Malta & Gozo,
In the mid-16th century, murderous knights were incarcerated on Malta’s second largest island to cool off. These days, the Maltese flee to its ruggedly beautiful shores on weekends to escape the main island bustle, whiling away their hours on golden sand beaches and feasting on fresh seafood.
Get there: After flying into Malta, it’s roughly 45 mins drive to the ferry terminal, and a 30 min voyage to Gozo.
Where to stay: Splash out on a waterfront room in Xlendi Bay for a popular lunch stop for day-trippers, or consider renting a farmhouse (http://www.holidayrentalmaltagozo.com) in a quiet corner of the island.
What to do: Rent a car or jump on a hop-on hop-off bus and make stops at the capital Victoria’s citadel Il-Kastel, Dwerja’s breathtaking Azure Window and Xaghra’s Ggantija Temples, which date from 3600-3000BC. There’s some good diving, and it’s well worth a dip in Comino Island’s famed Blue Lagoon, just a 10-minute speedboat ride away.
Fun fact: Malta into the "lesser known" category at least as far as Americans are concerned
Malta sits south of Sicily and northeast of Tunisia.
It has a craggy coast, beaches, lots of history and is one of Europe's smallest countries.
1. Calypso Cave is said to be the cave that Homer wrote about in The Odyssey.
The cave itself isn't all that great, but the views of the nearby beach are.
2. There are three islands of Malta: Gozo, Comino and Malta.
The country that sits about 50 miles south of Sicily.
3. The official languages are English and Maltese, which sounds Arabic.
4. Victoria, the capital of Gozo, is also known as Rabat.
It's famous for its beautiful Cittadella, which goes way back to the Middle Ages.
5. Mdina, the nation's old, walled capital, only allows cars of residents on its roads.
6. Peak beach season can last until through mid-fall.
7. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground necropolis, was excavated around 2,500 B.C.
8. They drive on the left.
9. Comino, the smallest of the islands, is virtually uninhabited.
Blue Lagoon is its biggest attraction and it's not hard to see.
10. The Britsh ruled Malta until 1964, when it became independent.
11. There are more than a few sunken WWII ships along the coastline.
12. Valletta, its current capital, is one of the most concentrated historical areas in the world,
according to UNESCO.
13. One of the "three cities," Vittoriosa (aka Birgu) was damaged in WWII but Fort St. Angelo,
which was built in 870, remains.
14. It's a walkers paradise, with numerous tours to take visitors along the coastline of
Malta and Gozo.
15. The 16th century Verdala Palace, is now the official summer residence of the President.
It's closed to the public except during the Ball of the August Moon party.
Get your tickets August Moon Ball ..for real.
16. Malta was the 48th happiest country on earth, according to a 2013 UN report.
For those keeping score, the U.S. was 17th.
17. San Blas Bay is a red sand beach on the northeast coast of Gozo.
18. Azure Window is Gozo's naturally flat-topped rock, which you can't walk on, but you can
19. Hagar Qim, which dates back some 7,000 years, is the best preserved ancient limestone
Temple in Malta.