Looking for interesting facts about Malta and Gozo? Tiny but brimming with big surprises, Malta proves that big things can come in small packages. With its breathtaking beaches, mesmerising monuments, and lovely weather, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. Are you planning a trip to this island nation? Check out these interesting facts about Malta.
Interesting Facts About Malta
Malta lies in the heart of the Mediterranean between Italy and Libya. It consists of 21 islands, of which only three – Malta, Gozo, and Comino – are inhabited. Even if you combine all Maltese islands, the nation’s size is no more than 316 square kilometres, making it one of the world’s smallest countries. Read on to discover more Malta facts.
Read More: Things to do in Malta with Kids
#1 What is Malta best known for?
Malta is a famous tourist hotspot known for its beaches, history, architecture, and pleasant weather. The locals are renowned for their friendliness, warmth, hospitality, and generosity to strangers.
#2 What is unique about Malta?
Blessed with gorgeous landscapes and striking architecture, Malta is one of the most picturesque places on the planet. It’s one of the few countries with a millennia-worth of recorded history. Despite its small land area, Malta has a diverse ecosystem and a melting pot of various cultures.
#3 How many official languages does Malta have?
Malta has more than one official language. In fact, it has three – Maltese, English and Maltese Sign Language. About 60% of locals also speak Italian. The Maltese language is quite diverse, described as a blend of Arabic, French, Italian, and English.
#4 Malta was under the rule of several empires
Throughout history, Malta has been ruled not by one or two empires but several. Sometime after 1000 BC, the Phoenicians arrived and colonised the islands. Then came the Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spaniards, Knights Templars, French, and last, the British.
#5 How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites does Malta have?
Malta has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including its capital city, Valletta. Among them are the Megalithic Temples built between 3600 BC and 2500 BC. The last one is the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a massive underground cemetery dating back to 4000 BC.
#6 Malta Has strong ties with St. Paul the Apostle
In 60 A.D., the ship carrying St. Paul to Rome, where he was to be tried as a political rebel, was caught in a storm and sunk. According to tradition, the shipwreck happened near one of the Maltese islands, now called St. Paul’s Bay. Whether or not the legend is true, Christianity, believed to have been brought to Malta by the apostle himself, is a significant aspect of Maltese culture.
Interesting Facts About Malta: Tourism
#7 Malta has more tourists than residents
Malta welcomes an average of 1.6 million tourists annually, about three times more than the national population of 533,286. It means the country has more visitors than actual residents.
#8 Malta is a popular filming location for big productions
An impressive list of multi-million productions was filmed in Malta, including Gladiator, Jurassic World Dominion, World War Z, and Games of Thrones. Malta has been a popular set location for decades, with Sons of the Seas being the first movie filmed in the country in 1925.
Geography of Malta
The brilliant blue waters of the Mediterranean surround the Maltese archipelago. Its landscape is a mix of low hills, terraced fields, rocky lowlands, and dry vegetation.
#9 How long is Malta in miles?
The entire Maltese archipelago is 27 miles long, with a distance of 17 miles from northwest to southwest. Its width is 9 miles, running in an east-west direction. The country’s total shoreline is 122 miles.
Want some more amazing facts about Malta island? You can drive across the island in less than an hour. And if you decide to walk, it will take around eight hours.
#10 Malta has no permanent rivers or lakes.
Malta may have all kinds of beaches, but it has no natural source of freshwater. You might see some small rivers during high rainfall (read about the different types of rain here), though these are not enough to sustain the population’s needs in the long run. For this reason, the country filters salt from seawater to get safe drinking water.
One of the country’s inhabited islands, Gozo is known for its scenic hiking paths, secluded beaches, scuba-diving sites, and the Ġgantija Temple ruins. In contrast to Malta Island, which is famous for its party scene and lively resorts, Gozo is for people looking for calm and serenity.
#11 Gozo is home to some of the oldest structures in the world
Perched on the Xagħra plateau on the island of Gozo, the Ggantija Temples are among the world’s oldest monuments. Built around 5,500 years ago, they are older than Britain’s Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt. It makes Gozo one of the earliest inhabited places on the planet.
#12 Gozo teems with churches
Gozo has 46 Catholic churches, and because the island is only 67 square kilometres, that’s one church for every 1.5 square kilometres. The Church of Saint John the Baptist, also called the Rotunda of Xewkija, is arguably the most famous. Its massive dome, the third largest in Europe, can fit 3,000 people inside it or the entire population of the village where it stands.
#13 Gozo is the native home of a rare medicinal plant
A rare parasitic flowering plant called General’s Root grows on a small islet called Fungus Rock on the coast of Gozo. The Knights of Malta used the plant to cure dysentery and dress wounds to control bleeding. The plant was so valuable to the Knights that they controlled access to Fungus Rock and punished any trespassers with a three-year service as oarsmen in the galleys.
Located on the main island, Valletta is the administrative centre and capital of Malta. It is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe, measuring only 0.61 square kilometres. The city is the country’s cultural hub and nightlife hot spot.
#14 How did Valletta get its name?
The fortified city of Valletta got its name from its founder Jean Parisot de la Valette, Grand Master of the Order of St. John. He successfully defended the island from the 1565 Ottoman invasion, known as the Great Siege of Malta. The invading Turks outnumbered the Knights of St. John by 30,000 soldiers, but the defenders managed to hold out for three months until the arrival of relief forces from Sicily.
#15 Valletta has underground tunnels
Beneath Valletta’s impressive streets is a network of tunnels called the Lascaris War Rooms, which dates back to 1565. In the 1800s, when the British ruled Malta, they added an underground railway from the city to the suburbs. The tunnels served as headquarters of the Allied Forces and air-raid shelters during WWII. They are now open to the public as a museum.
#16 Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Because of its fortifications, palaces, churches, piazzas and gardens, people often regard Valletta as an open-air museum. In 1980, UNESCO recognised the city as a World Heritage Site. Some of its top attractions are the Grand Master’s Palace, the Barrakka Gardens, and St. John’s Co-Cathedral, home to The Beheading of Saint John, a Caravaggio masterpiece.
Facts About Malta Foods
Have you tried traditional Maltese food? Quite underrated, but it’s one of the best cuisines in the world.
#17 What is the national dish of Malta?
Stuffat tal-fenek is Malta’s national dish. It consists of rabbit meat with a good heaping of carrots and potatoes cooked in sweet garlic confit and a red wine-and-tomato-based braise. The saucy stew pairs perfectly with crusty bread.
#18 What is Malta’s traditional breakfast?
Simple but filling, Balbuljata, a quick meal made of eggs and tomatoes, is a popular Maltese breakfast. It’s usually served with freshly-baked bread.
#19 Kinnie Drink is the (unofficial) national drink of Malta
Kinnie, Malta’s favourite soft drink, consists of brewed bitter oranges and extracts of wormwood. It was first introduced in 1952 and is known for its distinct bittersweet flavour.
#20 What is the most popular street food in Malta?
While in Malta, you must try pastizz, a savoury diamond-shaped pastry filled with either curried peas or ricotta.
Malta History Facts
Malta’s history is rich and deep, dating back to 5900 BC. Over the years, several empires have ruled the islands, creating an outstandingly diverse culture.
#21 Is Malta an Independent Country?
Malta gained its independence from the British and became a republic on December 13, 1974.
#22 What was Malta called before?
The Phoenicians, the first settlers of the islands, called Malta Maleth, which means shelter or haven. When the Romans took over, they twisted the island’s Phoenician name and called it Melita.
#23 The Knights of St. John once controlled Malta
One historical fact about Malta is that it didn’t come into prominence until the arrival of the Knights of St. John, also known as Knights Hospitaller. During their 250-year rule, they boosted the economy, built mighty defences, and protected the islands against attacks. While the natives were initially uneasy about the knights’ presence, both lived peacefully.
#24 Malta was one of the most heavily bombed places in WWII
From 1940 to 1942, over 3,300 air raids attacked Malta, destroying more than 30,000 buildings. Because of its strategic location, the country was under heavy bombing for 154 days and nights straight at one point.
Nature and Wildlife in Malta
Despite its size, Malta has diverse plant and animal life. Let’s learn more about this interesting Malta information.
#25 What are some endemic flora and fauna in Malta?
Some rare plants only found in Malta are the Maltese everlasting, the hoary rock rose and the Maltese pyramidal orchid. The Maltese wall lizard, ruby tiger moth, Sicilian shrew, and the indigenous Maltese goat are among the animals that are endemic to the islands.
#26 20% of Malta’s land is a protected area
There are 326 protected areas in Malta, covering a total of 91.3 square kilometres or 28.9% of the country’s land area. These include a bird sanctuary, national park, nature reserve, and protected beach. Additionally, 4,138 square kilometres (35.5%) of Maltese waters are marine protected areas.
Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Malta:
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Sylvie Simpson is the founder of European Cities with Kids. For the past 6 years, she has been travelling all over Europe whenever she has the chance, both solo, for work and with her daughter. Sylvie is on a mission to help people make the most of city breaks in Europe with kids and helps over 50,000 readers per month plan and make the most of their trips in Europe with kids.