been said that the Maltese islands are the 'open air
museum of the Mediterranean', offering 7,000 years or more
of history to explore with numerous cultural, historical
and megalithic sites unique in the world. The islands
boast prehistoric ruins older than Stonehenge and the
Pyramids of Egypt, and are steeped in the legacy of the
medieval order of the Knights of St John, who used the
island as their stronghold for defending Christendom.
main island of Malta, covering just 95 square miles (246
sq km), is also a popular holiday destination because of
its secluded bays and sandy beaches, washed by unpolluted
clear blue waters. Set against the backdrop of the
island's scenery and its honey-coloured stone buildings,
Malta is alluring and fascinating.
and its little sister island, Gozo, are not stuck in a
time warp, however. The islanders enjoy life to the full,
and the calendar is filled with summertime 'festas' with
fireworks and revelry in every little parish in honour of
the village patron saints, as well as the major carnival
in early spring every year. The capital, Valletta, besides
offering some awesome Baroque buildings and fortifications
as its main sightseeing attractions, is bustling and
bursting with restaurants and cafes. The island's compact
size is also a plus for visitors; it takes no more than an
hour to drive between any two points on the main island,
and there is very little open space. The dense population
means that the island is virtually one large urban area,
with buildings occupying every inch.
lies about 60 miles (97km) south of Sicily and 160 miles
(257km) north of Libya, a strategic position in the
Mediterranean that has made the islands a crossroads of
history. The last occupiers were the British, who granted
Malta independence in 1964, but the biggest and most
unique influence was left by the Knights of St John, to
whom the island was donated in 1530; the Knights reigned
supreme over the island for 270 years, building
magnificent churches and monuments to themselves.
has its mysteries too, in the form of 30 prehistoric sites
boasting massive Neolithic temples, considered to be the
oldest freestanding stone buildings known to man.