With a sunny climate, a short flight from the UK, wonderful food and affordable accommodation, Malta & Gozo make excellent destinations for a family holiday, says Dr. Jill Nash
Malta is an eclectic mix of North African and Arabic influence, Baroque architecture, and Sicilian-inspired cuisine and culture. It may not be an obvious first choice for families looking for a travel adventure, yet the year-round good weather and value for money, makes it an excellent destination for young families or first time travellers. Malta, like most Mediterranean cultures, is very child friendly and offers an incredible variety of historical sites, golden beaches and fun festivals. For many families, piling children onto aeroplanes and keeping them entertained on a long haul is not a great way to start a trip, but, at only a three hour hop from the UK, the island is near enough for the journey to be manageable.
There is no known area in the world the size of Malta that packs in so many ancient sites and splendid archaeological sites. The three small islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino), with a total land area of little more than 300 sq.km embraces Neolithic temples older than the Pyramids; grand palaces built by the Knights of St John; great fortresses where history was made; a medieval walled city, and Baroque parish churches. At the very dawn of civilization, it was the Maltese who led the way, building massive, megalithic temples, which are now regarded as the oldest, free-standing buildings in the world. Malta has served as a watch keeper and guardian of the Mediterranean trade routes, which has been a launch-pad for European invaders and an idyllic retreat for rich aristocracy. Its history is long and complicated and its geography unique, and together these have made it one of the most enticing islands in Europe.
Naturally Malta has plenty of safe sandy beaches to spend days digging making sandcastles, splashing in the sea and pretty harbours for evening strolls. The best beaches for families can be found in the North at Mellieha Bay or Golden Bay to the west, or for a thrilling boat trip away there is Santa Maija Bay on Comino or spend a day at the ochre coloured sandy beach of Ramla Bay on Gozo.
But Malta offers much more than just the beach to keep youngsters busy. Although depending in their age much of the history, culture and architecture of Valletta will no doubt be lost on many young visitors but the capital does have a few tricks up its sleeve to draw them in. The Great Siege of Malta, a special-effects historical show, guides them through a series of videos, tableaux’s, touch-screens and various other special effects all geared at introducing young people to Valletta and the history of the 1565 Siege. The Mdina (Malta’s old walled city) is fascinating and young ones will enjoy taking a horse-drawn carriage around the narrow streets, delving into the historic past.
Gozo is equally, if not more impressive than Malta. It is home to man’s comprehensive temple-building spree left the Ggantiji temples, the oldest freestanding structures on earth and the labyrinthine Hypogeum containing 3600-year-old bones amongst others, and then there are plenty of sailing, snorkelling, diving and boat trips to enjoy the islands scenery and underwater world.
Festivals are plentiful. With carnivals, summer feasts and music festivals continually occurring during the summer months, which make Malta appealing at that time of year – and also coincides with school holidays. The variety of accommodation is equally impressive, from small family run farmhouses, to boutique hotel gems; families will definitely find something suitable for their budget.
For more top tips on Malta & Gozo, check out the second part of Dr Jill Nash’s article tomorrow on the CD-Traveller website.