11 surprising things you might not know about Malta

How much do you know about Malta? Quiz yourself with these fascinating, little-known facts…

Category Beach & nature

Date 31st July 2014

Speak to the average guy and girl on the street and they’d perhaps struggle to come up with one really cool fact about Malta. But don’t blame them, this little Mediterranean nirvana is a mystery to most!

So, get acquainted and read our 11 favourite facts about this exotic country. For more info, check out the Visit Malta website.

1. Malta is not one island – it’s an archipelago!

A panoramic view of Comino's unspoilt coastline and clear sea waters.
The unspoilt beach front of Comino. © flavouz

You probably already knew that Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world, but did you know that it is comprised of seven tiny islets? Only the two largest islands, Malta and Gozo, are regularly inhabited, while the third biggest, Comino, features just one luxury vacation resort. The remaining four are totally uninhabited.

Collectively, they total a land-mass of 316 km² – meaning that the whole of Malta can fit into the USA 30,443 times!

2. It was once a part of Italy… probably

While the theories are contested, geographers through the ages have suggested that the Maltese Islands were not only collected as one whole land mass, but used to be connected to what is now known as modern day Sicily through a land bridge, now 330-feet below sea level.

3. It’s super old!

Standing on Malta's Gozo island is the Ġgantija, the oldest temple in all of Malta.
The Ġgantija temple, Gozo Island. © viewingmalta.com

It’s one of the most isolated spots on the Mediterranean, but there’s evidence to suggest that civilisations have been living in Malta since the early Neolithic period of 5000 BC.

The proof comes from the 11 so-called Megalithic Monuments of Malta. The relics are UNESCO World Heritage Site listed, and often marked as some of the oldest free-standing structures on Earth.

4. It’s been an independent country since 1964

Following 150 years as a British colony, Malta gained state independency in 1964, became a republic in 1974 and later part of the European Union in 2004.

5. They drive on the left

Cars parked on the left in a pretty residential street in the capital city.
A hilly side street in Valletta. © sheggy

While no longer tied to the United Kingdom officially, the Maltese still keep to the British tradition of driving on the “wrong” side of the road…

6. It’s the unofficial crafts capital of Europe

A makeshift hamlet built out of disused WW2 aircraft hangars, the Ta’ Qali Crafts Village in Attard is a great example of a booming grass-roots arts and crafts scene. Here you can spot local glass-blowers, potters, jewellers and all other sorts of hippy artisans making and selling their authentic Maltese wares straight from their workshops.

7. There’s food and drink entirely unique to Malta

The delightfully flaky Pastizzi pastry, stuffed with fresh cheese.
A cheese Pastizzi. © viewingmalta.com

First is the delicious Pastizzi, a filo pastry baked with ricotta cheese or mushy peas. Wash it down with a can of Kinnie, a soda that uses chinotto bitter-oranges, spices and herbs unique to the region.

8. It’s where movies are made!

Due to its unspoilt nature, quiet coastline and ancient artefacts and relative obscurity, Malta has been used as a film-location shoot for many huge Hollywood productions, from ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Troy’ to ‘Captain Philips’ and TV’s Game of Thrones.

9. There’s some world-class architecture

The ornate and golden ceiling of St George's Basilica, Gozo.
The ceiling of St George’s Basilica, Gozo. © viewingmalta.com

Malta’s cities brag some seriously cool designs from across the centuries. Whether you like Greek Byzantine structures or Baroque cathedrals, Malta has them all aplenty.

10. It’s an entirely forest-free zone

While it showcases some great architecture and natural sights, you won’t find a single forest in Malta. There are also no mountains or rivers across all seven islands.

11. The capital city is a real one-of-a-kind

The sun goes down over Malta's beautiful capital city.
The Valletta coastline. © viewingmalta.com

And the biggest surprise of all – Valletta was the first ever planned city in Europe. The city was sketched out back in 1565 during the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Completed in just 15 years, it also holds a record as one of the quickest scaled cities in the world, and looks absolutely beautiful at sunset.

Originally published

31st July 2014