Weekend Adventures: Malta
Illuminating blue waters in the Blue Lagoon, freshly caught seafood, and some of the best spots to try snorkeling or scuba diving - I call this the perfect weekend getaway, others call it Malta.
I'll be 1,000% honest with you when I say that before moving to Europe, the only Malta I knew was the drink! I had no clue there was an island (multiple islands), nonetheless a country, in the Mediterranean just in between Sicily and Northern Africa. I feel as if most Europeans know about Malta and keep it hidden, tucked away for their own good without sharing its goodness with everyone else - selfish, ha!
There's no right or wrong way to do Malta. If you just want beach and sun the entire time (which is what we wanted) then you can have that but you can also enjoy history and adventure as well. This trip was planned for my birthday weekend and this would be the one trip I took to just enjoy the water just as I used to when I lived in Florida. I just wanted to work on my sun-kissed tan and fall in love with the Blue Lagoon. That's exactly what I ended up doing and I had a blast!
I booked my plane tickets from Ryanair 6 months ahead of time back in January when the tickets were about 65 Euro a person round trip. Of course, this price did not include priority and did not include in flight luggage, just a personal bag that I use to roll my clothes up and that's it. If you have a carry on and don't want to pay for it, you can leave it at the gate with a tag and pick it up at your destination.
Finding a place to stay wasn't easy for me to choose. I kept reading that Valleta was a great place to stay along with St. Julian's and St. Paul's but finding the right Airbnb for my husband and I was getting tough. Being that I booked the trip 6 months in advance, I was unsure if my husband would be able to make the trip especially since I heard rumors that he would be gone during the summer. So I went ahead and narrowed my search for only flexible/free cancellations and the prices went straight up from there! Fortunately, he was able to join me on the trip but for the price I paid for the apartment, I could have done way better. I usually am frugal and try to stay under $100 a night, if not far under that rate, when I travel with the husband.
The apartment I booked in Valleta ended up costing me $367 for a total of 3 nights. I knew what I was getting into when we checked in- the apartment was tiny but I didn't have a problem with that. I understand that's just most of Europe but for the prices I've paid in other countries and cities, I could have found something cheaper.
As far as planning things to do for the trip, I decided to let this trip ride on its own. I knew for sure I wanted to check out the Blue Lagoon and make an attempt at scuba diving. Everything else would just be a plus if we ended up doing anything else. This weekend was the weekend I decided to "celebrate" my 28th birthday which to me meant lots of sun and lots of water! The only planned event was cruising through the Maltese Islands through the Hornblower Cruise which you could easily purchase tickets in advance on their website.
The tickets were 25 Euro each which included the trip from Bugibba Jetty to Comino, Blue Lagoon, and Gozo Island. You can pay with your card online and do not need to print the tickets out. They will give you a wristband upon arrival so arriving was super simple.
I'm going to count my second day in Malta as my first since it was the first full day. The night that we actually arrived, we didn't get to our room until almost 11pm and since we are not the party or social type anymore, we picked up some to go food and went straight to sleep! Some would say that we're "lame" (yes, people tell us that) but I enjoyed my 8 hours of sleep that night ;)
Wake up call was at 0800 since we had to be at the port in Bugibba Jetty for our "all day" cruise no later than 1000 and our apartment was about 30 minutes away. We stopped by a cafe nearby and ordered a cab from Taxify that picked us up around 0910. The taxi ride from Valletta to the port was about 30 minutes long so we were quite early to the cruise. It was a Saturday so the staff told us we were on a fully booked cruise and that we would have to choose between sitting on the bottom level or on the top deck. Of course, we opted for the top deck so that I could work on my tan!
The cruise departed from the port at 1030 and reached the Blue Lagoon about 50 minutes to an hour later. In between that time, we were given a short "tour" along the sea where we approached a beautiful cave for a few minutes, saw some towers and churches but also enjoyed the sight of the beautiful water.
Once we arrived to the Blue Lagoon, the staff members had announced the time the boat would depart to Gozo Island and when it would be back. We would have an hour and half at Blue Lagoon and then 3 hours in Gozo. We ended up loving the Blue Lagoon so much, we decided to skip over Gozo (don't hate me for it)! We had spent a total 4.5 hours at the Blue Lagoon while sipping on long island ice tea from a pineapple, sliding down the slide from the cruise boat into the turquoise waters, and watching my husband jump off from rocks and also from the cruise boat itself! We saw jellyfish, squid and other fishes while we were just lounging around the lagoon.
Pro tip: If you decide to go with Hornblower Cruises (which I highly recommend), I would suggest that you either bring your own food and drinks for the day or just purchase food and drinks from the cruise itself. Once you're off the boat and wanting to eat, the options are limited and the food pretty much sucked. We went in the middle of July so of course the lines for food were long and the food was overpriced.
Now, as far my drinks went... I did not think that was a waste at all! Once you get off the boat, you'll see everyone hurrying to the first food truck that had snacks and a bunch of fruit. The pineapple with a mixed drink included was 10 Euro each and the drinks were terrible as they were pre-made and was practically just juice. But if you keep walking towards the other side of the lagoon, you'll see more trucks and the one that's by the lockers were 10 Euro for the first pineapple with a drink and each refill was half off, plus they actually used alcohol to make my cocktail!
Back to the cruise line - I want to say around 1600 the staff members had announced that they were heading back. My husband and I were a few drinks in so we just laid out on the top deck for the ride back to the port. Just outside the port was a restaurant called Angelos II and we ate Paella there, it wasn't that amazing. It was very soupy but their boxed sangria wasn't too bad! Kinda sad that I'm saying that though...
Our second full day, we wanted to strictly focus on trying scuba diving for the first time! My husband and I were so beat from the fun and sun the day before, we slept in a bit too late, well 1000 for us is really late. I decided to check out St Julian's that day and stumbled upon a diving school that seemed neat to check out. We were greeted immediately and were informed on what type of dive we would be able to do since we were limited on time. We were told that a beginners course to diving would start at 1430 and that all we would need was a 20 Euro deposit for each person. We would pay the remaining balance of 20 Euro a person upon completion of the course. That didn't seem too bad.
We walked around St. Julian's to have lunch and drinks but weren't completely satisfied with our choice in restaurants. Then we returned to the diving school at 1430 and were instructed of what was to come next in our diving experience. We were close to the bay so we weren't going too deep underwater, enough to just practice as this was our first experience with scuba diving ever! Wet suits were on and along with my anxiety, we were ready to dive in! Ha!
It turns out that scuba diving is no walk in the park! I was naive to think that I would easily get it down the first time and be several meters underwater hanging out with some cool exotic fish but that wasn't the case! I just wasn't getting the hang of it, for a while I kept breathing both through my nose and my mouth which was confusing and annoying at the same time. Towards the end I finally let go of my fear and forcefully took breaths with just my mouth. That worked out until my mask kept sliding off. I'm sure it was because of my hair, next time I'll have to braid it.
Overall, I had a cool but expensive snorkeling experience (since I couldn't really get the diving down) while my husband enjoyed watching fish swim by right next to him. Our instructor, Sarah, was extremely patient with me because had it been the other way around, I would not have wanted to teach this scuba diving lesson at all! I was taught a great lesson and I sure do hope to try scuba diving again, with less fear!
After our scuba diving experience, we decided that we still wanted to be in the water so we sunbathed and swam in St. Julian's bay right by the church. The water looked so great until you were actually in it which was sort of dirty, to be honest!
Afterwards we dried up and decided it was time for some grub! For some reason, I had this craving for Indian food since I haven't had it for so long! Suruchi Indian restaurant was everything I wanted! Except they didn't tell me that the rice was not included in the entree, so don't forget that!
We headed back to Valletta and enjoyed the sunset looking over at Manoel Island. Our night ended with capturing drone videos and watching Netflix (yup, I want Netflix while I travel, bite me).
For our last full day in Malta, I really couldn't decide what I wanted to do. Part of me wanted to check out Popeye's Village while another part of me just wanted to once again relax in the sun and beach. In the end, I decided to check out one of the lesser known and more local area in Ghar Lapsi which is about a 8 minute drive from the Blue Grotto.
My husband and I spent most of the day at this natural pool that just flows straight into the sea! There wasn't much space for sun bathing unless you find a flat area on a large rock so we were forced to just get in! The water was colder than the other bodies of water we'd been in but it was just perfect after jumping in. Ghar Lapsi is known more for their clear waters and for having awesome spots for snorkeling and scuba diving (I'm determined to go back to Malta just for this one day)!
Pro tip: Bring water shoes. They are a must unless you have tough, calloused, feet.
To my surprise, the food nearby was quite pricey. There weren't many tourists, mostly locals or divers so I expected the food to be cheaper but I paid 16 Euro for just 4 pieces of king prawns! This was at Carmen's bar and then another restaurant nearby called Lapsi View was also pricey for the quality of the food and the portions.
More Things to do
As you can see, I did not do much on my trip although there are tons of other interesting things to do in Malta. Just in Valletta alone, the Upper and Lower Barraka Gardens seem to look stunning during the summertime, but also the Grandmaster's Palace and Saint John's Co-Cathedral seem as if they are also worth checking out, even throughout the seasons.
I mentioned earlier that I wanted to check out Popeye's Village which after some research, looked more like a children's theme park than it did for two adults (I could be wrong). We really didn't want to stay dry so I had to choose Ghar Lapsi over Popeye's Village. If you've been, please let me know about your experience!
I had also chosen to not go to Gozo Island because I was having too much fun at the Blue Lagoon. A part of me regrets it while another part of me feels as if I will return to Malta one day and will have the chance to stay in Gozo. Although I am sure it will be neat to check out, the Azure Window had collapsed just about a year ago in 2017. The Azure window is popular for Game of Thrones fanatics as it was once a filming location for the show. Another spot, just right in the heart of Gozo is Victoria which will give you all of the historical baroque feels as you peek into St. George's Basilica. The next time I make it to Malta to check out Gozo, I'll be sure to pay a visit to Xlendi to practice my diving!
Lastly, I would love to go back to check out Marsaxlokk along with Peter's pool. Each Sunday at the head of Marsaxlokk Bay, you can check out their weekly fish and souvenir market.
I really want to say that Malta was a melting pot, and I say that with great respect because it made the experience to feel so diverse. From the cuisine, to the languages and different accents I overheard, the people of Malta secure their pride but also invite other cultures to join in on the fun. The country seemed to also be very religious and were sure to "go out with a bang" when it came to their celebrations.
Each night that we were in Valleta, a parade began around 9pm and would not end until midnight! There were drums, confetti, church bells, and chanting which what felt like most of the night for us as we attempted to go to bed early each night. At first, I really enjoyed their spirits for parading late in the evening, probably because it was much cooler at that time, but after the third night in a row, I became curious as to why this was happening each night so late!
As far as the language goes, you will notice that almost every menu that is in Maltese is most likely translated in English, Italian, German, and sometimes Arabic. English is Malta's co-official language so getting around the country with just speaking English was not an issue.
Driving around in Malta, to me, was insane. Personally, I would not want to drive in Malta, especially because they drive on the left side of the road which I have driven before and am not comfortable with. One of the taxi drivers we had drove so fast that what would've been a 30 minute drive turned into 23 minutes. He drove 100 km/h in a 30 km/h area! My head bumped the window three times on sharp turns! So just beware of that before you decide you want to rent a car. Of course, plenty of people rent cars but from my experience, I wouldn't have been able to handle the island driving!
After reading about my trip, I may have not been so involved in the culture or felt true authenticity during the trip, but overall, I had a blast! The people were friendly and wanted to share where they originally were from and were curious about your time in Malta. Not every trip do I need to immerse myself. Sometimes, I travel to just escape the every day life.
Taxify - This app can be downloaded on your smart phone and can be a cheap way to get around the island. It looks just like the Uber app and works the same way. I compared Taxify to eCabs (the service that we used in the airport to get to our apartment), and although it wasn't significantly cheaper, it did save us some money overall since our mode of transportation was by taxi the whole time. Plus, it was great to be able to pay through the app the entire time.
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