With festas lasting three days (or longer!), plenty of diving and snorkelling hotspots and a European Capital of Culture in 2018, Malta is an appealing destination. Georgina Deacon discovers more about this exciting archipelago.

Despite its small size, Malta is an island with a vibrant personality and a lot of heart. The archipelago, of which three islands are inhabited, soak up some of the highest levels of sunshine in Europe, meaning that everyone spends a lot of time outside enjoying the Mediterranean climate.

There is, in fact, so much to do here to make the most of the weather, that Stefanie Grech from NSTS English Language Institute describes the country as "a big open-air museum". Malta's history stretches back millennia and seven prehistoric temples still stand today, also known as Megalithic Temples of Malta. The Ggantija Temples, dating from 3600 to 3200 BC, were thought to be the work of giants, while the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, also dating from the same period, is an underground architectural masterpiece with halls and chambers.


Above ground, the Maltese like to throw many festas, or feasts, and every village has its own where tradition is celebrated with parades, food and music. Ingmar Albig at EC Malta adds, "You can see some spectacular fireworks and celebrate the occasion with lively locals."


While the cultural perks of the islands speak for themselves, schools are keen to stress that Malta isn't only a holiday destination. "People often forget about the very high ESL education standards here," explains James Meikle at Maltalingua School of English "English language schools are a large and very important part of the Maltese economy, meaning English teaching is a highly respected profession."



Get to know Malta

Cultural Events
What better time to visit Malta than next year when Valletta, the capital, becomes the European Capital of Culture in 2018, says Will Clark from inlingua Malta Throughout the year there will be a wide variety of different cultural events taking place, from arts to ballet to conservation to music,



Explore the Azure Water
James suggests a boat trip to the Blue Grotto as "a fantastic and very authentic Maltese experience". He adds that his favourite hidden gem is the Coral Lagoon in the north of the island, "a huge hole in the ground which is connected by the sea to a natural tunnel". It is possible to go snorkelling and kayaking there.


St Peter's Pool
Located in the southwest, this is "one of the most stunning natural pools in Malta", according to Stefanie. Although it is not easily accessed, swimmers can take to the crystal clear waters via a ladder or by jumping from the surrounding rocks.



Tastes of the Med

Students will need to keep their energy up after all the sightseeing, festas and diving, and Malta offers an abundance of treats to keep them full. Stefanie recommends pastizzi, "a warm, savoury pastry traditionally made from puff pastry and filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas - a delicious snack at any time of day".



Ingmar suggests getting pastizzi at Crystal Palace in Rabat or trying kapunata, "a humble vegetarian dish made with aubergines, bell peppers, tomatoes, capers, onions and garlic, and can be served hot or cold with a thick slice of fresh Maltese bread".


Will adds, "For a true taste of the Mediterranean, we'd recommend aljotta, an absolutely mouth-watering traditional Maltese fish soup."


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