Malta is so much more than Valetta, St Julian’s promenade and Mdina the Silent City. If you are ready to explore and venture more off the beaten track, you landed in the right place. Here’s for you, Malta off the beaten path guide.
” THE REAL VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY CONSISTS NOT IN SEEKING NEW LANDSCAPES, BUT IN HAVING NEW EYES.” ~ MARCEL PROUST
I love island life. Growing up in a city and moving to London in my 20s, I’ve experienced all that big cities offer (at least a big chunk of it). Yet, living within smaller communities brought me back to what I believe life is really about. Enjoying nature, accessibility to places and people alike and, because of my country choices, most of the time fantastic weather.
So when the opportunity came to move to sunny Malta – I did not hesitate. And as I arrived and settled in, I decided to discover Malta off the beaten path.
Malta is a well known and popular tourist destination in Europe, thus throughout most of the year you will see it flooded with tourists. Gozo or Comino cruises, boat parties, snorkelling trips – all wonderful. Spectacular Valetta, which hands-down is one of my favourite cities of all time, as well as the charming fishing village of Marsaxlokk – those just must be on your list. I did it all, and I will definitely do it again.
Yet I am always longing for some more secluded places to visit. Not so touristy, with more of a local feel and sometimes just a bit harder to get to for the added sprinkle of challenge. Exploring the less known, going off the beaten path gives me the real feel of the place. Also, I wanted to share a bit of real Malta with those who both visit or live here, just like me. Go out there and explore, discover and let yourself be surprised. Discover Malta off the beaten path.
Who said Malta is not green! Yes, to be frank, you do need to go out and explore a bit in order to find some lush greenery around the country. But boy, isn’t it worth it!
Gorgeous rocky beaches, sandy bays, fishing villages and busy towns. This is the perception of Malta for all those who visited the country or simply read about it.
But woodlands? Lakes? Gardens? Let me surprise you a little. Chadwick Lakes park is probably so far my favourite place to hide away, unwind and spend the day trekking and taking photos.
Artificial freshwater lakes located near stunning Rabat, built in the late 1890s, use freshwater gathered after the winter rains giving the impression of actual lakes and streams. It is also very peaceful, as not many tourists make their way here. Very popular amongst locals. You will see an odd runner or a couple strolling around but rather than that it is tranquil and absolutely gorgeous.
To get there, I took a bus. Taking public transport in Malta can be slightly challenging, however if you are not in a rush, it is a great way to save money and feel like a local. Alternatively, there is, of course, an option to rent a car or take a taxi. I chose the bus, and once you alight’, there is around half an hour of a trek until you reach the destination.
Also, if you have any mobility issues, the walk back could be slightly challenging as the road gets a bit steep. There is a car park located just outside of the park though, so really, there are no excuses not to visit!
A tip: A good navigation system like Google maps, for example, comes very handy in rural areas of Malta. Mobile data included in your tariff is a must if you are willing to use navigation. In the town, you can take advantage of multiple hot spots and free Wi-Fi – outside of the town, it won’t be the case. You can’t really get very lost in Malta though, it is at the end, a pretty small island. And, just so you know, very safe as well.
Yes, you guessed it. I like gardens and woodlands a lot. And finding this gem of a park was a great joy for me. Also located in the Rabat area, Buskett is known to be the greenest space in Malta. And truly, this is Malta off the beaten path. Located in the fertile valley of Wied il-Luq in Siġġiewi, it is the only semi-natural forestland in the country spreading across 47 hectares. An absolute bonus – the park is located around 40 minutes walk from famous Dingli Cliffs! I made it a whole day trip, starting at the Buskett and ending at the cliffs. A wonderful way to spend the day and take some outstanding pictures.
A bonus tip: During summer months Chateau Buskett is hosting great events and one of my favourite ones must be Open Cinema Night. Enjoy the best movies under then stars whilst sipping on a glass of wine in wonderful surroundings. The price of the ticket is €20 and includes popcorn on arrival, a bottle of wine per pair and a platter of mezes. You can also order a meal from the Chateau Restaurant A’La Cart menu. Can’t be missed!
Believe it or not, there is a lot of hiking and walking tracks scattered around Malta. Dingli, a beautiful coastal walk, is one of the most spectacular. It is not exactly a hidden spot, yet I could not miss it out as it’s one of my favourites. Located on the west coast of Malta and at the highest point on the island, Dingli offers striking panoramic views and is definitely one of Malta’s most spectacular spots.
Stop at St. Mary Magdalene Chapel, which is located right on the edge of the cliff. Here, you can take a sit and take in the views while admiring one of the famous Maltese sunsets.
You can get there by bus or car. I walked from Buskett Woodlands, which was around half an hour’s trek. Very picturesque, also offering superb views of the Maltese countryside.
There is a car park located just at the font of the viewpoint, so getting there is not a problem.
Valetta old cinema bar
Enough walking and hiking – time to wind-down and have a bit of fun. I will not be talking here about the famous Maltese party district Paceville, not that I’m not enjoying it, but it’s hardly off the beaten path. This part is about Valletta’s nightlife.
I could talk about Valletta for hours. This city is so amazing that it probably deserves a separate article. So full of character, filled with great restaurants, oozing with art and whispering history to your ear on every corner. And I thought I got to know quite a big chunk of it.
But recently a friend of mine took me to an old cinema bar but which just blew my mind. A Post-War Adult Theatre, located at San Ġwann Street in Valletta, known as ‘CityLights’ used to be the only erotic cinema in the country.
Now transformed into vintage cinema and bar, hosting stand-up comedy events and featuring vintage movies, the bar presents a wonderful way to spend an evening in the city. This one is truly a hidden spot, but well worth visiting.
Valetta Bridge Bar
Bridge bar located in the eastern part of Valletta is another spot very popular amongst locals as well as some well-informed tourists. With most of the seats placed over the bridge and junction steps, this bar offers a unique atmosphere, great service and reasonably priced drinks and food.
Friday is the night. Come over and grab a seat on the comfy cushion and listen to live jazz music whilst sipping Aperol Spritz or local wine. The atmosphere is magical. You will forget you are a tourist, you will feel at home.
The bands and live music on offer are fantastic if you are a jazz fan. But even if not – music is not too intrusive while creating great relaxed city atmosphere. You cannot miss it. This is mine and most my friend’s favourite spot in Valetta, so if you come by on Friday – you might meet me there 🙂
Great Things to do in Malta in case you have some extra spare time.
Visit some hidden and less known beaches.
Malta is well known for its stunning beaches and crystal clear waters. Some of those most popular spots include Mellieha Bay, Sliema pools, Golden Bay or Ramla Bay in Gozo. I prefer some less known and more secluded beaches, which often are equally beautiful but also offer more peace and privacy. Those secluded, less known beaches represent for me a true Malta off the beaten path.
One of my favourites is Ghajn Tuffieha / Riviera Bay- a stunning red sand beach which can only be reached by climbing down a flight of a hundred stairs, therefore, it is less popular than located nearby Golden Bay. Yet this one is not completely off the beaten path – I just had to mention it.
The truly off the beaten path beaches in Malta include
- Imgiebah Beach – Heavenly gorgeous and peaceful and more of a pebble beach with few sandy spots. Come during the week and it is possible you will have the whole beach nearly for yourself. A true gem in my eyes.
- Slugs Bay – Found in the L-Ahrax area in Mellieha, it is really just a tiny inlet nestled around the cliffs of the Marfa Ridge and overlooking Mellieha with beach part so small that maximum three people could sun lounge there. Large rocks and boulders are scattered around, giving some additional lounging spots.
- Fomm Ir-Rihh – Remarkable wild beach found near Bahrija- probably one of Malta’s most remote and difficult-to-reach beaches
- St Peter’s Pool – Situated near Marsaxlokk fishing village (around 30 minutes walk) both St Peter’s Pool is a natural swimming pool deep enough to be safe for diving into, and this is one of the main attractions of this beach
- Ghar Lapsi Beach – Unique and hidden little bay nestled below a stretch of Dingli Cliffs and very popular amongst local swimmers.
Malta has some most stunning beaches around the Mediterranean. But I do believe the most wonderful ones are those a bit more off the beaten path. If you want to know more or read about the beaches mentioned above, head to my guide to the best beaches in Malta here.
Stay in Gozo for two days and rent a quad bike
Great way to explore the island. You will have plenty of time to enjoy the sites as well as chill in some of the best restaurants in the country. The best food and restaurant experience I have had was here. Gozo is much less populated than Malta, so driving a quad around here is pretty safe. You will need your international driving licence to do so.
Quad biking is so much fun and gives you a lot of freedom to explore. I stopped many times at some beautiful bays to have a swim or eat lunch and then went on to explore further. The must-see in Gozo amongst others is Dwejra Bay, where former Azure Window was located. Nevertheless, the bay is very picturesque and ideal place to watch the sunset.
Marsalforn salt pans, Ramla Bay are just a few sites to mention. For my more comprehensive guide, visit my ‘Two days in Gozo – things to do and see’ Guide
Hike or camp, or both, in Comino
Comino is well known for its Blue Lagoon, but while being extremely beautiful it can also get very crowded during high season. This can take away the joy of visiting for some. Blue Lagoon is definitely one of the best spots in Malta but to be honest, so is the whole little island of Comino. And with it being so small, you can easily hike it all in one day. You will find hidden beaches and tranquil spots if only you are willing to take a little of a walk. Malta off the beaten path, believe it or not, can also include some hidden spots on Comino island.
It is impossible to get lost there, so put your walking shoes or sandals and go exploring. Although if you do decide to come with one of the organized cruises, check the departure time so you have plenty of time to return to the bay. Most of the organized trips will let you stay for around 3 to 4 hours, which is plenty of time to walk around and have a swim.
But if you’d rather take advantage of both crystal blue waters as well as walking and exploring, there are other options. A water taxi is one of them. You can take one either from Cirkewa, Marfa or Valetta and you can arrive as early and leave as late as the timetable will let you. There are also loads of private charter options to choose from if you wish to spend a bit of money and rent your own self-drive boat. Don’t you just love island life!
Some hidden gems of Comino island include St Nicholas Bay, Santa Marija battery and Santa Maria caves, one of which opens into an indoor pool connected through another cave to the open waters.
The island is a camping spot but also a hideaway enclave for many locals with a dedicated camping plot. Cute little hotel overlooking San Niklaw Bay is offering its own secluded beach and is an option for those preferring a comfort of bed and ensuite shower.
The campsite is located at Santa Marija Bay and is a fantastic alternative way of spending your holiday in Malta. For more comprehensive and all the important information look at this website https://www.guidememalta.com/en/thinking-of-camping-in-comino-don-t-go-before-reading-these-useful-tips
Comino is so much more than just a Blue Lagoon cruise trip. It really is worth taking your time to explore and find the hidden spots.
Visit Malta in the winter
Mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine should be enough of a reason for you to visit in the winter. You will also be able to enjoy most of the attractions, both cheaper and less crowded. If you enjoy walks and hikes like me, there is no better time to do it in Malta. I see Malta being even more beautiful in the winter season, with some dramatic seascapes, incredible skies and cloud formations.
Malta has so much to offer. And going out and discovering Malta off the beaten path can provide you with a lot of surprises! Much more than just Paceville and Balutta Bay or Saint Julians. Fascinating history and culture, charming countryside, stunning hidden beaches and small local bars and restaurants worth visiting.
I hope you will have a great time visiting and will love it as much as I do. Until then, I hope to hear from you – please post any questions or comments below and check out my other Malta posts 🙂