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25 July 2014

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malta - 2009-07-04_Aerial_Views_Maltese_Islands_by_Mario_Galea_322_copy.jpgWhether you want city sights or a rural retreat, Malta offers the best of both worlds, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Right now, Malta Direct has a great deal on May departures from Gatwick to the Seashells Resort at Suncrest 4* - 7 nights bed & breakfast for just £349.

For every person shouting, ‘Go out and explore, you only live once,’ there’s someone else secretly thinking, ‘Aren’t holidays supposed to be relaxing?’
In Malta, there’s no need to choose. Stay busy with Valletta’s cultural highlights by day and its coastal bars and clubs by night, then skip over to Gozo for a blissful escape from the buzz.

Vibrant Valletta
Few places can claim both beauty and brains, but the Maltese capital combines fascinating history with seriously striking looks – just one of the reasons it’s been named European Capital of Culture 2018.

Take its famous Grand Harbour: the sand-coloured stone walls and sweeping views are stunning whether or not you know it was a base for the Knights of St Malta1 - D2_Yachting_Valetta_rz_IsoC-LIGHT.jpgJohn as they fought off invaders in the 16th century, or that it was so heavily bombed during World War Two that the entire population was awarded the George Cross for its bravery.

And you don’t have to be an art historian to step inside St John’s Co-Cathedral and be blown away by its intricate stone carvings and painted ceilings. The queue to see its most famous artwork, Caravaggio’s Beheading of St John the Baptist, will be something of a giveaway.

After a busy day’s sightseeing, toast the setting sun at one of the chic bars and restaurants along the island’s Mediterranean coast, such as Café del Mar in St Paul’s Bay. It’s hard to say whether patrons are drawn there by its famous chill-out music, the oh-so-inviting infinity pool, or simply a lengthy list of cocktails.

Getaways in Gozo
This peaceful island is the ideal counterpoint to an exciting city stay, and just a 25-minute ferry ride from Malta. Forget sprawling multi-storey hotels and hordes of tourists; in Gozo, converted farmhouses or family-run boutiques are the norm.

If getting pampered on a massage table sounds rather too tame, there are plenty of ways to burn off energy: rocky terrain allows for challenging cycling and hiking Radisson Blu Malta - Radisson_exterior_02.jpgroutes; world-famous diving sites lie just offshore; and, for the less adventurous, the gentle climb up to the citadel affords outstanding views across the entire island.

Those still listening to the voice in their head saying, ‘Just relax, you’re on holiday,’ should make a beeline for the secluded beach at San Blas Bay or the charming harbour town of Marsalforn, and simply sit back and soak it all in.

ESSENTIAL INFO

GETTING THERE
Air Malta flies to Malta International from Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester, from £128 return. Flight time is three hours. airmalta.com
British Airways flies from Gatwick, from £109 return. ba.com
EasyJet flies from Gatwick, Manchester and Newcastle, from £128 return. easyjet.com
Monarch flies from East Midlands, from £124 return. monarch.co.uk
Ryanair flies from Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, Luton and Stansted, from £65 return. ryanair.com

WHO TO TRAVEL WITH
Malta Direct offers three nights near Valletta and three on Gozo, from £599 departing 16 July. maltadirect.com
Chevron offers similar packages from £474. chevron.co.uk
Mercury Direct offers similar packages from £480. mercury-direct.co.uk
Choice Holidays offers similar packages from £422. choiceholidaysdirect.co.uk

GETTING AROUND
Ferry fares start at £3.90 return for foot passengers. gozochannel.com
Bike hire is widely available on Gozo. visitmalta.com/en/cycle-hire

WHEN TO GO
Summer days are around 30°C.

WHERE TO STAY
Kempinski San Lawrenz kempinski.com/gozo
Hotel Ta’ Cenc tacenc.com

WHERE TO EAT
Café del Mar cafedelmar.com.mt

FIND OUT MORE
visitmalta.com

WHAT’S ON

Not sure when to go? These fun festivals make the perfect excuse...
Malta International Food Festival
31 May, Zabbar – chefs take to the streets to showcase the best in world cuisine
Isle of MTV Malta
25 June, Floriana – free open-air concerts for a younger crowd
Malta Jazz Festival
17-19 July, Valletta – smooth music and magnificent harbour views
Marsovin Summer Wine Festival
18-20 July, Valletta – try local wines in a pretty setting with live music
The Farsons Great Beer Festival
27 July-5 August, Ta’ Qali Park – sup local beers to music in the open air

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