Malta is so much more than just 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 the island life. Having grown up in a city and moved to London in my 20s, I have experienced everything big cities have to offer (at least a big chunk of it). Yet, living within smaller communities has brought me back to what I think life is really about. Enjoying nature, the accessibility of places, connecting with people and – due to my choice of country – mostly the fantastic weather.
So when the opportunity arose to move to sunny Malta, I did not hesitate. And once I arrived and settled in, having finally visited all the major sights, it was time to explore Malta off the beaten path.
Malta is a well-known and popular tourist destination in Europe, and there are plenty of amazing things to do in this beautiful country, so it is flooded with tourists almost all year round.
Cruises to Gozo or Comino, boat parties, snorkelling trips – all wonderful. Spectacular Valetta which hands-down is one of my favourite cities ever, 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 adventure.
Exploring the lesser 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. Go out there and explore, discover, and let yourself be surprised. Discover Malta off the beaten path.
Gorgeous rocky beaches, sandy bays, colourful fishing villages and historical sights – this is the perception of Malta for all those who have visited the country or simply read about it.
But woodlands? Lakes? Gardens? Nah, you say. Let me surprise you a little.
Chadwick Lakes Park is probably by 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. You will see an odd runner or a couple strolling around but rather than that it is tranquil and absolutely gorgeous.
Chadwick Lakes Park is also located near Victoria Lines if you fancy some more hiking. It is an iconic heritage walk and I highly recommend taking it if you are in the area.
It is also around 25 walk from Rabat and Mdina so you can combine visiting the Silent City of Mdina with a hiking trip.
Chadwick lakes are best visited in winter, spring and fall – the lakes can dry out during the hot summer months but the area is wonderful to walk around anyway.
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.
From Valletta, you can take bus nb 51 and get off the stop Antoine in the small town of Mtarfa. But you can also get off in Rabat and walk to Chadwick lakes.
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 in very handy in rural areas of Malta. Mobile data included in your package is a must if you are willing to use navigation. In town, you can take advantage of multiple hot spots and free Wi-Fi – outside of town, it won’t be the case. You can’t really get very lost in Malta though, it is in the end, a pretty small island. And, just so you know, very safe as well.
Buskett Woodlands \ Malta Off The Beaten Path
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 as the greenest space in Malta. And truly, this is truly 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, covering 47 hectares. It is absolutely wonderful to walk around and a great place for a picnic with a few picnic-designated spots.
An absolute bonus – the park is about a 40-minute walk from the famous Dingli Cliffs! I made a full-day trip out of it, starting at Buskett and ending at the cliffs. A wonderful way to spend the day and take some outstanding pictures.
An additional tip: During the summer months, Chateau Buskett hosts great events, and one of my favourites is Open Cinema Night. Enjoy the best movies under the stars while sipping a glass of wine in a beautiful setting.
Update: The open cinema nights are not hosted in Chateau Buskett anymore so check out their site to see what are they up to this year. Chateau Buskett is still a great place to visit and dine.
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Dingli Cliffs Viewpoint and Hike
Believe it or not, Malta is a wonderful hiking destination and coastal hikes are what Malta really excels in.
Dingli, a beautiful coastal walk, is one of the most spectacular. It is not exactly a hidden spot, yet I just had to mention it 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 in the views while admiring one of the famous Maltese sunsets.
And although many tourists would come here for the views not many decide to walk down towards the Blue Grotto. The whole walk can take 4 hours but you don’t need to walk the whole way – but it’s worth it if you do, trust me!
You can get there by bus or car. Bus nb 201 from Rabat stops by the cliffs and 56 from Valetta in the town of Dingli. 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 front of the viewpoint, so getting there is not a problem.
Chinese Garden of Serenity
Yes, you heard it right! The beautiful Chinese Garden of Serenity is located in Santa Lucija and is constructed in the form of four carefully laid-out oriental gardens that symbolise the journey from birth to death.
Pagodas, oriental lakes, water features and colourful flowers – this place is out of the world. What is crazy is that it is located in the midst of heavy traffic roads, near the airport and surrounded by construction sides. But once you step in, you will forget about it all.
It was a mission for me to get there. I got off the bus at the wrong place, had to walk along a busy road with not much of a pedestrian crossing and towards the end I started doubting this place even existed. I got there eventually and it was worth the hustle.
It will be hard to get there by car as well as I haven’t seen any parking nearby but I’m sure you can find a spot somewhere in the town of Santa Lucija.
The garden is truly special though, so try and make a trip there. Its probably the most hidden gem on this list.
Are you wondering what is the best area to stay in Malta? Read my comprehensive guide detailing all the best areas in Malta to book your accommodation in!
If you are looking to hire a car in Malta, you can compare different car rental prices and deals here.
Valetta Bridge Bar
Ok, enough of parks and woodlands. Let’s have some fun!
Bridge Bar located in the eastern part of Valletta is a spot that is very popular among 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. It is also very picturesque by both day and night.
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, and 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 a great relaxed city atmosphere. You cannot miss it. This was my and most of my friend’s favourite spot in Valetta.
Hidden and less known Beaches in Malta
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. However, 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 that 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 becoming more and more popular these days so let’s dig even deeper.
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 nearby 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 a beach part so small that a maximum of 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.
- Paradise Bay – Not completely off the beaten path but given its remote location, definitely less visited. Absolutely stunning and wonderful for safe swimming and sandy beach.
Rent a quad bike in Gozo
Visiting Gozo isn’t an off-the-beaten-path activity in Malta, especially with the abundance of day trips and boat tours.
Around each corner, you see someone advertising a combined Comino Blue Lagoon and Gozo day trip.
What however is an off-the-beaten-path activity is going to Gozo independently and renting a quad bike for a day.
It is not only a great way to explore the island. It is also a fantastic adventure!
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 is Dwejra Bay, where the former Azure Window was located. The bay is very picturesque and an ideal place to watch the sunset. The capital of Gozo Victoria, Marsalforn salt pans and Ramla Bay are just a few other sites to mention. I have written a whole post dedicated to Gozo which you can find here.
The flea market in Birgu\ Malta Off the beaten path
The flea market in Birgu (Vittoriosa), Malta is a popular spot for vintage finds and curiosities, and of course, for people watching. The best bargains can be found in the morning, as the coolest finds tend to be gone by 10am. It is held every Sunday and Tuesday at the Fortini grounds just outside of Birgu’s city walls.
Stalls start to close around midday, so it’s best to arrive early. The market is also open on Tuesdays and is likely to be quieter than on Sunday. The market attracts a diverse crowd of people, including those dressed in medieval, club, and hippie attire. It is definitely an interesting place worth visiting and one where juggling is encouraged.
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 🙂
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Useful Malta Travel Resources and Travel Tips:
Check how to get the ExplorePlus travel card here! It will give you Unlimited Travel for 7 days, 2 free trips on the Valletta Ferry from Sliema or the Three Cities, 2 free trips on the Tallinja Bike and a few sightseeing options.
Take a free walking tour in Valletta! It’s an amazing way to learn the history of the city and Malta as a whole!
Keep some cash on you. Although in bigger cities you will be able to pay by card in the majority of establishments there are still a few smaller, privately owned shops that will only accept cash.
Check out the Malta events calendar here!
All the timetables you will ever need:
Gozo and Comin Ferry from Sliema / Hop On Hop Off