Ah Malta, you blew me away! 5 days of driving in Malta & Gozo and exploring the most famous spots in this tiny, beautiful country was a magical trip. There are so many fun things to do in Malta and Gozo and it’s not just a perfect sightseeing destination. From diving to boat rides, you will certainly not be bored here. We chose to explore by driving in Malta, despite being advised against this and I am so glad we did as I think it’s the best way to explore the island. Before going through the list of Top Fun Things to Do in Malta & Gozo, let’s have a look at some of the main things you need to know before visiting Malta. Here is what I will share in this post:
- Driving in Malta and how to get around
- Parking in Malta
- Where to stay in Malta & Gozo
- Top 5 fun things to do in Malta
- Top 5 fun things to do in Gozo
Malta – the most fascinating culture
Malta is one of those places that completely exceeded my expectations. I don’t know what it was, but I was fascinated with the cultural mix. A unique blend of Arabic, European and British influence have created a nation like no other. The architecture is probably my favourite part of this island. Imagine this: sandy Arabic houses, with colourful Italian-like window shutters and very English house names on the front door. The Maltese people speak a language that sounds very Arabic and they have cities with names like Rabat and Mdina. Yet they are also a deeply Catholic country and have 360 churches dominating the skyline. Just think about this for a second – a country that is half the size of Madrid, with 360 churches scattered on its three main islands Malta, Gozo and the smallest one – Comino. Their closeness to their northern neighbour Italy has also influenced the food scene and you can find delicious, authentic Italian food almost everywhere. And all of this is very attractive to people from all around the world and besides the many tourists, you will also find many Europeans that have chosen Malta to be their permanent home.
Driving in Malta – best way to get around
When planning our trip, we heard the warning “Don’t drive in Malta, traffic is terrible!” and we were so confused and really not sure if we should rent a car. If you reading other blogs online you will probably see people recommending the public transport system which is well connected. I am sure that’s true but here are the main problems when “exploring” with public transport:
- everywhere you go, you are dependant on the bus schedule
- we heard that if you do indeed end up in bad traffic, you might be stuck on that bus for hours
- there are some places from this “Fun Things to Do in Malta” list that can’t be reached by public transport
- a car is a must in Gozo and traffic is definitely not a problem there
The main thing that scares people off is the fact that they drive the British way – on the left side of the road. Yes this can be very weird and scary at first, if you are used to driving on the right but you quickly get used to it (just don’t go right when you reach a roundabout!). In terms of the busy traffic – we didn’t experience any traffic jams. This could be because we didn’t drive during the morning hours when everyone is going to work but overall traffic was quite okay. If you are a confident driver, then I would definitely recommend renting a car.
We always get the Rentalcars.com (affiliate link) full insurance when renting a car but in Malta it’s especially important to get a full insurance that covers not just collisions, but also scratches and minor damages. We parked our car in a small quiet street and someone had reversed back into our car and caused a small dent in our car’s front bumper. The car hire company charged us 350 EUR for this but luckily our Rentalcars.com insurance covered it all and we got our money back. You can also get full insurance from the rental car company directly but from my experience, they are always more expensive than the Rentalcars.com insurance.
Parking in Malta
If you are able to find a car park nearby then I would suggest you go there and pay for your parking. If you want to park somewhere on the street, then remember this:
- Only park in parking spaces with white lines
- Don’t park where there is a double or single yellow line.
Where to stay in Malta & Gozo
The thing that most people don’t realise about Malta at first, when looking at a map is that it’s tiny. So most places of interest are usually a 20-30 min drive away from you on the main island. This is how we had planned the accommodations for a 5-night stay in Malta:
- 3 nights in Malta
- 2 nights in Gozo
On Malta island, we stayed in Bugibba, mainly because our diving centre was located there (more on this below) but overall it’s a good, quiet town to choose as your base camp. From there we drove to other points of interest in Malta and everything seemed relatively close. Valletta was just a 30 min drive away.
In Gozo we stayed in a lovely B&B in the western side of the island and it was quite close to the main town on the island – Victoria. Gozo island is even smaller so if you have a car it really doesn’t matter where you are staying. I would definitely recommend this lovely, traditional B&B located in a very quiet part of the island. It really felt like a proper Maltese stay here (picture below). Book this or any other hotel on booking.com using my discount code “69D2433A” and get 10% back from your booking!
Now that you have all the logistics sorted, let’s get down to the fun part of this trip! Here are the top 10 Fun things to do in Malta & Gozo. I have separated them into two lists – 5 fun things to do in Malta and 5 fun things to do in Gozo.
Top Fun Things to Do in Malta
1. Do a scuba diving course
Malta is a top diving destination for divers but it’s especially good for beginner divers. This is because of the amazing diving locations, crystal clear waters and very easy access to the diving spots, often without the need to get on a boat. My father used to be a technical scuba diver for many years and I have always been fascinated with his stories about diving as deep as 90 m (295 ft). This is obviously dangerously deep and not fun at all actually. I have always loved being in water, snorkelling and swimming so I knew I wanted to try diving next!
If you really feel good about diving, it’s best to get certified and do a proper course. Not only for your safety but also because if you get an internationally recognised certificate like PADI or SSI, you can then go dive anywhere in the world! Otherwise you might not be allowed to dive everywhere as the diving centre would not know your experience level.
PADI course with OK Diving Malta
After lots of googling and reading I decided to do the most suitable certifying course for beginners – the 3-day PADI Open Water Diver course with one of the best diving centres on the island – OK DIVING MALTA. They gave me access to PADI’s online materials so I could start reading some of the theory before even getting to Malta. OK Diving Malta is located in St Paul’s Bay, close to Bugibba where we were staying. That’s why we decided to stay for 3 nights there, so we could do the course during the day and then in the afternoons go explore Malta.
The location of the diving centre is one of their best advantages as they have access to a pool for some of the initial exercises, as well as the sea right behind their building. This saves a lot of time as there is no need to get in a car or a boat to go diving. We were a very small group of 4 people and our instructor Oscar was able to pay attention and keep an eye on each one of us. I read about some other diving centres on the island that have bigger groups but I don’t think this is the type of activity you want to do with a lot of people when you are still learning.
On the third and final day of the course, we went to Cirkewwa which is a popular spot for divers. This is where we completed our final, deeper dives and we went down to 18m! This is the maximum depth of the course and the depth you get a certificate for. It was a truly amazing experience and it felt great achieving this little dream of mine. If you are not sure if you want to invest 3 days of your holiday for diving, then you can try one of the shorter 1-day introductory courses like the Discover Scuba Diving Course or if you have kids then you can also sign them up for the Bubble Maker Course.
2. Get lost in Valetta
A trip to the capital is a must while you are in Malta. This is where you can see even more of the amazing architecture and the typical colourful Maltese balconies. Valetta is quite small so one afternoon is probably enough to explore the beautiful streets of this small capital. Park your car at the paid MCP Car Park and then explore on foot. The city centre is just a 3 minute walk from the car park. Once you are done walking, grab dinner at Papannis Italian Restaurant. You can also try to find some authentic Maltese food but most of the traditional meals seem to involve a cooked rabbit so it wasn’t my cup of tea.
If you want to get a good view of Valetta from a distance, then you can go to one of the neighbouring towns, located across Valetta like Sliema or one of the famous “Three cities” on the other side. I managed to capture the first picture below with my drone but you get similar views from a distance as well.
3. Visit Popeye Village
I have to be honest, I wasn’t that excited at first about this destination as I thought it’s just a place created for tourists. Well it is touristy but I was wrong, this was so much fun! It was on our way from Bugibba to the ferry terminal to Gozo so we decided to stop for a bit. Popeye Village is a Disney film set of an old Popeye film which has now turned into a fun village.
There are interesting houses in the village (part of the set) but the best part is the beach and the inflatable island in the water. There are a lot of people that come here with their kids but you will see a lot of adults being silly and enjoying the floating bouncy attractions. I didn’t even consider going there until I saw my husband jumping like a 7 year old. It was so much fun. During the day there are probably a lot of kids there but just before closing time, it’s much quieter and the grown ups get to enjoy it (we were not the only adults on it lol)! We visited the village late in the late afternoon when it wasn’t that busy and we even got a discounted ticket price because of this. I think we arrived there at about 5:30, closing time was 7 pm.
4. Explore the old capital Mdina
Game of Thrones fans, imagine walking inside King’s Landing’s gates. Mdina, was the filming location of a few scenes from Game of Thrones in the early seasons. More importantly, Mdina served as the island’s capital in the medieval period. It’s a fortified small, ancient city with a population of just 300. Walking inside Mdina’s gates feels like going back in time. The picturesque city can easily be explored in just 1-2 hours and has many beautiful photo opportunities.
The blue door of Mdina for example is probably the most insta-famous door in Malta. If I am not mistaken, I believe it was located on Triq il-Karmnu street but if you just walk around Mdina you will most likely see it. Grab a gelato on Bastion Square, and admire the panorama of the island.
5. Dine & Wine by the seaside in Bugibba
Bugibba is your typical holiday town with lots of Maltese charm. If you are staying in Bugibba or somewhere close, definitely enjoy an evening in this area. Take a walk down the very lively Dawret Il-Gzejjer street. You can find lots of restaurants and bars here with beautiful views of the sea. We had dinner at the Lo Scoglio restaurant that had amazing Italian food and lots of local fresh seafood.
Top Fun Things to Do in Gozo
When people plan their visit to Malta they often don’t plan enough time to visit the second main island in Malta – Gozo. I would strongly recommend spending 1-2 nights here so you can enjoy the following beautiful spots. There is a regular ferry that connects Malta and Gozo. You don’t need to pre-book tickets and they run a few times per hour, 24 hours daily. It costs 15 EUR (as of August 2019) for 1 car + the driver to go to Gozo, with return to Malta included. You don’t pay on your way there, you only pay when you return to Malta from Gozo.
1. Blue Lagoon
There is a reason I have added the Blue Lagoon on Gozo’s list and not Malta’s. This place is definitely the most popular tourist spot in Malta and everyone wants to go there. It is located on the smallest from the three main islands – Comino, located between Malta and Gozo. Comino is a small rocky island without much life and the Blue Lagoon is the most famous bay there. It can be a paradise and hell at the same time if you visit when everyone else does. I will publish a separate blog post with a few tips how to visit the Blue Lagoon and avoid the terrible crowds as much as possible.
Here is how beautiful and pristine it is when all the groups haven’t arrived yet:
Here is how it looks like a few hours later. This is when we had enough and got on the next boat and left.
2. Blue Hole & Dwejra Inland sea
If the name starts with “Blue” then you know it’s good. The Blue hole is a small but deep natural pool with crystal clear water. This place is great for a swim but even better for divers. They say this spot is one of the best diving sites on the island. If you are not diving, then make sure to at least bring your snorkel and mask so you can observe some of the underwater life.
The rocky surroundings are not great for a longer stay and there isn’t really a good place to lie down and relax. However once you are done with your swim, you can move to our next destination which is just a 2 minute walk from the Blue Hole.
Dwejra Inland sea or also known as Qawra, is a small closed lagoon with lots of fishing boats and a beach. It’s located right next to the Blue lagoon and there is a small free car park just between the two where you can leave your car. The inland sea is connected to the main Mediterranean Sea with a small sea cave which is just big enough for small boats to pass through. The rocky beach is very quiet and the water is very calm and shallow.
The Blue Hole and Dwejra Inland sea are definitely a must visit while in Gozo, they are both beautiful places and you also get the 2 for 1 deal here.
3. Rotunda of Xewkija
If you, like me, can’t pronounce that name then don’t worry. The Rotunda of Xewkija is also known as The Church of Saint John the Baptist. I don’t normally consider churches to be a fun thing to do and I am not one that gets excited by churches. There are so many churches in Malta and this list can get very long if I start including more here. However this was probably one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen and our visit there was totally random and unplanned.
Just as we were driving to our hotel in Gozo, during a beautiful sunset, I see a magnificent church figure peeking over the horizon in the distance. It was just in front of the setting sun and we were drawn to it. It was not on our way but I ignored Google maps and we just kept driving towards it until we were right in front of this huge, beautiful church. I got my drone up and captured the sunrays through the windows of the church. Very beautiful moment!
4. Wied il-Għasri Beach
Wied il-Għasri is a narrow creek with beautiful waters and a small beach. We were told that no buses come here so you will most definitely need a car. When you get close to the location on the maps, you will pass by a small car park. However that is a bit far away from the actual beach and you should continue driving until you get to a second small car park right above the beach. There are quite a few steps going down that lead to the rocky beach. Best to leave your valuables in the car so you can really enjoy swimming here as once you get inside the water it will be hard to keep an eye on your things. You can do some snorkelling here and just enjoy a refreshing dip in this natural pool of water.
5. Victoria & The Citadel
Victoria is the capital of Gozo. A small town that seems to have some sort of festivities all year around. We visited in July, during the Feast of St. George. The town was so alive! Everyone, from young to old was out on the streets celebrating. Many were enjoying a drink or having food, while most were simply standing on the street talking. Just talking. :) Fireworks, beautifully dressed people, laughter, it was great to observe the locals celebrating their traditions.
The most interesting part of Victoria is The Citadel. The Citadel is a fortress with historical buildings and churches that offers great views of Gozo island. The Cathedral of the Assumption is the most magnificent structure inside the fortress. You will see it as soon as you walk in. Walk around the narrow streets and go to the top to see Gozo from above. I highly recommend catching a sunset here.
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Disclaimer: I was offered the Padi Open Water Diver course with OK Diving Malta at a discounted rate. All opinions are mine, this was an amazing experience.