Malta is the largest island in the Maltese Archipelago. The longest distance on the island, from the south-east to the north-west, is some 27km; the widest point, east to west, is 14.5km. Malta has neither rivers nor mountains, but is characterised by a series of low, flat-topped hills with terraced fields on their slopes. The coastline is well indented, with harbours, bays, creeks, several sandy beaches and rocky coves.
Malta is the more urban and cosmopolitan of the islands. It has every amenity – from modern residential and commercial areas to a vibrant nightlife and numerous leisure options. While the Grand Harbour area and most of the central-eastern region are built up, the countryside to the north is rugged and sparsely populated. For more information on the regions of Malta, see our map above.
The main form of public transport in Malta is the buses, which run on a scheduled service. The Maltese name for “bus” is “xarabank” (pronounced “sharrabank”). Many of the buses in Malta and Gozo are very old, but they are full of character and very popular with visitors.
Gozo, (Ghawdex – pronounced “Owdesh” – in Maltese), is connected to Malta by a regular ro-ro ferry service that takes about 20 minutes. With a higher water table than Malta, Gozo is greener and more spectacular than its sister island, with many flat-topped hills and craggy cliffs. About one third the size of Malta, the island has a character that is quite distinct from Malta and many of its inhabitants are engaged in fishing and farming.
Valletta, Malta’s capital city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1566 by the Knights of St John following the Great Siege of 1565, it is built on a grid system with the original intention that the sea should be visible from every street. It is full of beautiful buildings, including the cathedral, with its magnificent interior, and the Grand Master’s (now President’s) Palace – both of which are open to the public.
Mdina – known as “The Silent City” – is Malta’s ancient capital. Maybe the name comes from the fact that cars have restricted access or maybe because the island’s gentry and nobility have their homes in this very small, but very beautiful, city. Several of its beautiful old buildings are open to the public. Both Valletta and Mdina are walled cities.