With millennia of recorded history, a unique ecosystem, and the fact it’s always been a melting pot of cultures, it’s no surprise that Malta has some interesting quirks you won’t find in other places. While we could bore you with Malta facts about castles of forts that you could look up on Wikipedia, we’d rather let you in on the fun stuff, so when you get chatting to locals you’ll be able to get past raving about the gorgeous weather and delicious food.
You Probably Know Malta Better Than You Think…
Malta’s capital, Valletta, is a UNESCO World Heritage site (yes – the entire city!) and as such has proven an excellent place for many film and television makers looking to set a scene in somewhere ancient-looking. Valletta is a fort city and is separated from the rest of the island by moat, so makes for some epic shots. The stunning shoreline and wide, rocky expanses that make up the centre of the island are also ideal filming points for action and adventure movies, and the busy port means harbour scenes are also easily captured here.
The original Casino Royale was filmed in Malta, as was other Bond favourite The Spy Who Loved Me. More modern shoots include massive epics like Gladiator, Troy, and Game of Thrones – basically, if you’re filming an epic with old-world scenery, there really isn’t anywhere better to go.
Half of the Water is From Desalination
Water scarcity is a fact of life in Malta, and generally has always been a part of Malta’s history. The island has no permanent rivers or lakes, with small, temporary waterways sometimes appearing in the winter after heavy rain. While half of their water is from the usual source of groundwater, the country is one of the foremost when it comes to using desalination techniques to get clean drinking water from the surrounding sea.
Because of this scarcity, they’ve also got one of the most secure public water systems in the world, as leakage isn’t just annoying here but can be deadly. They’re also pioneering a lot of water re-use programmes.
It’s Actually Multiple Islands
Although the vast majority of people stick to the largest island in the chain (also named Malta), there are two other landmasses that make up the country: the smaller Comino, and the mid-sized Gozo. There isn’t too much to do or see on Comino, so unless you’re looking for some real seclusion or possibly using it as a diving base, you likely won’t see it.
Gozo, however, is much less developed than Malta but still has great tourism infrastructure. The rural nature of the island contrasts to its built-up older brother, but this is also its appeal: if you want to get to grips with proper Maltese culture, you should spend a day or two wondering through the fishing villages and craft stalls that make up this spot.
Queen Elizabeth Called it Home
Between 1949 and 1952, then Princess Elizabeth and her new husband lived just outside of Valletta in an opulent mansion named Villa Guardamangia. Queen Elizabeth often remarks on this time with a fondness, as it was the only time in her married life she felt they were able to live like a ‘normal’ couple – albeit in magnificent surroundings.
The house isn’t too far from the centre of the capital, but if you’re a Royalist with a few million lying around you can do one better – in 2019 the property was listed for sale. So, if you want to live like a Princess, then Malta is the best place to be!
You Can Visit a Church Nearly Every Day of the Year
Malta’s Christian history is impossible to miss on any visit to the island, and sometimes it feels like there’s more churches than people. While this isn’t strictly true, there is an overload of chapels, cathedrals, and basilicas dotted over the country – 359 to be exact.
While many of these churches are old, stone, and beautiful, there are also some more modern, less aesthetically pleasing ones. The most famous one is probably the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the capital Valletta, but there are tonnes of impressive sites outside of the capital too.
It’s Home to Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites
With three UNESCO World Heritage sites packed into a tiny area of this already minuscule country, Malta likely has the highest concentration of the protected sites in the world. As mentioned, the nation’s capital, Valletta, is one itself thanks to its combination ancient architectural styles and wonderful range of churches, and beautiful public gardens.
Six of the various megalithic temples that are dotted around the country are also UNESCO World Heritage sites. Many of these archaic structures are older than places like Stonehenge, and even the ones that don’t have UNESCO status are still worth seeing.
The final UNESCO World Heritage site is also just a stone’s throw from Valletta: Hal Saflieni Hypogem (also known as Hypogeum). This is a Neolithic subterranean structure that’s over six-thousand years old, and our current best guess is that it was used as a necropolis. Creepy, cool, and a must-see.
Malta is Home to Some Unique Wildlife
While an island that has no forests and lakes might seem like it’s lacking on the wildlife front, Malta is actually home to a number of endemic plant and animal species, especially bugs and insects. Many of this flora and fauna is in fact endangered, but there’s also a lot of species that are still to be correctly taxonomically classified, so we could be looking at even more Maltese animals soon.
There are more endemic animals than plants on the archipelago, and one of our favourites is the vividly coloured yet slightly horrifying when it flies right in front of you Maltese Ruby Tiger Moth. If you prefer your animals cute and cuddly, the Sicilian Shrew is also endemic to the island nation – although we wouldn’t recommend picking one up.