Malta is one of the world’s smallest countries, but it’s becoming a big hit with the Irish as a holiday destination. We all know that Malta has sun, sea, great beaches and lots of shopping and nightlife - but it also has a few surprises besides. Check out some of our favourite lesser known facts about Malta before you go.
1. Malta is a Game of Throne fan’s haven
If you don’t know your Jon Snow from your Tyrion Lannister, you won’t care that Malta is the backdrop for Game of Thrones first season’s scenes. For those who are fans of the record-breaking show
however, a holiday to Malta is the perfect chance to do a Game of Thrones tour of the island.
If you can squeeze in only a couple of places, the city of Mdina
should be one of them, as this is the site of “King’s Landing”. Follow it up with a visit to Valetta, to explore Fort Manoel. While the fort was originally an active military establishment, the cast of Game of Thrones filmed the climatic “Sept of Baelor” scene here.
The Azure Window on the island of Gozo is also well worth a visit, whether or not you’re a fan of the show. The natural arch offers incredibly beautiful views over the Mediterranean Sea, and it served as the location of the “Dothraki wedding”. Experts say it won’t be long until the sea has eroded the arch away, so it’s best to catch this view while you can!
2. Malta is BIG on holidays!
Ireland’s nine public holidays seem measly compared to Malta, which has no less than 14 public holiday days. While Ireland has one national holiday—St Patrick’s Day—Malta has five! The good news for tourists is that the Maltese people love to celebrate their holidays.
If you plan your trip between August 30th and September 8th, you’re in for a treat, as the Feast of Our Lady of Victories will take place. It’s a week-long party with plenty of fireworks, live music and folk dancing to keep you entertained.
3. The Maltese are car mad and drive like the Italians
The people of Malta love their cars and as the Maltese drive on the left, renting a car to get around the island won’t pose too much of a culture shock for Irish visitors. However, you’ll have to prepare to share the road with the locals, who have been accused of driving more like the Italians!
As a close neighbour of Sicily, perhaps this is to be expected. Before Malta joined the EU its roads were full of classic cars, not unlike Cuba. Nowadays there are fewer classics on Malta’s roads, but you’ll still spot one or two on your travels. If not, you can always check out the Classic Car Museum in Qawra.
4. Tom Hanks is no stranger to Malta’s Mediterranean seas
Captain Phillips, the 2013 American thriller, was filmed on Malta’s coast. Depicting the true story of 2009’s Maersk Alabama hijacking, where Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by pirates in the Indian Ocean.
Tom Hanks played the Captain himself, and as a result, he spent plenty of time exploring the Maltese coastline. If you fancy your own ocean adventure you could head for the east coast of the island for a spot of diving on some of Malta’s top shipwrecks.
5. Malta is home to a temple older than Newgrange
Malta has some of the oldest buildings in the world, and you’ll soon get the picture as you wander around the islands. Gozo is home to Ggantija which was built before writing and the wheel were even invented! This complex of temples was constructed around 6,000 years ago, 400 years before Newgrange was built in Ireland.
Also worth a visit is the Hypogeum in Valetta, the underground burial place of 7,000 Stone Age people. But make sure to book in advance if you want to visit as these are two of Malta’s most popular prehistoric spots.
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