These two small islands in the southern Mediterranean are wrapped in the regions' warmest and clearest waters, and is one of the few European destinations where warm water diving is possible year-round. A strong and enticing mix of intact, penetrable wrecks, marine life, caverns and flourishing drop-offs will keep the 50+ dive sites that ring these islands at the top of the mind for European divers. The reefs and wrecks glow with orange, red and green encrusting corals. The wrecks represent several eras and both shipwrecks and airplanes, including WWII casualties and wrecks recently sunk as artificial reefs. Both wrecks and reefs teem with bream, octopus and grouper. These islands offer more than 7,000 years of human occupation and cultural heritage. Architecture runs the gamut from temples dedicated to the goddess of fertility to dozens of wonderfully ornamented cathedrals, forts and palaces. Don't miss the UNESCO Hypogeum - an enormous subterranean excavated structure. On the modern side, nightlife thrives on Malta, and sun drenched beaches offer the perfect place to unwind.
When to go:
When to Get the Best Deals:
September to March.
What to Pack:
5 mm wetsuit in summer; 7 mm in winter with hood and gloves, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, sturdy shoes that can get wet for hiking, attire for nightlife, DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 14°C/57°F in winter and 25°C/77°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 14°C /57°Fin winter and 30°C/87°F in summer.
Euro; Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
None required .
What to Eat:
All the things that make Mediterranean food so wonderful are found in the cuisine of Malta and Gozo - of course, with a local touch. Combinations of fish, pasta. olives, olive oil, fresh and sundried tomatoes, parsley, garlic, onions and delicious cheeses abound in local food, served with crusty Maltese bread. Rabbit is also a specialty you'll find on many menus. Snack on pastizzi (pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese or peas) or mqaret (deep fried date-filled pastry).
What to Drink:
Kinnie is a must-try an herb-infused orange drink unique to Malta and Gozo. Cisk Lager and Hopleaf Pale Ale are popular local beers. Maltese wines are excellent and compliment to the local food. You'll also find interesting local liqueurs like Anisette, made from the aniseed, and Bajtra, made from the prickly pear.
Visit the UNESCO site of Hypogeum, one of almost a dozen UNESCO sites; Medieval Mdina; go on a wine tour; sip a drink in the old city of Birgu; hit the Crafts Village looking for souvenirs.
Customs and Culture:
The Maltese are traditionally fishermen, strongly Catholic and this small group of island has come under the influence of every major culture in European history, so it has a wonderful multicultural acceptance of people.
Feast of Santa Marija in August; L'Imnarja harvest festival, June; Christmas and Easter are heavily celebrated.
Electricity and Internet:
240V/50Hz; Internet is common in hotels.
Drink the water?
Bottled water is recommended.
Maltese and English.
Amazing Marine Life
This bottom-crawler looks like a fuzzy red caterpillar.
Schooling fish common on most wrecks and reefs.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.
These brilliantly colored fish do, indeed, possess remarkably parrot-like beaks that they use to grind coral structures so they can eat the soft coral animals inside.
Mottled in scaly patterns of reds and browns, the scorpionfish can blend easily with polyp-encrusted rocks, but its venomous dorsal spines render this beauty a danger.
These swift predators patrol over many of the wrecks off Malta and Gozo.
With their curling tails and iconic chess-piece profiles, seahorses are can be spotted by the watchful diver among sea grasses, kelp, or sea fans.
Wily and secretive, the octopus is often found in holes and crannies of reefs and wrecks.
These predatory fish are often seen on the wrecks.
Also known as rock lobsters, these crustaceans sport brown or orange shells, often colorfully dappled with yellow, blue, or green.
Top Dive Spots
Blue Dome/Cathedral Cave, Gozo:
Named for the brilliant blue shafts of light penetrating its arched entrance, this site features sponge-encrusted boulders, damselfish, bream, and scorpionfish.
Marfa Point Caves (The Madonna), Cirkewwa-Marfa:
This cavern houses a statue of the Madonna, kept company by fire worms, urchins, cardinalfish, octopus, sea stars, and jellies.
Dragonara Cave, L'Ahrax Point:
This shallow cave system in an inland seawater lake offers superb vistas into the open ocean from within the caverns. Look for golden cup corals, red sponges, false coral, tubeworms, sea stars, cardinalfish, chromis, parrotfish, and morays.
Home to the wreck of the Imperial Eagle and a 3-meter/9-foot statue (blessed by the Pope) of Christ, this reef also features a gorgeous array of marine life.
Migrah Ferha (M'tahleb):
Renowned for its steep wall and intricate cave system, this site experiences cold freshwater run-off which creates a unique ecosystem.
Lantern Point/Lighthouse Reef, Comino:
Swim through a wide chimney to a plateau at 14 meters/45 feet. The caverns, overhangs, and small caves here shelter damselfish, sea stars, shrimp, crabs, and sponges. Look for dentex, amberjacks, barracuda, bream, and grouper.
Santa Maria Caves, Comino:
This site features a cave system of more than ten caverns, some of them opening to air pockets, that shelter octopus, crabs, spiny lobster, sponges, conger eels, mullet, shrimp, damselfish, morays, and grouper.
This 114-meter/375-foot British destroyer was bombed and sank during a World War II air raid, after famously helping to sink the German Battleship Bismark. Penetration is possible for experienced divers, and her hull is filled with marine life. Look for octopus, seahorses, and scorpionfish.
Ghar Lapsi, Zurrieq:
This large cavern is renowned for dramatic lighting through cracks in its ceiling, which also provide exits for divers to swim directly out onto the reef.
Malta's equivalent to the Titanic, this 19th-century passenger liner was sent to the bottom by a German U-Boat during World War I. Resting in deep waters, this is a dive suitable only for experienced divers.