My mother and I just returned from visiting my son Zachary in Malta. While images of Neolithic temples, rocky shores, the bluest blue water, and walled cities are still floating through my mind, I wanted to share our experiences for those who may be planning a similar trip.
A Place to Stay: Sliema or Valletta?
The Luther students live in the town of Sliema. On a map, Sliema appears very close to the historic city of Valletta, where I booked a lovely hotel, the Palazzo Paolina, within walking distance to many museums, parks, churches, and restaurants. Having Valletta as a home base was an excellent choice for its scenery and exploration opportunities, but it was more difficult to meet up with Zachary than I had anticipated. By ferry, Valletta and Sliema are only a few minutes apart from each other. But if the waves are wild, the ferry closes down, and you then need to take a 30-minute bus ride instead. Thankfully, a spectacular fountain near the bus station functions as a perfect meeting and waiting spot.
If you would like to stay closer to the students’ flats, Sliema has many hotels. The town has a more modern feel with a wonderful promenade by the sea. Just a couple of blocks from the students’ flats, you can walk along a rocky shore, visit resident cats in the park, and eat Mediterranean food.
Our Favorite Sites
One of our first stops was to the Hypogeum, a subterranean temple in Paola, a suburb of Valletta. Due to conservation efforts, only a few people may tour the site per day, so book reservations online well in advance. I guarantee you will be intrigued, even enchanted, by this glimpse into the Neolithic time period. Take a taxi so you don’t miss your reservation, and, after your tour, walk ten minutes through the neighborhood to view the Tarxian Temples.
Another favorite of ours was a boat trip to the islands of Gozo and Comino, with stops at the Citadel in Victoria and the Blue Lagoon at Comino. The trip felt rushed at times, but the sites and the chance to enjoy views of the Mediterranean Sea were well worth it.
In Valletta, don’t miss the MUZA art museum, St. John’s Co-Cathedral, and the Church of the Shipwreck of St. Paul (complete with a view of St. Paul’s wrist bone). Also visit both Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens for glorious views of the harbor and the Three Cities.
Shoes, Money, and Transportation
As you explore, be prepared to do quite a bit of walking on stony, often uneven, surfaces. We averaged about seven miles a day. Excellent, supportive shoes are a must. We also recommend trying to pay for items in smaller Euro bills and coins—the Maltese are pretty laid back except when they need to give you a lot of change! They do appreciate tips, despite what you may have heard elsewhere. My last suggestion is to splurge on a taxi every now and then to see more of the island. Bus transportation is bumpy and often inefficient.
No matter what you visit, you’re sure to have an amazing time with your Luther student. We enjoyed meeting members of the group and hearing about their adventures. Even if you don’t get a chance to visit, be confident knowing that everyone in this fun and adventurous group looks out for each other as they explore and learn to live in a fascinating culture and place. For those of you who do go, here’s wishing you luscious cafe lattes in the sunshine, tasty Mediterranean meals, and views of the bluest blue!