Maltese Holiday: Land of Honey
Cruising the coast of the Mediterranean island country of Malta is a private luxury yacht charter experience like no other. Its name derived from the ancient Greek word for honey, Malta strikes dulcet notes of delight at dozens of compass points along its ruggedly beautiful coastline and across its ancient civilization. Just 80 km south of the Italian Island of Sicily, Malta’s position has found favor with explorers and traders throughout history, owning a cultural timeline dating back to 5200 BC.
From historic sites and some of the world’s best diving, to eclectic shopping and contemporary entertainment, the island offers a unique cultural blend of art, culture, and leisure pursuits. Two intriguing sister islands, Comino and Gozo, add pristine environments, Baroque churches, welcoming inhabitants, and a wealth of stunning architecture.
Easily explored in a week, a first cruise is certain to inspire return itineraries for deeper exploration. Malta also has interesting ports of call to fill much longer itineraries. While Maltese is the official language, English is widely spoken, smoothing conversation. The country is a member of the European Union, making transactions simple and easy for visitors. Consider The Best of Yachting’s 7-day itinerary for a fascinating first look at this unique country.
Day 1: Valletta, on Malta’s main island, supports a dense population with grace and beauty. Grand Harbour Marina at Dockyard Creek welcomes superyachts up to 140 meters, with abundant berths and services. Spend the day exploring Co-Cathedral St. John, where intricate sculptural relief and religious art of the highly decorative Baroque period is preserved in astounding perfection. It is also where the Knights of Malta originated, developing the eight-pointed Maltese Cross so familiar around the world, including it’s adoption by New York Firemen. Shop Republic and Merchants Streets for crafts and local wares, heading to St. Julians or Paceville’s Bay Street Complex for High Street, international chic. Reserve a table at the favorite Blue Elephant overlooking the yacht marina for a fine Thai/Asian meal, or The Villa overlooking Balluta Bay for Italian fare.
Day 2: Birzebugga, Marsaxlokk, and Island Bay offer an opportunity to view the dramatic limestone coastline, high cliffs, fishing villages, and the famous Marsaxlokk Sunday market. While markets are scheduled throughout the week, the Sunday market is village wide, with an especially exciting range of products. On to the coastal resort town of Birżebbuġa, packed full of outstanding architecture and graced with Pretty Bay, and a sandy beach. Ancient cart ruts, etched into the stone near the Dingli Cliffs explore the ancient path of oxcarts to the sea, thought to date back to 2000 BC. Experience authentic Mediterranean cuisine and fresh catches at Restaurant Ferretti overlooking the water and tucked into an history battery constructed by the Knights of St. John in the 18th century.
Day 3: The Blue Grotto is a beautiful vision, with its sea caverns and clear, aquamarine water-filled grotto offering unparalleled diving and snorkeling experiences. Cruise along the magnificent cliffs up to Golden Bay for safe harbor during the evening, and perhaps tender in for local flavor at Essence for fine dining, sampling the Barbary duck, coriander risotto cake, and unique local desserts.
Day 4: The tiny island of Comino, car-free and only civilized by one hotel, remains pristine and beautiful, ready for an underwater exploration like nowhere else on earth. The Blue Lagoon shows off a strikingly blue dive, rimmed by pretty white sand, enticing all to dive in and enjoy the view. A walk around the uninhabited majority of the island rewards guests with lovely views scented by wild native herbs. A bird sanctuary and nature preserve, the island was once the protected hunting and recreation enclave of the Knights of Malta.
and Victoria on the island of Gozo echo ancient civilizations, paying homage to Homer’s Odyssey as Calypso’s Isle. Sparsely inhabited and incredibly well-preserved, the abundant flora of the island and the deep blue of the surrounding waters, plus the spectacular underwater landscapes, make Gozo an exquisite diving and hiking destination. Consider a side trip to the oldest freestanding structures in the world at the Ggantija Temples, dating back to between 3600 and 3200 BC. Swim in the sublime surroundings of Azure Window, and explore the fascinating Calypso Cave fortifications.
Day 6: Mellieha Bay is a laid-back, seaside beach resort town with a divine beach and stunning coastal views. Clean, clear waters provide fabulous dive and snorkel adventures, as well as an inviting venue for sailing and other water sports pursuits. Climb the striking Red Tower for an incredible 360º panoramic view of Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Reserve a table at The Dining Room to experience haute cuisine interpreted by one of the finest Maltese chefs in Mellieha.
Day 7: Cruise to Sliema, past the exclusive enclaves dotting the coast, stopping for photos and souvenirs of lace, honey, filigree silver and gold jewelry, intricate teak carvings, and local art. As Valetta comes into view, prepare to disembark, despite the feeling that you’d prefer to stay on board and have another go around this amazing island.