Any seasoned traveler knows how much European countries have to offer. Whether it be history, art, food and drinks or something else entirely, every country has their own draw that attracts a wide array of tourists.
Earlier this year, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released a report backing-up the tremendous growth the European Union has seen, stating that 538-million international travelers visited the EU in 2017. A staggering number, which accounted for 40-percent of the world’s total.
Though countries throughout the EU are becoming the most visited on the planet, it is rare for travelers to find one that satisfies multiple big draws at an exceptionally high level.
Enter Malta, the 7,000-year old island that lies just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, whose capital city of Valletta was recently crowned the European Capital of Culture 2018. This island covers a lot of cultural ground and has lately become a hot trend for tourists from North America.
The Cultural Capital of Europe
This big-time award might be the leading reason to head to Malta. During this island-wide celebration, which runs through the month of October, over 1,000 local and international artists, performers, designers and more come together to celebrate the deep-rooted Maltese heritage, while also looking for new perspectives.
Michelle Buttigieg, a Malta Tourism Authority Representative based in New York, said that the “festa” is making the Maltese Islands a flourishing cultural and social hub thanks to their diverse line-up of scheduled events that span six months, along with their comfortable, sunny year-round weather.
Over 1 million visitors are expected to take part in the 400+ events this year, which span outside of the capital city into the towns and villages across the islands of Malta and Gozo. Wrapping up the festa in October are visual arts expos and exhibitions inside the St. James Cavalier in Valletta, followed by the Closing Spectacle in St George’s Square.
Living the Luxury Life, Without Emptying Your Wallet
One reason Buttigieg drove home for contributing to a 45-percent increase in North American tourism to Malta in the past four years is the infrastructure upgrades seen across the islands. A 7,000-year old island with hundreds of old churches and beautiful architecture would not last without advancements.
Some of the best examples can be seen in many boutique hotels around Malta, with the best part (aside from the gorgeous interiors and amenities) being the prices. Most notably, The Phoenicia, located in Floriana, reopened in 2017 following an extensive €15 million refurbishment and has quickly turned around to become one of the most sought-after hotels in all of Malta.
Here, you will fall in love with breathtaking views, an outdoor infinity pool, a health club and spa, and 136 suites with Mediterranean décor. Prices start at €250 per night and include breakfast.
Looking for a more contemporary luxury? Then checking out The Saint John in the heart of Valletta is a must-do. This chic boutique sits inside a 17th-century building and offers the convenience of being close to all of Valletta’s top sights, restaurants and bars.
The rooms feature smart lighting, large LCD TVs and USB ports; while the hotel’s gastropub, Cheeky Monkey, serves up delicious premium cocktails and hearty dishes every day. Oh, and don’t overlook the fact that each guest gets a bathrobe and slippers. The cost to stay at The Saint John starts at €130 per night.
Adventure is All Around You
One surefire thing to make a splash with North American visitors is an adventure in or on the water. Being a group of three islands in the beautiful Mediterranean, Malta clearly has both covered.
With tons of reefs, caverns and wrecks, scuba diving is one of the top attractions in the waters surrounding the Maltese Islands. The calm waters that feature up to 20-meters of visibility make it perfect for the beginner or inexperienced diver, while underwater tunnels leading to over 50-meters of depth are attracting to the most experienced.
While getting in the water for scuba diving can be exhilarating, being on the water in a chartered yacht is as Mediterranean as it gets. On your own private yacht, you and a group can explore every coast, hidden cave and quiet bay around the islands.
Swimming with beautiful fish and laying out on a warm beach are some of the reasons everyone wants to take this type of adventure around the three main islands. If you’d rather watch the yachts sail, be sure to catch the challenging 606-mile Rolex Middle Sea yacht race on October 21, which starts and finishes in Valletta every year.