Dingli Cliffs © iStock/zstockphotos
With more than five millennia of cultural history, Malta harbours plenty of tantalising secrets. And what makes a trip to the archipelago so compelling is discovering them. From its favourite street snacks to the Hollywood stars that champion the island, here are 10 things you never knew about Malta.
The Island is Named After its Honey
It’s commonly believed that Malta’s name harks back to the ancient Greeks, who christened the archipelago Melite, meaning ‘honey sweet’. Rightfully so, as Malta has been keeping bees and harvesting their fragrant wild blossom honey since the Phoenicians dominated the island in 700 BCE.
Malta Has 10 UNESCO Sites in The Making
The archipelago counts its capital, the Megalithic Temples of Malta and the mysterious Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni as its official UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On its tentative list, however, are seven other breathtaking sites including catacombs, coastal cliffs and citadels.
The Megalithic Temples are Older Than the Pyramids
One of the most important things to know about Malta is that is has immense history. The majestic remains of the Megalithic Temples of Malta, which encompass several prehistoric sites across the archipelago, were constructed between 3600 and 700 BCE. The oldest were erected a good millennium before the Pyramid of Djoser.
The Favourite Local Snack Is Pastizzi
Malta is all about cuisine, and there are plenty of local specialities for visitors sink their teeth into. Pastizzi are a well-known and much-loved local snack consisting of fried filo pastry filled with either ricotta or peas. Enjoy them with a glass of Cisk, the local lager, or Kinnie, a soft drink made from oranges and herbs.
Maltese Roads Are Left-Hand Drive
The archipelago has passed through many hands, from the Phoenicians, Romans and Byzantines to the Moors and the French, and each has left its unique imprint. It was the British, in the 19th and 20th centuries, who determined the Maltese road system.
Malta On The Big Screen
By The Sea, World War Z, Troy, Captain Phillips: Malta has provided the scenic backdrop to a plethora of Hollywood blockbusters since the 1920s – three of which have starred Brad Pitt.
It Has A Church for Every Day Of The Year
The imposing dome of the Mosta Rotunda, blond Baroque façade of St John’s Co-Cathedral and the iconic Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel are just three magnificent specimens within Malta’s hefty portfolio of approximately 365 churches.
It Was Once Attached To Italy
It’s believed that, around 17,000 years ago, the archipelago of Malta would have been connected to Sicily and Italy itself, and would have been part of one landmass until the last Ice Age, when rising sea levels caused the archipelago to separate.
The Locals Love Fireworks
The Maltese archipelago explodes with colour between April and September, when a string of festas light up the night skies with firework displays. Little beats the Malta International Fireworks Festival at the end of April, though, with its four-night extravaganza of vivid phantasmagoria.
Valletta is One of The Smallest Capital Cities in Europe
At just 0.55 square kilometres, Valletta is certainly compact but it’s packed full of personality and historical sites. The Maltese capital since 1571, the city was built by the Knights of the Order of St John and designed like a fort, encircled by towering walls.