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The Charm of Malta, the Islands of Sunshine and History

Known as the ‘Islands of Sunshine and History’, the Republic of Malta is actually made up of several islands in the Mediterranean, just under 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Sicily.

The three main islands in the Maltese archipelago are Malta, Gozo and Comino and they offer a yacht charter destination that is generally less busy than other Mediterranean islands.

Malta’s historical capital Valletta has been named as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, so it’s high time we shed some light on why you should charter a yacht there before the masses start arriving.

mgarr-ix-xini-malta

Luxury yacht charter in Malta

Malta may be an underrated yacht charter destination of the Mediterranean but it has huge appeal with vivid fortified towns, off-the-beaten path beaches, beautiful Baroque architecture, colourful traditional festivals, premium vineyards and prehistoric sites.

Beautiful view in Malta

Did you know? Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 detective novel ‘The Maltese Falcon’, later made into the 1941 film noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, centred around the mystery of a precious Maltese Falcon. The plot detailed that in the 16th century, the Knights of Malta paid tribute to Charles V by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted with diamonds and rare jewels, but pirates captured the gift. However, the jewelled bird is rumoured to never have existed in real life – instead, the Grand Masters paid yearly rent of one live Maltese Falcon, presented to the Emperor’s viceroy in Sicily. The symbolic tribute represented the protective role the Knights served for the empire. Replica falcons made as film props have sold for high amounts since the release of the film, and today the yachting industry is content to watch the eye-catching profile of 88m sailing yacht Maltese Falcon with its triple-masted DynaRig.

Sailing yacht Maltese Falcon

Best time to visit Malta on a yacht charter

Malta has a typical Mediterranean climate with sunny, hot, dry summers with sea breezes and warm African winds creating high temperatures and humidity in spring and autumn.

Rainfall throughout the year is low and swimming in the sea can extend until late October, making an autumn yacht charter appealing for many.

Ta Pinu Malta

Maltese winters are mild and there are excellent festivals based around Christmas, so it is a good getaway for cooler months. Autumn and winter are also significant dates for solar alignment at the archaeological sites of the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Temples. These two UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric sites date between 3600 and 3200 B.C. and when the Autumn Equinox (21-22 September) and Winter Solstice (21 December) come, the sunrise shines light onto megaliths or through the entrance of the Lower Temple at Mnajdra into a small shrine.

Discovering Valletta 

Malta is a country with many facets of interesting history and culture ranging from prehistoric sites to grandiose cathedrals and palaces built for the Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta.

The main island of Malta is only 246 square kilometres (95 square miles) so easy to visit as part of a short yacht charter, or add on a longer charter that includes the other less populated islands of Comino or Gozo.

Valletta, capital of Malta

Valletta, Malta’s capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, is wonderful to explore with pedestrianised streets and lots of historical attractions. Roaming the streets of Valletta gives any yacht charter guest respite from a busy day using your yachts water toys or shopping on Republic Street; the intersecting pattern of Valletta allows breezes to pass through the streets making it pleasant to wander around and simply take in the 16th and 17th century Baroque architecture or admire the colourful enclosed wooden balconies. The topography of Valletta means the city has many stairs and treading the coralline limestone stairways is enough excuse to sit in the shade of a palazzo or caféteria with a cool drink.

Church door in Valletta, Malta

Yacht charter guests with an interest in cultural masterpieces will find lots to see in Valletta including the armoury and tapestries of the Grand Master’s Palace, the National Museums of Archaeology and Fine Arts, and St. John’s Co-Cathedral with two paintings by Caravaggio.

Directly across the Grand Harbour from Valletta, you’ll find Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua that are collectively known as the Three Cities of Malta. They are worth a visit ashore as they contain some of the most historically significant buildings in Malta and the interesting Malta Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa with exhibits about Malta’s seafaring history.

The Knights’ Rule

Due to its strategic location between Italy and North Africa, Malta has been ruled by many powers including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St John, French and the British.

Maltese Knights

The different rulers have influenced Maltese culture and construction, but none more so than The Knights of St John of Jerusalem who ruled the islands from 1530 for over two and half centuries.

Anyone visiting Malta on yacht charter will see evidence of the Knights’ architectural feats everywhere across Malta; they were influential in building palaces, churches, fortifications and hospitals.

Grand Masters Palace Malta

Places of interest that can be credited to the Knights include the Grand Master’s Palace, the Upper and Lower Barrakka gardens (the highest point on the Valletta city walls, the gardens have great views across the Grand Harbour and are decorated with plaques that commemorate historical figures such as Sir Winston Churchill) and the 16th century Teatru Manoel commissioned by the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta which is a working theatre today and has performances ranging from dance to opera and orchestral concerts.

The dominant symbol introduced to Malta by the Knights is the Maltese Cross. When you step ashore in Malta, you’ll see the Cross take on many forms from buildings, coins, furniture, souvenir shops, airlines and the national sports teams; the eight-tipped star represents the eight obligations of the Knights and the eight langues (nationalities) admitted to the Order.

Where to Eat, Drink and Party in Malta

Valletta has some great places for a relaxed drink when ashore – head to the Caffe Cordina to people watch over a coffee or head to Republic Street to soak up the Belle Époque vibe at the Charles Grech Café with a cocktail.

Charles Grech Cafe Malta

Fine cuisine is a prerequisite on board a luxury yacht so to keep the momentum going we recommend you venture to Mdina. This medieval city in northern Malta has some noble places to eat such as De Mondion at the Xara Palace or the Medina Restaurant where you can try Stuffat tal-Qarnit, a traditional stew of octopus in red wine, raisins, apples and roasted walnuts that will leave you with a contented palate.

Traditional Maltese dishes feature widely on most menus – try fenkata (rabbit stew) at the L-Imnarja Harvest Festival in summer or drop into Palazzo Castelletti, a palazzo in Rabat with a great rooftop area that is ideal for a sunset drink ashore and platter of Maltese antipasto.

Take advantage of a yacht charter to Malta in spring or autumn, when restaurants and town squares are emptier than the summer months. The off-season months are ideal for lounging about with a coffee and pastizzi (savoury pastry parcels), Imqaret (date pastries with spices) or an indulgent Maltese kannoli oozing with filling.

Bedouin Bar in Malta

Malta has enough nightlife to satisfy yacht charter guests looking for a quiet sundowner or a late-night party – for a subdued drink, try a cocktail on the balcony at Twenty Two at Portomaso Business Tower or a glass of local wine in St Paul’s Bay at the 1930’s Carpentry Wine Bar. Those looking to party should go to Sliema or the Paceville district in St Julian’s which is the party hotspot with clubs, pubs and bars.

Charter guests who prefer local festivals will enjoy what’s on offer in Malta. February is crammed with festival mania – the Nadur Carnival on Gozo is a vibrant and slightly Halloween-themed carnival with costumes, the Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck enlivens the streets of Valletta and the Malta Carnival parade starts in Floriana before making its way to the main gates of Valletta with huge floats and traditional Parata dances.

Time out in Malta

Malta is a yacht charter destination that has glitzy tourist resorts and infrastructure to match, but it also has many areas of tranquil wilderness and pockets of hidden beauty, both on land and along the coastline.

To escape the Mediterranean heat, amble through the San Anton gardens, Palazzo Parisio or the Garden of Sa Maison. The Melita Gardens next to the San Anton gardens is a restaurant/caféteria with large gardens and children’s playground, a good option for those on family yacht charters. The Ħal Saflieni Prehistoric Hypogeum is built underground and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that reopened in May this year after renovations; ensure you book a visit in advance to coincide with your yacht charter as access to the subterranean chambers is limited.

The beauty of having your own private yacht in Malta is that many day trippers on scheduled boat tours visit the main areas between 10am and 4pm, so outside of those hours you have free rein to enjoy the stunning rocky coves offering great swimming, snorkelling and diving.

Yachts at anchor in Gozo

On the island of Gozo, the secluded beach of Mgarr ix-Xini  seen in 2015 film ‘By the Sea’ is a perfect spot for an afternoon swim, or take a dip in the clear waters at Hondoq ir-Rummien. Diving enthusiasts will enjoy amazing Maltese dive sites from the shelf drops of the Inland Sea, to sea life darting in the wreck of the El Farouk ship near the Blue Grotto or the azure waters of the Crystal Lagoon on Comino, reached only by boat.  Everywhere you go at sea, luxury yachts anchor languidly in pretty coves as brightly painted luzzu (Maltese fishing boats) concertina on bow lines, with each boat decorated with the customary Eyes of Osiris on the bow.

Superyacht in harbour Malta

Other off-the-beaten path locations to visit when on yacht charter in Malta are the isolated bay of Fomm ir-Riħ and the towering Dingli Cliffs on the west coast which are impressive seen from the sea.

This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke on behalf of Bespoke Yacht Charter.

To discuss your charters in Malta, please contact:

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