The Maltese Islands
From its North African and Arabic influences to the Sicilian-inspired cuisine, Malta is a microcosm of the Mediterranean. Few European countries have such concentrated history, architecture and, yes, beaches in so tiny an area.
There’s been an eclectic mix of influences and a roll-call of rulers over the centuries, but be in no doubt: Malta is not just a notional outpost of Italy or a relic of colonial Britain. This island nation (all 316 sq km of it, comprising the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino) has a quirky character all of its own. From prehistoric temples, to the baroque architecture of Valletta, feasts of rabbit to festas of noisy fireworks, rattling buses to colourful fishing boats, this nation has loads of unique charm.
You’ll never say there’s nothing to do in Malta. For its size, the tiny rock and limestone island puts on an inordinate number of festivals throughout the year, but particularly in summer. There’s the Mediterranean Food Festival, the Malta Fireworks Festival, as well as a Jazz Festival and, most fabulous of all, a two-day event put on especially so that attendees can help select the country’s entry into the Eurovision Song Contest. When you’ve had enough human interaction, head to the island of Gozo to unwind, or wander into the interior to check out the megalithic ruins of the island’s conquered indigenous inhabitants.