Malta has been on our travel bucket since 2018 and we booked our flights for Easter this year in July 2019. It seemed a bit too early then but with the pandemic situation and rise in the number of countries entering lockdown, the entire situation culminated in our flights being cancelled. Safety first but we had been planning to travel to Malta for a while and finally we were able to travel to Malta in October this year after 3 flight schedule changes.
Malta is an archipelago in the heart of Mediterranean Sea. Summers can be quite hot, and October seemed like a perfect time to visit – sunny without scorching heat. Also, it was the beginning of the off-peak season and with COVID19 in the air, Malta wasn't swarming with tourists at all. However, the weather conditions weren't always great and so we kept our itinerary completely flexible as well as contingency action plans handy.
In this article, we will discuss about an amazing find on the internet i.e., a combo ticket by iSeeMalta known as iSeeCombo. This ticket priced at €30 for adults (€22.50 for children under 12 years and free for children under 4 years) included a 5-6 hour long Panoramic & History Bus Tour, 1.5-hour long Harbour Cruise and Comino Hop-on Hop-off at Sea. The advantage of this combo ticket was it was definitely cheaper than purchasing individual tickets for the three activities which would have costed us €45 for adults (33% savings!). Secondly, the ticket was valid for a period of 7 days which meant no obligation to enjoy all three activities within a 3-day period or within 72 hours of your ticket being scanned for the first time.
We started exploring Malta with the Panoramic & History Bus Tour. The bus tour had multiple pick-up points in each of these towns: Mellieha, Bugibba, St Julian's, Sliema and Valletta. We boarded the bus from Sliema (where we were staying) at 10:30 in the morning. We went onto the upper deck which was open and had stunning views of the fortifications. After picking up passengers from the last stop Valletta, our tickets were inspected. We believe in saving both time and paper by carrying an e-ticket, but the person-in-charge inspected the hard copy tickets first and e-tickets right in the end (some technical glitch we guess!). The bus tour starts with a drive-through Valletta where you can see a few landmarks from within the bus and not to miss the traditional Maltese balconies. Next is a 15-minute stop at one of the Three Cities (Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua) – Vittoriosa. It was a quick break next to the marina to stretch our legs before heading out to fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Rainbow-colored boats and benches, palm trees and seafood all around made this the most picturesque fishing village we have ever seen. We were glad this was a one-hour stop and a lunch break at the perfect location!
After having a nice lunch, we headed to the Blue Grotto (or the sea caves). This was originally meant to be a 30-minute stop for us to have an opportunity to do a cave tour as well. Unfortunately, the weather conditions weren't favorable, and it ended up in being a 15-minute stop with us having a view at the Blue Grotto from one of the famous viewpoints. Photographs won't do justice to the massive 30 meters high natural arch.
The final stop for the bus tour was the silent city of Mdina. This was a one hour stop but we were able to walk and explore the city way before that because there were hardly any people there. We understood then why sometimes it is also referred to as the Ghost Town. Mdina is also a fortified city like Valletta and has a panoramic view spot where you can practically see half of the island. If you're fond of collecting souvenirs and have space in your baggage, don't miss out on Mdina's renowned hand-blown glass collection. On our return to our respective pickup locations, we drove through Mosta seeing the famous Mosta Dome which has a few interesting stories going by. The one we heard was that during the second world war, a bomb penetrated the dome but did not explode! The bus tour was probably the best way to start our stay in Malta as we explored some of the major landmarks across the island in a few hours helping us plan the rest of the itinerary.
Next, it was time for the Harbor cruise. The cruise departs from the ferry terminal in Sliema twice a day (10:30 AM and 2:45 PM) and takes you along the along the main harbors surrounding Sliema, Valletta and the Three Cities. We felt happy, as the boat had COVID19 safety measures in place which included sitting on every alternate row making social distancing possible, temperature checks upon entering and mandatory use of masks for the full duration of the cruise. We were also lucky, as the weather conditions had improved and it was quite warm and sunny during this trip, giving us fabulous views of the coastline! The cruise allowed for a glimpse of the magnificent Valletta, including its fortifications and the Lower Barrakka Gardens along with the Siege Bell War Memorial and Valletta Waterfront with its colorful facades. This 1.5-hour journey back in time is a must do as it not only fills us with the historical facts but also gives a view of Malta's coastline which can be observed only from sea.
The last and our personal favorite was the Comino Hop on Hop off at Sea. In our past travels we have enjoyed exploring cities with hop-on hop-off buses and this was the first time when it was at sea. We were quite excited for it, but the weather conditions didn't favor our boat trip for first 5 days of our stay in Malta. Fortunately, on the second last day of our trip, the sea was relatively calm, and the boat trip was on. The hop-on hop-off started from Sliema at 10:00 AM and we went to Bugibba followed by Gozo. We had a great opportunity to explore the island of Gozo for a few hours and would definitely recommend the salt pans of Marsalforn and the narrow streets of Victoria. After Gozo, the next destination was the Blue Lagoon in Comino and we could see distinct turquoise waters separating the island and the sea. The water at Blue Lagoon was very clear but cold at the same time. We had a quick dip!
Comino is an uninhabited island, and the Blue Lagoon can get very crowded due to multiple boats and ferries making their way to this paradise each day. There are a few food kiosks and washroom facilities (one less thing to worry about!). They also offer refreshing mocktails and cocktails in scooped pineapples. We were glad they do reuse the pineapples if people don't bin them. If we remember correctly, you could also get a refill at half price if you bring the pineapple back!
After having lunch, we decided to have a mini walk away from the crowd. Perks of exploring an uninhabited island are you can walk anywhere as there is no well-defined trail. We did find some 25-30 Maltese lizards as we made our way to the Crystal Lagoon. It seemed like a hidden paradise as only a handful folks made their way towards it. We enjoyed a nice tan in the peaceful environment before heading back to the Blue Lagoon. On our return, we got off in Bugibba just in time to enjoy the sunset and explored the town.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip as everyone in Malta wore face coverings and maintained social distancing. Hope you enjoyed reading our experience in Malta. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.