Backpacking in Malta on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Malta

Malta, a Mediterranean archipelago sitting pretty between Italy and the North African coast, feels a bit like it was made for a long weekend. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in sparkling oceans, colourful harbours, and a rich, ridiculously varied history – for its size, it’s home to a huge number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, including temple ruins, underground temples, and more.

In fact, capital city Valletta is itself a UNESCO site, containing a staggering 320 monuments within its walls. It’s fair to say you’re not going to get bored if you go backpacking in Malta.

Cities in Malta

What Malta considers a city you would probably consider a small town, and that’s a huge part of the country’s charm. Despite being the nation’s capital city, Valetta has a population of just 6,400.

The historical city is a bit like an open-air museum – turn any corner and you’ll be confronted with some piece of masterful architecture – but a museum with wine bars that spill out onto the street and with the option of taking a dip in the Mediterranean Sea if you need a break. The biggest sites are the Parliament Building, Opera House, and the City Gate, but new tourist infrastructure and attractions are opening all the time.

You can also visit tiny, charming Vittoriosa, wander the hidden lanes of Arabic walled city Mdina, or head to the relatively massive St. Paul’s Bay if you fancy a stay at a beach resort. The best thing? Malta is so small that you can reach everywhere quickly and easily.

Countryside in Malta

There may not be a lot of countryside in Malta, but what’s there is pleasingly picturesque. Malta is characterised by dramatic coastline dotted with historic watchtowers, limestone cliff faces, and tranquil bays with pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. One of the most popular activities when backpacking in Malta is diving and snorkelling into an underwater world of caves and shipwrecks.

Malta’s concentration of small cities and historical attractions means views often revolve around finding a hilltop that offers a fresh perspective on it all, the landscape proudly wearing its history on its sleeve. There are plenty of historic sites to visit outside of Malta’s cities, but most essential is Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean necropolis dating back to 3600BC. The underground chambers, hewn out of the limestone, are simultaneously beautiful and haunting.

If the island of Malta doesn’t have enough for you, you can also escape to the islands of Gozo and Comino. These are less historically rich, but every bit as beautiful.

Take a few days to explore Malta, and it will pay you back in abundance.

Top Experiences in Malta

Valletta

We should probably narrow this down more, but the beauty of Malta’s capital city is that it’s small enough to see plenty in a small amount of time. Base yourself here for your Malta adventure.

Hal Saflieni Hypogeum

This underground necropolis, not far outside Valetta, dates back some 5000 years and, thanks to extensive preservation work, is a now a hugely popular site for visitors. Make sure you book ahead.

Blue Lagoon, Comino

Comino is a separate island to Malta, and its biggest attraction is the Blue Lagoon. This sheltered cove boasts perfectly blue water and white sands, as well as caves and crags to carefully explore.

Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra

These megalithic temples are amongst Malta’s best preserved prehistoric sites, and benefit from a stunning placement at the top of seaside cliffs.

Gozo

The Maltese archipelago’s second-largest island is more rural than the island of Malta, its scenic hills perfect for walks. It also boasts historical sites typical of the country, alongside popular beach resorts.