By Sarah McBrien
With the Mediterranean being one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world, there are many hidden gems that will give you the romantic scenery and luxury experience you’re looking for, without the overwhelming crowds of tourists. One such gem is Malta, an archipelagic group of islands nestled between the Sicily and North African coasts. If your dream holiday consists of exploring prehistoric temples, sailing and discovering hidden coves and towering cliffs, soaking up the baroque architecture of the capital city, Valletta, and sampling the delicious seafood-based local cuisine, Malta is assuredly the destination for you.
Before you go
Entry requirement: Passport valid for three months post-departure
Language: Maltese and English
Flight time: 3.5 hours from Dublin
Transport: Taxi, bus, ferry, private car hire
When to go
Best weather: April – May as temperatures remain comfortably between 20° and 30°C. June – September are the hottest months and are most popular with tourists.
Best prices: October – March is the tourism off season.
Where to stay
The Grand Excelsior Hotel: This 5-star hotel is our closest luxury option to the capital city, Valetta. Nestled between the capital and the sea, the Excelsior offers glorious views of the Mediterranean waters and surrounding islands. The hotel boasts a range of top-of-the-line facilities, including a spa, gym and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Be sure to book a room with a sea view as they are large, airy and have French windows leading to balconies and terraces for you to enjoy breakfast on in the morning and a glass of wine before bed in the evening.
Hilton Malta Hotel: Nothing says luxury like a 5-star Hilton hotel and their Maltese offering is no different. Situated by the stunning Portomaso Yacht Marina in St. Juliens, just 15 minutes from Valetta, the Hilton offers a luxury escape for those who want a truly blissful honeymoon experience. Soak up the sun from one of their four outdoor swimming pools, luxuriate in the Myoka 5 Senses Spa, enjoy the alfresco dining experience or play a round of tennis or squash on one of the hotel’s courts to pass your days.
The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux: Our final 5-star fantasy is truly unique as it is the only hotel located in the town Mdina, known locally as the “Silent City”. This ancient city is an architectural marvel and will really give you a sense of the history of the island. The hotel has 17 individually furnished rooms styled after classic country homes with high ceilings. Be sure to book a deluxe suite on one of the top floors to enjoy views of the whole island from a whirlpool tub on your private terrace. One of the hotel’s best features is the restaurant, De Mondion, located on the top floor, known to be one of the best restaurants in Malta.
What to do
Take a karozzin ride: The best way to get a grasp of the local area is to travel through it. Karozzins (horse-drawn carts) are a traditional form of Maltese transport popular for hundreds of years. On your first day, enjoy a tour of Valetta by karozzin to get a feel for the people and culture, enjoy the warm Mediterranean weather and discover some hidden gems you may want to come back to later.
Go snorkelling: Make the most of this island paradise by checking out its amazing diving facilities. The islands are surrounded by some beautiful reefs that are truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whether you’re a total beginner or practised diver there are courses and instructors there to make the most out of the experience, check out snorklingmalta.com for more information on booking an excursion during your trip.
Go to a festival: Malta is famous for its yearly schedule of public festivities so it would be wise to organise your trip around one to make the most of your time there. One of our favourites is Carnival, an annual outdoor costume party complete with marching bands and professional dancers. Head out to the island Gozo (a short ferry trip from the mainland) and revel the night away in the streets and courtyards with locals and tourists alike. It normally happens in February, but there are loads of other activities on during the year, check out festivalsmalta.com for a full calendar.