Sailing to Malta by sailing boat, between the crystal sea, magnificent nature, and history
Malta, located halfway between North Africa and the splendour of the Sicilian coast, is a destination where nature and culture collide in a perfect medley of Mediterranean components. A small archipelago with high cliffs that descend into the crystal sea, sandy beaches, architecture that tells the story of many past civilizations, and a friendly population are the added values of this unique location in the world. Not to mention the delectable cuisine, which has absorbed influences from all over the Mediterranean basin. Malta has maintained its pristine beauty and welcoming atmosphere since the ancient Greeks fell in love with it and immediately recognised its strategic potential, which you can easily find in the labyrinth of city streets or on its beaches. The climate is also mild, with temperatures never dropping below freezing, even in the dead of winter. Malta is easily accessible at any time of year; sailing from Sicily takes less than two hours, making it ideal for sailors looking for a dream Mediterranean destination.
Malta, Gozo, and Comino, the archipelago’s three main islands, are excellent destinations for those who enjoy cruises and sailing, as they offer complete relaxation as well as lively nightlife, marinas with boating services, and, above all, indescribably beautiful landscapes where the blue of the sky intertwines with the crystal azure colour of the sea.
La Valletta is Malta’s capital and is located in the northern part of the island, on a peninsula between two large peninsulas, which makes it a truly magical natural creation. UNESCO has designated the city as a world heritage site due to its artistic beauty and architectural style, which stems from a wonderful mix of civilizations and peoples. The Cathedral of St. John, the first seat of the Knights of Malta, is well worth a visit, and it even contains two Caravaggio paintings. The Palace of the Grand Masters, the current seat of Parliament, and the Museum of Fine Arts, where you can learn about the city’s fascinating history, are also worth a visit.
The city itself has excellently preserved walls and is extremely rich in historical buildings, with as many as 25 churches, several palaces and forts, numerous theatres and museums, and parks that serve as the city’s green lungs. The Lower Barrakka Gardens (Maltese Il-Barrakka t’lsfel) is one of the city’s parks (located at the bottom of the bastion of Saint Christopher, which is part of the city walls) and provides a panoramic view of the harbours (Grand Harbor) and the so-called three cities: the oldest Vittoriosa (Birgu), Cospicua, and Senglea, as well as the fortresses of Ricasoli and Saint Angelo.
Comino and the enchanting Blue Lagoon
Head northwest after sailing from the Grand Harbor past the fortresses of Punta Sant’Elmo and Punta Ricasoli. Several wonderful bays suitable for anchoring are immediately visible along Malta’s eastern profile: the wide Millieha bay with a sandy bottom and the bay of Mistra in the interior of the bay of St. Paul, which you can recognise by the island with the statue of the saint, who was shipwrecked on these shores in 60 AD while returning from the Holy Land. After passing through the neighbouring peninsula of Cirkewwa, you enter the Gozo Channel, where you can admire the giant abandoned rock and the mighty mass of the solitary tower of Santa Maria, one of many built by Grand Master of the Knights of Malta Alof de Wignacourt in 1600.
When you reach Lantern Point, Comino reveals its full beauty, opening up with small islands, sea caves, and natural arches. Two lagoons are the island’s distinguishing features. The Blue Lagoon is more famous, with a bottom made of soft white sand that reflects the sun’s rays and thus makes the sea aquamarine in colour. The second is the equally enthralling Crystal Lagoon, which is hidden between two cliffs and is a true paradise not only for the eyes, but also for diving enthusiasts, of which there are plenty given the colourful and diverse underwater fauna.
The beauties of the island of Gozo: bays, coves and natural arches
After leaving the island of Comino, you sail towards the port of Mgarr on the island of Gozo. This is the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago, and it is quite different from Malta. If the latter is densely populated, the island of Gozo has remained quite rural, with its rolling hills and citrus and bougainvillaea plantations planted between jagged cliffs by the sea. Deep bays suitable for diving in the wonderful emerald sea can be found in the south: Mgarr ix Xini and Xlendi bay, both of which have a quiet village with several restaurants by the sea. To the west, anchorage is possible in the blue bay of Dweira, which is nearly closed by a rock known as Fungus Rock. A little further north is the “Blue Hole,” a unique rock pool that reveals magnificent natural arches and light plays underwater, which divers particularly enjoy. Next to it was the famous Azure Window, a magnificent natural limestone arch that unfortunately collapsed due to strong waves in the spring of 2017.
Another very beautiful and wild natural arch, the Mielah Window, can be found sailing at the north-western end of the island, called San Dimitri Point, next to the smooth cliffs of the Salt Pans, on which the island’s salt pans are located. There is a good anchorage along the coast (but not in northerly winds) with a nice view of the town, which has a small harbour for smaller vessels. There are three beautiful bays further east where you can spend the day swimming, diving, and snorkelling. Ramla Bay is the first, a beach with red sand dunes that conceal Roman ruins. On the cape’s slope, we find a cave with a view of the bay, where the nymph Calypso imprisoned Odysseus. Then there’s San Blas Bay, which is similar to the previous one but smaller, and San Filip Bay, which is next to Qorrot Bay and has a beautiful bay with an emerald-coloured sea where fishermen have dug shelters for their boats in the soft limestone.
The capital city of Victoria (Rabat in Maltese), dedicated to Queen Victoria of England, is located in the hinterland of the island of Gozo. At dawn, the It-Tokk market awakens, and with it, the streets of the island’s capital, which are sunny and noisy. As a strategic location for the defence of the inhabitants, the Citadel fortress overlooks almost the entire island. Do not miss the Gozo Natural History Museum, which displays the island’s most important natural attractions, and the Grann Castello Folklore Museum, which contains artefacts from various historical periods that reconstruct Gozo’s daily and domestic life; also worth seeing are the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, the Basilica of St. George, the Independence Square with the military memorial and the town hall (Banca Giuratale), several military shelters, and the gardens of the Rundle Villa.