I like symbolisms. The other day I was looking at my eraser (yes, the one I use to erase stuff when I write with a pencil), and I thought: ‘wow, my eraser is really old and tiny!’. I can barely hold it anymore when erasing something. And then I remembered that I purchased this same eraser right before I moved to Europe. I must have thought ‘I’m going to do a Master’s abroad, I need a decent eraser’. Four years later, it remains my loyal rubbery companion.
If you’ve always wondered what an eraser looks like after 4 years of use, it’s something like this:
Besides symbolisms, I also like looking back and making comparisons. This helps me observe and analyze the trajectory of events from a wider perspective. Moving to Europe was a big ‘before and after’ landmark in my life. And the eraser purchased in this exact landmark enabled me (completely unintentionally) to observe how an object has changed since I came here.
Four years ago, I:
a) left my parents’ house
b) started living alone (and paying all my bills)
c) moved to Europe
d) got my Bachelor’s degree and started the Master’s
All at the same time. Sometimes people start paying their own bills but keep living with their parents; or leave home but stay in the same city; or even move to another country but to live with another person. I, apparently, went and ticked all theses boxes at once.
Today the blog has its 1st year anniversary. I decided to start it when I realized that soon it would be 3 years since I had moved to Europe and I had a lot to tell. And now, one more year has passed, making it my 4th Euro-versary.
But how long are four years?
Well, four years is the amount of time that it takes to wear out a brand-new eraser almost completely.
It’s the duration of a Bachelor’s program, or a PhD (at least in Brazil). It’s the amount of time between two Olympics, World Cups, presidential elections, leap years. When I arrived in Europe, the Olympic Games of London 2012 were finishing, and now the same is happening to the ones of Rio 2016. From now on, I won’t watch anymore any of the major regular world events for the first time since I came to Europe – they will now all be repeated. That’s how you realize that four years is quite a lot.
But at the same time, four years is nothing. They go by very fast.
I don’t know what the future holds, don’t know how many more anniversaries I will still have in Europe… All I know is that I’ve learned A LOT during these last 4 years, and I’m extremely grateful for everything I’ve lived here so far.
And as to my eraser, it is still working and being used on a daily basis.
As said in the previous post, Malta was a special trip. And, as my travel planning is usually proportional to my excitement, you can imagine that I did quite some preparation for this trip. Summing everything I learned by researching and visiting this destination, I put together a time-efficient itinerary with the best points of interest in Malta.
This guide is ideal for 6 days – but, if your stay is shorter than this, you can simply prioritize the places you want to see the most.
Day 1: Valetta + Sliema + St. Julian’s + Paceville
Valetta Malta’s capital city – the smallest capital in the European Union. • Upper & Lower Barrakka Gardens, with views to the Grand Harbor and the Three Cities on the other side. At the Upper Barrakka Garden, a cannon is fired daily at noon and at 4pm by the saluting battery. • St. John’s Co-Cathedral • Republic Street: main shopping street • Explore the deserted old town side streets
Sliema •Promenade along the coast with great views of Valetta, several restaurants and swimming spots, going all the way to St. Julian’s
St. Julian’s •A big ‘love’ sculpture at the entrance • Many restaurants and bars • St. George’s Bay (beach): easy to reach, therefore usually crowded with tourists • Paceville: the youth party zone
Day 2: Blue Lagoon + Millieha or Golden Bay
Blue Lagoon Probably the biggest must-see in Malta!
This natural pool with transparent waters is located on the island of Comino. How to get there: drive or take a bus to Cirkewwa, and from there take a boat to the Blue Lagoon. All the boats make a few stops on the way back, showing the local caves. It’s recommended to go in the morning, when it’s less crowded.
There, you can rent a chair and umbrella to sit on the small sandy area, or simply take a seat on the rocks. We chose the second option because (a) it was free; (b) it was still easy to get in the water; and (c) we even had a great view to the Blue Lagoon from above.
If spending half a day in Blue Lagoon is sufficient for you (it was for us), you can still go relax on another beach on the main island for the rest of the day. But, of course, compared to the Blue Lagoon, they are not as impressive.
Some options near the disembark area in Malta are the Milleha Bay or the Golden Bay. In the Golden Bay, there are 3 beaches next to one another to choose from: Golden Bay per se (most easily reachable and most crowded), Gnejna and Ghajn Tuffieha (a bit more hidden and less populated).
Day 3: Gozo
The neighboring island deserves a full-day visit.
How to get there: take a ferry that leaves from Cirkewwa. The ride takes about 25 minutes and there is no need to buy a ticket before boarding – you only pay on the way back. (More information and fares here).
Board with your car if you have one. If you’re using the public transport, it might be worth it to get one of the hop-on hop-off buses to visit the points of interest on the island.
•Citadel: located in the capital city of Gozo – Rabat, or Victoria (many cities in Malta have two names). A medieval fortress, with a cathedral and a view to the surroundings. •Azure Window and Fungus Rock in Dwejra Bay: the famous and imposing rocky arch, where Game of Thrones filmed the scene where Daenerys gets married to Khal Drogo. As the rock is still under erosion, it is believed that the arch will disappear in a few decades. UPDATE: in March 2017, after a period of heavy storms, the Azure Window unfortunately collapsed and disappeared 😦 We had heard that would happen, but we didn’t expect it to be within less than a year after we visited it… •Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary: a large church, where many believers have left messages being thankful for the cure of their illnesses. •Ramla Bay: a cozy beach with reddish sand. The Calypso Cave viewpoint has a beautiful view to the Ramla Bay. •Xlendi Bay: another beach, with several restaurants around it (including a great ice cream shop). Ideal for a pit-stop to eat. •Ggantija Temples: Gozo’s megalithic temples. If you already plan to visit the other temples on the island of Malta, maybe you can skip this one.
Day 4: The Three Cities + Marsaxlokk + St. Peter’s Pool
The Three Cities Birgu (or Vittoriosa), Bormla (or Cospicua) and Isla (or Senglea) – (remember that in Malta many cities have two different names?)
Take a boat from Valetta to the entrance of the cities (the crossing is already a pleasant ride on its own) and explore their streets and waterfront views. If time is short: Vittoriosa is considered the nicest one.
Marsaxlokk A quite lovable fishing village, with dozens of small colorful fishing boats by the bay. On Sundays, there is a fish market.
St. Peter’s Pool A big natural pool, amazing to swim and jump into the water. It’s very close to Marsaxlokk, but the walk all the way up probably takes about 1 hour. So it is better to go by car or taxi.
Day 5: Mosta + Mdina + Rabat + Dingli Cliffs
Mosta •Rotunda of Mosta: the third largest church in Europe, with a big dome. During the second world war, a 50 kg bomb fell inside the church but did not explode – which was considered a miracle.
Mdina Known as the ‘silent city’, it’s a medieval town surrounded by walls. The entrance of Mdina was shown in Game of Thrones as the gateway to King’s Landing. •Fontanella Tea Gardens: a tea house offering a famous chocolate cake and a view to the surroundings (including the Rotunda of Mosta).
Rabat A charming town across from Mdina. •Roman Villa •Church of St. Paul •St. Dominic Convent (was also a Game of Thrones filming location)
Dingli Cliffs The highest point in Malta (253 meters) and considered the best spot in the island to watch the sunset.
Day 6: Blue Grotto + Hagar Qim & Mnajdra
Blue Grotto Boat ride through a few grottos and caves, including the Blue Grotto, with bright blue waters. The ideal is to go in the morning to capture the most impressive shade of blue of the sea. The ride is beautiful, but we found it quite short (about 20 minutes) and felt that the boat driver, although very nice, rushed through the stops (maybe because there is a line of boats behind him).
It’s also possible to see the Blue Grotto from above, from a viewpoint next to a bus stop called Panorama.
Hagar Qim & Mnajdra Near the Blue Grotto, you can find the megalithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, some of the oldest standing monuments in the world (around 3000 BC). The ticket allows visiting both temples, which are next to each other.
I’ve traveled quite a few times in my life, but this trip to Malta at the end of June was one of my most desired and anticipated trips so far. I did a lot of research on this destination before going, and had the opportunity to get to know the country with a group of 4 friends that included a Maltese, besides being hosted by a Maltese lady (my first time on Airbnb). For this reason, I had the privilege to dive into the local culture and live experiences beyond tourist guide books.
Malta is one of the smallest countries in Europe (and in the world), with 316 km2 and a bit over 400,000 inhabitants. It’s an archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and the north of Africa. The biggest and main island is called Malta; the neighboring island is Gozo; and the tiny island between both – too small to be populated – is Comino.
There are flights from several European countries to Malta International Airport (MLA), also by the low-cost airline Ryanair. Almost all locals speak English (the official languages are Maltese and English), and the local currency is the euro – which makes it very convenient for tourists.
What to expect from Malta Malta is a destination both for beaches and for sightseeing in historical places. Everywhere you can see stone houses with their beige color, typical of the Mediterranean and Middle East. There are several paradise beaches with crystal clear water. But, contrary to what one might imagine, it’s not a very green country, especially in the summer – the landscape is sandy and dry, full of cactus, almost like a desert. Some regions are fancier, but in general the atmosphere is quite simple and casual. The nightlife is concentrated in Paceville, an area in St. Julian’s, mostly attended by very young folks (~15-20 year-olds) and/or tourists. The traffic is sometimes slow, as there are not many options of roads from one place to the other. Despite being one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it’s common not to see so many people on the streets in some cities. By the way, they are in fact cities, but with the size of neighborhoods. The Maltese people are extremely friendly and welcoming, and many times I felt as if I were back home in Brazil.
When to go Malta has mild temperatures and is generally sunny all year long, but between October and May it might not be warm enough to enjoy the beaches. Therefore, it would be ideal to visit between June and September. July and August are always the most crowded months, as it’s the tourist peak season. We went at the end of June and it was already quite warm (over 30°C during the day and around 25°C in the evening).
How to get around in Malta You must decide between renting a car or taking the public transport.
Having a car available is, without a doubt, more advantageous, both for the freedom and the convenience. But keep in mind that Malta uses the British driving system, as it used to be a UK colony. The driver sits on the right in the car and drives along the left lane. If that is not an issue, renting a car is the most recommended option, as you will be able to visit more places during the time you have there.
But it’s also possible to get to know Malta only by using its public transport system, and sometimes cabs. The problem is that some buses don’t come by very often and, for many routes, you need to change buses and wait for the next one, even if it’s not the most direct way to your destination. So the ride certainly takes longer than by car, and more planning and time management is needed, but you will also reach your destination.
Each bus ticket can be used for up to 2 hours and costs 2 euros in the summer or 1.50 euros in the winter during the day, and 3 euros at night. If you’re staying for around 5 days or more, it’s probably worth buying the Tallinja Card ‘Explore’, which costs 21 euros and allows unlimited trips for 7 days. More information on the official website of the Maltese public transport.
How long to stay I’m the type of tourist who doesn’t like to waste time, and my suggestion is to spend at least 5 full days there. We saw everything we wanted to see in 6 full days, plus an arrival evening and a morning to leave (so 7 nights). But this was because we were spoiled by our Maltese friend, who took us to most places by car. So, in case you have a car: 7 nights or 6 full days are enough to see all the points of interest in Malta. If you are using the public transport system, you should add about 2 more days to that – or, instead, leave out a few tourist spots for a future visit.
Where to find accommodation The cities with the best location for tourists are: St. Julian’s, Sliema and Valetta. If you’re counting on public transport to get around, I would recommend staying in Valetta because, for many routes, you need to change buses there anyway.
The second semester of 2016 is just beginning but I already think that Malta will be my favorite trip of the year! Highly recommended! 🙂