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. If you drive 8 miles north of Dingli, or 5½ miles northwest of Mdina, you come to Ghajn Tuffieha Bay. The ochre sand beach is popular with locals. A path headed toward the south of the beach leads you to a large rock formation with breathtaking views.