As the endless snapshots of Capri and the Amalfi Coast splash all over your Instagram feed, it’s easy to think there couldn’t be a single destination on the Mediterranean that has yet to be flooded by American travelers. But just south of Sicily, the Maltese Islands of Malta, Gozo, and Comino remain gorgeously undiscovered by newlyweds, bachelorettes, and that friend of a friend who always seems to have Summer Fridays. This island country in the central Mediterranean may be under the radar in the US mainstream, but it’s well-known among Hollywood royalty. Malta is home to turquoise grottoes and sandstone cliffs, walled cities, and cobblestone streets. Read on to find out why it should be on your bucket list as the most Instagram-worthy summer getaway.
1. Paradise Bay, Malta: The coast of the aptly named Paradise Bay looks like a Gray Malin photograph, with rows of pastel umbrellas overlooking a cerulean sea. The sandy beach is surrounded by rugged green cliffs, a sheltered paradise. Of the three main islands, Malta is the most urban, followed by the rural fishing villages of Gozo and the remote lagoons of Camino (hotels: 1, population: 3).
2. The Salt Pans of Xlendi, Gozo: From Ċirkewwa on Malta’s northern coast you can catch the ferry to the neighboring island of Gozo. Head for the salt pans of Xlendi to witness a patterned coastal landscape so surreal and beautiful it feels like you’ve landed on Mars.
3. The Blue Lagoon, Camino: The Blue Lagoon on the tiny island of Camino is one of the most beautiful (and Instagrammable) destinations in Malta. Get there early to stake out your spot on the beach – but swimming and snorkeling in the crystal water is well worth any crowds.
4. Luzzu Fishing Boats, Malta: Who wants a gondola on a Venetian canal when you could cruise around the harbor of Valletta on a luzzu? The traditional Maltese fishing boat is far more colorful, decorated in bright shades of yellow and blue, with eyes painted on the bow.
5. The Blue Grotto, Malta: Take a boat ride off the southeast coast of Malta to explore the iconic sea caves of the Blue Grotto in the Inland Sea. Brilliant shades of turquoise reflect off the cave walls, while shades of red, green, and yellow glow from underwater. Unsurprisingly, this is a very popular scuba diving destination.
6. Mdina, Malta: Visit the ancient walled city of Mdina, also known as “The Silent City.” The history is palpable as you explore the site: Mdina was the island’s capital from antiquity through to the medieval period. Climb the steps to the very top of the citadel for sweeping views of the island at sunset.
7. Dwejra Bay, Gozo: Head to Dwerja Bay in Gozo to visit another Instagram-worthy destination on the Inland Sea. Take a boat ride (or go snorkeling) to explore the narrow tunnels in the cliffs connecting the Dwejra Bay to the Inland Sea.
8. St. Paul’s Island: Aside from the country’s three main islands (Malta, Gozo, and Comino), there are 19 other smaller islands in the archipelago. St. Paul’s Island, uninhabited since World War II, is a historic Christian landmark as the site of St. Paul’s shipwreck in the Acts of the Apostles, and a statue of St. Paul commemorates this legacy.
9. The Qbajjar Sandstone, Gozo: The main colors of the Maltese Islands are blue and yellow — the water and land. We’re back on land for our next recommendation: the otherworldly sandstone of Qbajjar Village in Gozo. Keep an eye out for carvings etched into the eroding faces of the cliffs.
10. Valletta, Malta: Europe’s first planned city, Valletta is also the cinematic home of the mythical Helen of Troy: Both the Brad Pitt film Troy and the (non-Brad Pitt) miniseries Helen of Troy were filmed in the Maltese islands — as was Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s moody (yet gorgeous) film By the Sea. Walking through the narrow cobblestone streets of the capital, it’s not hard to see why so many filmmakers have been inspired by the city.
What’s your favorite under-the-radar getaway? Tag us in your vacation destinations onInstagram!
(Photos via Getty)