Malta

Liz and I spent four days in Malta, without much of a plan. We stayed in Sliema and mostly took public transport around.

The bus system appears good outwardly, but actually is kind of a joke. They don't run to schedule, often sail by without stopping, come in clusters and then there are no more for an hour or more. Most stops have electronic signs which show the next bus due, but the bus may not show up at all and the sign will quietly move on. Anyway my point is, don't plan anything based on the bus schedule. It's cheap though; a ticket valid for 2 hours is 1.50EUR and more than once we accidentally or on purpose presented expired tickets to the driver and it was fine. The on purpose time was when my ticket expired whilst I was waiting 30+ minutes for a bus that should have come twice in that time, and I was all ready to argue about it, but I didn't have to.

When the Sliema to Valetta ferry isn't running, the best chance of getting a bus to Valetta is to walk to the start of the line in San Giljan. The bus was packed, and not even high season..

The night we arrived was New Year's Eve. We took the ferry across the bay to Valetta and wandered around. There were lots of street stalls, crowds, and a party atmosphere. In the central square was a stage and lightshow.

Coloured lights projected on the side of a building, with a Liz in the foreground Purple and yellow patterned lights from below, with hands making a heart shape A view over a harbour with blue sea and sky

One one day we paid 10EUR for a harbour cruise. It lasted a little over an hour, and was pleasantly relaxing. The boat was small and sometimes the waves were big.

A small boat in the harbour, with a person on the ramp (it me) An orange life ring frames the sea and town in the background Bright blue sky and sea, with the nose of a green and yellow boat in the foreground Sea in the foreground and city walls and cathedral in the distance A harbour with many white yachts, backed by sandstone houses and churches

Another day, we paid 20EUR each of the hop-on-hop-off bus. We took the south route, and visited quite a few sights. Except at our last stop, we were the victims of an unexpected schedule change and ended up waiting for over an hour and a half outside the Ghar Dalam cave (where there is nothing) and eventually gave up and got on a regular bus back to Valetta. Of course, 5 minutes later the sightseeing bus went past. I was disappointed to miss the rest of the route, as it went around the coast, to the Blue Grotto and something else. We should probably have got up earlier, and not taken so long to have lunch, though.

We visited the ancient Tarxien temples, which are very old heaps of rocks. We saw lots of old fortifications, and Liz wanted to go in every church. I liked the Ghar Dalam cave, it has thousands of ancient animal bones.

A scraggedy white cat sits amongs ancient sandstone temple ruins Blue and yellow boats in a harbour, with palm trees and sandstone buildings in the background A woman in a black jacket kisses an animal skeleton, behind glass

We took a ferry to Gozo. The return crossing is 4.65EUR. Ir-Rabat aka Victoria, the captial, is about a 20 minute bus ride from where the ferry drops. I had plotted an alternative bus path around the island but we had learnt by this point to just take a bus when we saw it so our first stop was Victoria. By then we were ready for lunch, and we wiled away a little to long in Green Mood.

We went to the oldest temple remains in Malta, Ggantija. We didn't stop in the museum, and charged around the ruins in time to get the next bus. The ticket also covered entrance to a windmill, but we skipped it. We stopped at Marsalforn, and hiked around the coast to find salt pans. It took a long time to get there because Liz was distracted by everything. Awesome sea views. We debated a two hour hike to the Azure Window, but then a lady selling salt impressed upon us an urgency to visit the Citadel in Victoria. We missed the bus back by moments (thanks to mislabeled bus stops) and the next was in an hour, so we hiked for 1 hour 15 minutes intead. Through fields and around hills, it was nice to get away from the population centers for a while. We got to Victoria just before sunset and caught some views from the Citadel. We ate at the first restaurant we came across, before [an ice cream and] returning to the port for the ferry, and another bus, back to Sliema.

The nose of a ferry, with blue seak and sky On the right, a wall of ancient rocks on green grass; on the left, a woman in a black jacket and tights jumps like a star A wave breaks into white foam against the harbour, with sandstone buildings along the edge Angled ditches made from rocks and sand, filled with seawater in the foreground; a sandstone rock in the background, against blue-grey sky A hill in the distance with a giant cross on the top

For our final day, I figured out we could fit in Mdina, the ancient walled city, Clapham Junction (ancient cart grooves) and the Blue Grotto, and get Liz to the airport on time. However the ferries to Valetta weren't running so the buses were overloaded. We ended up walking to San Giljan (the start of the bus line) and enjoying a leisurely brunch on the seafront instead. Then we bussed to Mdina and checked out the ancient city and St Paul's Catacombs, before returning to Sliema. I like a good catacomb. Mdina is pretty cool, with windy streets and no cars, though as it is actually still occupied it didn't feel quite as ancient as I hoped.

A sandstone church overlooks a fairly rough sea in the foreground A woman in a black jacket with a red purse dances in front of a blue doorway, sandstone wall, with overhanging pink flowers A row of dark shapes underground in rock

We didn't make it to Clapham Junction or the Blue Grotto, or the Hagar Qim temples in the end. I thought about trying to get out there after Liz left for the airport, but it would've been dark by the time I made it. I wandered around Valetta and ate good food instead.

All photos are here. I wrote in more depth about food in Vegan in Malta.

I left via the night ferry from Valetta to Catania, commencing a 3-day land and sea journey back to Bosnia.

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