10 things to do in Malta this summer – Venture off the beaten track

Posted on July 1, 2010

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 1) Venture off the beaten track

I am sure that I will probably slap the next person who complains that Malta is boring and has only one sandy beach and then admits that he’s never explored beyond St. Julians and Paceville. In fact, even in a country as tiny as Malta, many tourists simply linger around their hotel location and the main recreational area and only venture beyond on highly touristy guided outings. I will never get tired of saying this – Malta’s size is not a reflection of its limits. Even here you’ll find numerous opportunities for off the beaten track exploration where locals are so unused to tourists that if you’re Asian, you’ll probably be one of the very few people with different eyes (except for maybe the guys in the many faux chinese restaurants) they’ll have ever seen.

The following is just one such trip but with a map and again, a bit of research, you’ll be able to come up with your own ideas.

– Walking tour of the Vittoriosa and Kalkara coast

Ok, so Vittoriosa is already on the tourist radar, but I’ll offer you something with a twist. Approach the city from its coast, and take in the Marina with views across to its neighbouring city of Cospicua which has, like Vittoriosa, retained all its old traditional houses build with the local limestone (no concrete to be seen). Walk straight until you reach a modern (and terribly incongruous) block of apartments which to be fair should have never been allowed to be built in such a style and turn right. The first thing which will make you go ‘wow’ is a series of limestone arches overlooking a salt water pool. The picture I’ve posted here doesn’t really come anywhere close to how beautiful this spot is – the sunshine bouncing of the warm yellow of the stone during the day and the rich black sky framed by the arches at night.

Now, keep walking, turning right, until the roughly 2 metre- high wall blocking the view gives way to a open view of the sea. I am totally in love with this spot, from where I can see Valletta’s fortifications to the left, the Grand Harbour’s breakwaters right ahead, and a bit of my home town Kalkara’s heart. I often just take a book, sit down on the rocks and soak up a bit of fresh air and sunshine. On most occasions, if you do as I do, you’ll find you’ll have the place for yourself.

Hungry? Start walking again, still along the coast, making your way to that big church you can see in the distance. As you do so, notice the pretty boats and the strange building on the headland opposite which once housed a war hospital but is now home to a restoration school. When you finally arrive in front of that church, look for a little eatery selling traditional cheese cakes and pastry snacks. I know, this stuff looks and is oily and high in calorie content, but you need just that to power you up for the walk ahead.

From here, you may choose to move forwards by still strolling along the coast, or to simply get the short cut which takes you uphill through the old part of the village core. Through both ways, you’ll soon find yourself having to descend a little hill to reach the coast again, and here you’ll find another delight; Rinella bay.

I grew up swimming and running around this place, so excuse me if I get a bit overly sentimental about it. It’s small, that is true, but because of this it won’t be swamped by tourists. Actually, I’ve hardly ever seen tourists there at all. It is also a relief that from this bay, unlike those in St Julians and around, you won’t see any discordant ugly building in sight, because facing it is only the Southern side of Valletta. Stay until sundown if you want to see the capital lit up with myriad twinkling lights.

Yes, I grew up very close to this beach. When I was a kid, the whole crew of ‘Gladiator’ moved to an open space I could spy on from my sister’s bedroom window. Giant men, obviously playing the parts of the gladiators, ate their lunches along communal tables set up for the purpose. One of them turned to my direction, thinking no one could see him and took a piss. From my balcony I could also often see the film’s elephant bathe in the Rinella bay, spraying himself with the salty water in delight. The camels used in the movie grazed the fields in front of my house and the tigers lay largely hidden from view in cages just a short walk uphill. All these exotic characters and Russell Crowe (who I never managed to see) have long since left, but I still recommend continuing your journey up that hill you’ll find to the right of the bay for unobstructed open sea views, and if you’re into that sort of thing, a visit to Fort Rinella to see  the largest cannon in the world.

For a map of the area click here. Basically you have to snake your way from Vittoriosa along Kalkara Creek and 3/4 of the way round Rinella Creek -there will be a point here where you won’t be able to continue walking along the coast and will need to take a short cut up a hill, after which you’ll once again find the sea.

-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com

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Posted in: Malta