Our Time in Malta (But Mostly Xlendi Bay in Gozo)

So you’ve probably heard of Malta – but let’s see how much you actually know about it. Which of these things do you think Malta is?

A. Country

B. Archipelago

C. Island within a country by the same name

D. All of the above

Yeah – it’s confusing, but Malta is the name for the archipelago below Sicily and the name of the largest & most populated island within that archipelago.

What’s it Like?

We spent two nights on the main island Malta and the rest of our time in Gozo. Here were our first impressions of the country:

  • We loved the architecture – very Mediterranean
  • The water was much chillier than we expected (like, really really cold – I went in once)
    • We visited in early June; we heard it gets a lot warmer by August
  • The islands are literally rocks. There aren’t many sandy beaches or green landscapes
  • People are very friendly and since English is one of their national languages, communication is a breeze
  • They have a great bus system – easy to use & inexpensive
  • Generally felt very safe, especially in Gozo
  • Much less expensive than the Nordic countries (where we came from)!
Back streets of Xlendi Bay

Quick Facts about Malta

  • [Inhabited] Islands: Malta, Comino, Gozo
  • Official Languages: Maltese, English
  • Currency: Euro (you’ll need cash)
  • Weather: Winter: wet & windy; summer: dry & hot
  • Best Time to Go: April-October = Beach season

Where to Stay

You’ll probably fly into the Malta International Airport, on the island of Malta. If you have time, we recommend you stay in Gozo where, as our friendly driver Joe told us, you can breathe! It’s less touristy and much more calm than the main island Malta. You just have to take a ferry over.

Malta Boat Tour

If you do stay in Malta, we’d recommend Sliema or Valletta, unless you love to party. If that’s the case, stay in St Julians, which can get very rowdy!

For the majority of our time in Malta, we stayed on Gozo in an AirBnb in Xlendi Bay for $35/night (more about that area below). We also heard good things about Marsalforn; it’s much closer to Ramla Bay, which is one of the island’s only sandy beaches.

Gozo

Activities/Sights to See

Xlendi Bay

The beautiful Xlendi Bay

(The “x” is pronounced “sh,” so it sounds like “shlendi.”) This gorgeous area stole our hearts from the moment our taxi pulled up. We loved the vibes of this sleepy bay town – it has great restaurants (for very reasonable prices) and nice hikes surrounding the area. Make sure to hike up both sides of the bay. On the left side, you’ll see the Xlendi Tower built in 1650!

Walk under the tower to find these salt mines

Note: the Xlendi “beach” is literally as big as a slice of pizza. If you want to sunbathe, unless you want to lay on slabs of rock, you can take a bus (or taxi) to a beach.

Ramla Bay

Ramla bay – red sand beach

We took the bus to Ramla Bay (from Xlendi) for about $6 – total. This beach was exactly what I needed!

San Blas Bay

Another gorgeous beach. We would’ve gone here if it was as convenient for us to get to as Ramla, or if we had more time.

Comino

Comino is a super tiny island. The only reason we went there was on a tour to visit the Blue lagoon…and we were among about 5 bajillion other people who had the same idea.

The blue lagoon in all its blueness

While undeniably gorgeous, the Blue Lagoon has become verrrryyy touristy. Plus, the water was freezing!

Where to Eat

We mostly ate in Xlendi Bay, so if you happen to find yourself there, here are some recommendations! While the area is pretty tiny, there is no shortage of restaurant options.

The Diamond Cafe and Bar

What a gem. The owner is an adorable Irish man and their breakfast is amazingly cheap & delicious – $2.50 for incredibly fluffy scrambled eggs on 2 pieces of toast, for example.

Sophia Bar and Restaurant

What’s Bulgarian food like? I had no clue. But after eating here, I know I’m obsessed with it. Plus, this might be the best wine I’ve ever tasted. It was so crazy good that Pete and I ordered a second bottle (and then wobbled our way back to our apartment). Did we drop $70 on this meal? Yes. Was it worth it? Every penny. Definitely worth it to get off the “beaten path” to dine here.

Sapana Indian restaurant

We love Indian food and this place didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t the best we’ve ever had, but if you’re in the mood for Indian, this place will hit the spot.

The Boathouse

Nice, classy spot right on the water. Just a note – if you order the squid, don’t eat it all by yourself. Pete learned this lesson the hard way.

Nightlife – La Grotta

One night we pretended we were 18 again and went to a club. I must admit – while totally overrun with teenagers, the backdrop was absolutely stunning. I’m glad we went just for the experience.

“But I came here to read about Malta, the main island. Any advice?”

Our experience on the main island is pretty slim; we only spent two nights there and didn’t do much sightseeing. However, our snap-judgment on the island was that it’s great for history and archaeology buffs, but possibly not so great for people who love sandy beaches & lush landscapes (ahem, like me). However, this assessment is based on our very short time there, so don’t take our word for it!

One piece of advice: don’t try to walk any reasonably far distances on the main island. The streets are chaotic and there aren’t many pedestrian paths. Take the buses! They’re straight forward, cheap, and can take you wherever you’d like to go. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try hitch-hiking. We saw first-hand that this totally works.

Have you been to Malta? What did you think? Any advice?

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