Situated just south of Italy, the Maltese Archipelago of Malta, Gozo and Comino lie in the sparkling warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The islands hold a wealth of fascinating architecture, vibrant heritage, spectacular scenery and boast six UNESCO World Heritage sites.
In order to promote the country’s incredible offerings, Malta has participated in a project commissioned by the European Commission entitled the European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN). The project aims to promote sustainable tourism development models across the EU, after a series of competitions, each participating country is awarded with an ‘EDEN Destination of Excellence’ title for their most fantastic destination.
The overall winner for this prestigious title, ‘EDEN Destination of Excellence’, was Qrendi, in Malta, and it’s not hard to see why. The village is endowed with top attractions such as the famed pre-historic temples of Ħaġar Qim, is set within luscious countryside filled with indigenous plant life, and has fascinating sights such as the geological formations of Maqubla. In Qrendi, history, culture, scenery and nature truly meet.
Situated in Wied iz Zurrieq, on the outskirts of Qrendi, the Blue Grotto is a string of caves famous for being one of the most beautiful sights in Malta. The mixture of enormous rock and the mesmerising blue of the surrounding waters is truly a sight to behold.
The best way to explore the beauty of Qrendi is to hike its fantastic coastal walking paths. The paths weave and zig zag through the sublime coastline, and offer nothing but breath-taking views out to the Mediterranean Sea.
The vibrantly blue waters near Qredni offer some truly superb scuba diving spots, especially at Wied iż-Żurrieq, which is renowned for crystal-clear waters. It’s also a spectacular place for night diving, too. The area offers excellent visibility and lots of stunning marine life.
The first runner-up is the small village of Għajnsielem, in Gozo, which is the second largest island of the archipelago. Għajnsielem hosts an annual Christmas event which has become one of the most popular festive events in the Maltese islands. Every year, over 100,000 visitors come to see the 20,000 square metres of once neglected land, which has been converted into a recreation of Christ’s birthplace, earning it its name of Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem.
Fort Chambray is a spectacular sight embossed on the landscape of Għajnsielem. Built in the mid 18th century, this bastioned fort saw its prime when in use during the French invasion of Malta in 1798.
Hiking among the coastal and rural paths of Għajnsielem is nothing short of sublime, but the area really takes a turn when the sun starts to set. You’ll be blown away by how tranquil the waters look as they fade from bright blues, to that of pinks, purples and burnt oranges as the sun descends into its sleepy slumber.
Set on a high plateau some 250m above sea-level, Dingli, the second runner-up, is village in the northern region of Malta. Offering vantage points over the sea and the surrounding countryside, Dingli provides some of the most beautiful views Malta has to offer. Dingli’s outstanding heritage is reflected in its village pjazza, which embodies Dingli’s heart and soul.
The Dingli cliffs, are the highest point of the Maltese islands; the views are particularly spectacular on summer days and during sunset. The cliffs stretch well beyond the village of Dingli so you can easily enjoy a full day of hiking in the area while visiting.
A great way to pick up the pace and discover the area’s beauty, is to explore by Segway. Test your balance and skills while you ride by two-wheels along the coastal roads to explore the very best of the area.
Next comes Mellieħa, another runner up that boasts sites of cultural, religious, and natural history to complement its fine sandy beaches. The village of Mellieħa is perched on a hill, commanding distant views of Comino and Gozo while also priding itself on spectacular attractions including the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieħa, labyrinth of a war-time air-raid shelters, and Popeye Village.
Image: Alexia Falzon
Built in 1649, the striking red/pink colour of St Agatha’s Tower beams across the Maltese landscape, and visiting this historic building provides an interesting insight into the lives of the St Johns Knights. Climb to the top of the tower’s roof to admire the incredible 360-degree scenic views.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha was originally a spectacular natural cave, and was later transformed into a church and museum. It’s filled with incredible medieval art and painted grottos; the chapel is said to contain a painting that was made in the year 60 A.D.
The Ghadira Nature Reserve is the perfect place to stretch your legs and take in the fresh air of Malta.
Ta’ Xbiex, Malta
The last runner-up is Ta’ Xbiex. Located in the central region of Malta, the small town of Ta’ Xbiex is home to around 1,804 inhabitants. Ta’ Xbiex hosts a number of foreign embassies together with the flowering yacht marina, both situated by the pleasant Ta’ Xbiex seafront, overlooking the magnificent Grand Harbour.
The marina is a splendid place for walking; during the morning you’ll see busy fishermen going about their business, at sunset the waters absorb the stunning orange light, and at night the moon’s reflection glitters peacefully on the surface.
This is a fantastic place to take a day’s sailing trip to the surrounding area, and enjoy a relaxing day on the waters. Just don’t forget your camera, because the coastline and waters of Malta are exceptionally beautiful.
The blend of history and culture, warm and pleasant Mediterranean climate, beautiful scenery, and crystal-clear waters make the Maltese islands a haven for travellers, and the wide range of experiences available never cease to surprise visitors who explore the many contrasting corners of the islands. If you’d like more information on the incredible things on offer in Malta, then head over to the Visit Malta website.
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