Are Maltesers from Malta?
So yet another early morning flight had me fleeing rainy London, this time for the small country of Malta. With a flight time of just under 3 hours, the Mediterranean arpeggio located between Sicily and Northern Africa is a very accessible weekend getaway. Flying with Easyjet had me leaving Gatwick airport at 6:25am, landing into Luqa International Airport by 10:35am. With a full day of exploring ahead all I had to do was make my way to my hostel, dump my bags and start wandering. Only thing standing in the way? Getting there. So it turns out that Malta doesn’t exactly have the best public transport system. Sure they have multiple bus routes which cover the entire country, but the frequency of the service is extremely minimal. So I was left waiting at the bus stop for 45 minutes. Not exactly ideal. Of course I could have jumped in a cab and avoided such a long wait, but when you travel on a budget, spending all those hard earned pounds on a cab just doesn’t even warrant crossing your mind. So I waited and waited and finally jumped on the bus to the town of St Julians, an eastern coastal town, just north of the country’s capital, Valetta. A 10-minute walk from the bus stop had me at my final destination, Hostel Malti, a quaint hostel with very friendly staff. I was shown my room and was provided with lots of information about the hostel, surrounding area and highlights of Malta.
And so I began my Malta adventures by walking down to the bay and strolling along the esplanade. I found myself a nice café overlooking the ocean where I enjoyed a crisp cider and light salad. I hadn’t really decided what I was going to do for the afternoon yet, but after a little googling I found out that there was a Popeye Village in the North Western region of the island. I decided to venture towards this area and have a snoop around. I had to catch two different buses to reach the village, which would take me an hour and a half. Again, not the greatest public transport system, since with a car, the journey would have only taken 35 minutes. But hey, all part of the experience. The bus service was relatively well air-conditioned and the scenery along the ride was really beautiful. The route followed along the Eastern coastline so you could always see the calming ocean. The connection between my two buses was timed relatively well, leaving me waiting only 10 minutes. My second bus journey was very short and dropped me directly at the Popeye Village. The Popeye Village is the film set of the 1980 Disney Musical, Popeye starring the late Robin Williams. Now it is a theme park village and a major tourist attraction within Anchor Bay. It is a very small park but has preserved the film set or at least the vibes very well. It was interesting to walk through the little village but there isn’t a whole lot to do there. The protected bay does provide a scenic, secluded swimming area with free sunbeds. I went for a swim in the bay which proved to be quite complicated. As difficult as I thought pebble beaches were, this combined rock and pebble bay has taken the cake. I’m pretty certain that it took me about 10 minutes to reach knee height water, covering a total distance of about 5 meters. Yeah, not proud about that. I hobbled my way in and collected many a scratch on my feet on the way but eventually made it to deeper water where I could relax. The park had inflatable playgrounds and trampolines for guests to enjoy, as well as pontoons to relax on whilst enjoying the soothing waves of the sea. After a couple good hours of relaxing I left the park and walked along the cliffs of the bay. I got a beautiful view over the Popeye Village and the adjacent bay before heading back towards my hostel.
After two bus journeys again, I made it back to the hostel. The hostel I was staying at was organising a visit to Café Del Mar, a bar with an infinity pool overlooking the Mediterranean, well known for good party life. I signed myself up and briefly experienced some of Malta’s nightlife with some fellow travellers. Unfortunately, I don’t really cope well without sleep and I was running on only 2 hours due to my early flight from London. So I headed back to the hostel early, wanting to catch the last bus back to St Julians, because the Café Del Mar was located on a different part of the country, around 35 minutes drive away. I caught the bus that I thought was the right one back towards the hostel, after a few stops I checked with the bus driver whether he was going to stop in St Julians and he politely told me that I had found my way onto the wrong bus, heading in the exact opposite direction. He kindly pointed me in the right direction for the bus that I needed and this time before the bus left the stop I checked that I was on the correct bus. Completely sober, I had made this mistake, so I really, really needed some sleep. For those that know me, I am that annoying person who likes to be right, and for a lot of the time am, so I wasn’t too impressed to have made such a big mistake. But after a half hour or so on the bus, I made it back to the hostel and slept very soundly.
The following morning, I headed for Sliema, a town slightly south of St Julians with a large ferry port, opposite the capital, Valletta. I had, in my delusional, sleep deprived state signed myself up for a trip to Comino’s Blue Lagoon the previous night. This was one of the biggest highlights for me, so I definitely did not want to miss out on it. The hostel booked me on a Captain Morgan boat trip to Comino, the virtually uninhabited small Maltese island between Malta and Gozo. The trip included a cold lunch and unlimited beverages for a full day on the island. I wish that I had done more research and looked into other options because I ended up on a boat with 400+ tourists that was overbooked, meaning that there were not enough seats for the 3-hour return boat ride to the island. Not exactly ideal. Luckily I snagged myself a seat but even still, not exactly the way I had imagined heading to the Blue Lagoon. Regardless, I still had a great trip and would go again but a different way. This is one mistake that I have definitely learnt from. So once arriving at Comino, I took a brief trip on a smaller boat to the caves of Comino and the Crystal Lagoon. It was a nice way to see the different areas of the island, especially being able to see areas unreachable or unknown to most tourists. The tour dedicated 4-hours at Comino which gave me some solid exploring time. I quickly ate the included lunch of pasta salad, bread and cold meats, which to my surprise actually wasn’t too bad, and left the boat. I headed for St Mary’s Tower, boasting breathtaking panoramic shots of the island. Surprisingly, not many people venture past the blue lagoon, so the rest of the island was a ghost town. I walked along the cliffside of the island watching the boats coming towards the island and all the tourists flocking in. It was nice to be above it all, and enjoy the serenity without all the tourists. After about 1.5-hours of wondering around the island I made my way back towards the Blue Lagoon and headed for a swim. The lagoon was extremely busy so I decided instead to venture a little further away from the main area and found a less crowded area of the lagoon. It took a little bit of rock climbing but I found an access to a secluded beach with only a handful of people there. I set myself up there and enjoyed swimming and sunbaking until I had to be back at the boat/ferry back to Malta.
I arrived back into Sliema around 6pm and walked back to my hostel to freshen up. I met my new bunkmates who were very friendly; another Aussie and a few Americans, plus a friend of mine flew into Malta as well. The hostel organised another night out, this time to a rooftop bar in the centre of St Julians. Being only a short walk away from the hostel it was ideal. We watched the sunset over the city whilst sharing travel stories and enjoying some very delicious cocktails.
For my final day in Malta we decided that it would be a great idea to hire a car to get around the island and explore some of the hidden gems that Malta has to offer. It was a great idea, since the public transport system is really lacking. The care hire cost us €45 for the day, which when split between the three of us worked out to be quite affordable. Top of our list was St Peter’s Pool, a simply stunning, natural swimming pool in Malta’s south west. To the hostel’s recommendation, we downloaded the app, maps.me to use as our GPS for the day and thank goodness we did, because some of the roads really don’t look like roads, especially those to St Peters Pool. It took around 30 minutes to reach the pool and it was well worth it. We arrived quite early in the day, so there weren’t too many other people around, but this picked up very quickly after an hour or so. The pictures speak for themselves … THIS PLACE IS STUNNING!! Cliff jumping appeared to be extremely popular here with crowds of people, waiting the make the 5-meter drop into the waves crashing below them. Not for me thanks, but I was happy to spectate. The water was absolutely divine with a few bouncing waves. After a few hours, we decided that as lovely as it would be to spend the entire day there, we needed to move on and see some more of what Malta had to offer.
We jumped back into the car, drove back out along the road that looked more like a footpath, but I can assure you was a road and headed to the visible seaside town of Marsaxlokk. We wandered through the harbour side markets before settling down for some lunch at a café overlooking the harbour. Being in a fishing village, it was only right to have some seafood. I delighted myself in some Lobster Ravioli paired with a refreshing Aperol Spritz.
After satisfying our appetites we drove south towards the Blue Grotto. This area proved to be a little more popular than where we had previously travelled in the day. We got into a small speed boat and were toured around the eastern coast of Malta, exploring caves and admiring the sapphire waters of the grotto. After our boat ride we swam in the small harbour, enjoying the sunshine and coastal vibes. But time sure does fly when you’re having fun. We still had a fair bit of ground to cover so after a short while we jumped on out and back to the car we went. Having ticked off our two big ticket items, we just decided to drive through the country. We ended up driving through Mdina and came across a local café, called Crystal Palace, boasting the traditional delicacy of Pastizzi. The café didn’t look like much from the outside, but it was filled with Maltese locals relaxing, smoking cigarettes and watching the day go by. We tried the two flavours they had; ricotta cheese and split peas. They were similar to spinach and ricotta triangles but tasted even better. It was late afternoon by then so we just finished driving up the coast to Paradise Bay and then headed back to St Julians.
To end my final night, we ventured into the capital, Valetta, and briefly wandered the streets, admiring fireworks in the distance. It was a nice end to my time in Malta, a place that I know one day I will return to. But until next time, addiju Malta x