December 12, 2018

Exploring Malta, A Jewel of the Mediterranean

luxury Malta toursSet in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta offers fascinating cultural touring, beautiful scenery and a distinct local food and wine culture for travelers interested in exploring one of Europe’s less-visited countries.

luxury Malta toursMalta has been at the crossroads of the region for centuries, and Italian, Arabic, French and British influences permeate all aspects of the culture.

However, few forces have shaped modern Malta as much as the Order of the Knights of St. John. The Knights first arrived in Malta in 1530, successfully defended the island against an Ottoman invasion 35 years later, built the city of Valletta, and continued to shape Malta’s development for hundreds of years.

The capital city of Valletta, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is packed with important cultural sites, including historic churches and palaces as well as modern architecture designed by renowned architects.

Valletta is an ideal place to admire the unique covered balcony (known as a gallarija), a distinctive design feature of many buildings that is a signature of Maltese architecture.

Artisans of Leisure arranges private tours of Valletta’s opulent palazzos and after-hours access to the ornate Baroque St. John’s Co-Cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 16th century and houses two original Caravaggio paintings.

Other highlights of Valletta include exploring historic architecture such as the Grand Master’s Palace and the National Library of Malta, juxtaposed against the Renzo Piano-designed city gates and Parliament Building …

…savoring Maltese cuisine, including local delicacies such as braised rabbit and pastizzi, a flaky pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese…

…shopping for local Maltese goods such as lace and glass…

…admiring the view of the Grand Harbour from the Saluting Battery…

…and enjoying a coffee on the patio of Caffe Cordina, a Valletta institution with a buzzy patio in the heart of the city.

Located just outside the Valletta city gates, The Phoenicia hotel provides a luxurious base for exploring Malta, with rooms overlooking the hotel’s lush gardens, the historic city and the Grand Harbour.

Further south in Malta, colorful fishing villages, rocky coastal beaches and important archaeological sites provide an interesting counterpart to Valletta’s grand architecture.

Malta’s many harbors are a good place to spot luzzus, a style of boat unique to the country. The boats date back to Phoenician times and frequently bear a pair of eyes on the bow—an ancient custom believed to protect fishermen at sea.

Artisans of Leisure arranges private boat cruises in the Blue Grotto, a beautiful sea cave tucked along the rugged coastline.

In addition to Valletta, Malta is home to two additional UNESCO World Heritage Sites, both of which date back millennia. Just outside Valletta, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is an unusual subterranean structure from the fourth millennium B.C. Along the southern coast, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra comprise another UNESCO listing. The limestone megalithic temples are some of the earliest known freestanding buildings in the world.

In the center of the island, Mdina, one of Malta’s most atmospheric towns, sits on a prominent hilltop overlooking the countryside and the sea in the distance.

Built by the Phoenicians, repurposed by the Arabs, and later abandoned by Knights of St. John, Mdina is known today as the “Silent City” for its tranquil ambiance.

Artisans of Leisure arranges private tours of Mdina’s winding alleys with top local guides who illuminate the fascinating history of the former capital city.

For travelers interested in spending more time in Mdina, a stay at the Xara Palace, a Relais & Chateaux hotel inside a former 17th-century palace, offers cozy and sumptuous accommodations inside the city walls.

The hotel also features one of Malta’s best restaurants. Set on the top floor, it has 360-degree views of the island with Gozo visible in the distance.

The second-largest island in the Maltese archipelago, Gozo is northwest of Malta and, with its slower pace and more rustic atmosphere, provides a cultural counterpoint to the main island.

The island is known for its beautiful rolling hills and scenic coastal landscapes…

…Neolithic ruins….

…boutique vineyards…

…historic Roman salt pans (still in use today)…

…and the imposing 16th-century Cittadella, a historic walled city, located in the center of the island.

Throughout Malta, Artisans of Leisure arranges exclusive private experiences such as a private tour of the presidential summer palace…

…meetings with local artisans who specialize in traditional Maltese crafts such as blown glass, woven carpets, handmade lace and ornate handmade clocks…

…a private falconry experience to learn about the history of the Maltese falcon…

…scenic coastal walks in the Gozo countryside and along Malta’s dramatic coastline…

…private wine tasting, honey tastings and cooking classes to learn about traditional Maltese cuisine…

…and active touring throughout including sea kayaking, ATV rides and more.

Luxury Malta toursMalta is a great destination for either a quick European getaway or an extended in-depth cultural tour, and combines well with neighboring Sicily and other parts of Italy. Contact one of our Malta travel specialists to start planning.

Destinations:  Europe, Malta

Tags:  active touring, architecture, art, art tours, Artisans of Leisure, Blue Grotto, cooking classes, cuisine, culinary travel, Europe, family travel, family vacations, food, garden tours, gardens, Gozo, history, hotels, islands, landscapes, luxury, luxury hotels, luxury Malta tours, luxury tours, luxury travel, Malta, Malta and Sicily tours, Malta tours, Marsaxlokk, Mdina, nature, private, private Malta tours, private tours, private Valletta tours, Rabat, scenery, tours, travel, UNESCO, Valletta, Valletta tours