Discover Malta’s extraordinary history ranging over a remarkable six thousand year period
Encounter the Knights of Malta in all their magnificence
See one of Caravaggio’s greatest paintings, ‘The Beheading of St John the Baptist’
Includes a day spent on Gozo
We stay in arguably Valletta’s best hotel, The Phoenicia
Sitting in the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta’s small scale belies the number and range of truly fascinating sites, monuments and artistic treasures to be found on the island. For most English speaking visitors, its history is dominated by recent events when the islanders withstood a remarkable siege during the darkest days of World War II. This feat of military resistance is, however, a recent chapter in what is a long history of military and cultural engagement. Indeed the island has proved irresistible to generations of traders, sea-farers, homeless knights and in more recent times, the curious and intelligent traveller!
Malta’s antiquity should not be doubted as the island has Europe’s most remarkable group of monuments from the pre-classical world, many of them literally awe-inspiring! The Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans all knew Malta and its strategic importance continued throughout medieval times as both Christianity and Islam developed a keen interest in keeping Malta within their respective spheres of influence.
The Habsburg Emperor, Charles V, gave Malta to the homeless Knights of St John as a permanent base, hoping they would secure the island against Ottoman attack and this military role became the island’s principal function. Napoleon expelled the Knights and after his defeat the British took control. Thus the island once again became an important staging post as more recent ‘Imperial’ strategies developed. This helps explain the long and friendly links between Malta and Britain, leavened by Malta’s geographical proximity both to North Africa and to Italy. The resultant mixing of Mediterranean cultures with English norms makes Malta particularly attractive!
Led by one of Malta’s most distinguished guides, Glorianne Mizzi, we shall spend six nights in Valletta at the very comfortable 5* Hotel Phoenicia. Recently reopened after restoration, the Phoenicia is perfectly placed for our explorations of this historic walled city and the wider islands.
Day by day
- Day 1: Tuesday 10 April
- On arrival in Valletta we shall be met by our lecturer, Glorianne Mizzi. Valletta has two magnificent natural harbours and we begin our visit with a cruise around both Marasamxett and the Grand Harbours. While we are ‘on board’ our luggage will be taken to the Hotel Phoenicia and placed in our rooms. That evening there will be a group dinner in the hotel. Wine, water and coffee are included with all group meals.
- Day 2: Wednesday 11 April
- We begin with a walking tour of the historic centre, including the Upper Barrakka Gardens which gives panoramic views over the city and then on to the nearby Museum of Archaeology for an introduction to the island’s early history. The splendidly decorated St. John’s Cathedral is the main resting place for the Knights and each of the langues (groups of knights based on a shared geographical origin) had its own chapel.
- The most famous work of art in the Cathedral is Caravaggio’s monumental painting of The Beheading of St John the Baptist. We break for a group lunch and then we shall enjoy a multimedia show - ‘The Malta Experience’ – a comprehensive history of the Maltese Islands. Following this, we visit The Sacra Infermeria, the sixteenth century hospital of the Order of St John which also contains a themed exhibition on the Knights Hospitaller. We return to the hotel and the evening will be free.
- Day 3: Thursday 12 April
- This morning’s visit has a horticultural emphasis as we begin with the San Anton Garden, surrounding the official residence of Malta’s President. We continue to the Catacombs of St. Paul. They derive their name from their proximity to St. Paul’s Church and Grotto. They are a fascinating labyrinth of third century AD subterranean tombs and contain the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta. There will be a group lunch in Mdina, followed by several visits, including the Cathedral and nearby Palazzo Falson. We return to the hotel and the evening will be free.
- Day 4: Friday 13 April
- We spend the day on Gozo, taking a short ferry ride from Cirkewwa. On arrival at Mgarr Harbour we drive to the Ggantija Temples, one of the most important archaeological sites in Malta dating back to 3600 BC. The highlight of the day will be a visit to the Rabat Citadel which stands on top of a hill in the centre of Gozo. We then enjoy a group lunch at a local restaurant. After this jolly occasion, we continue to Calypso’s Cave, the legendary “home” of Ulysses! Other visits may be included while on Gozo, depending on local conditions. We return to Valletta and the evening will be free.
- Day 5: Saturday 14 April
- The morning will begin with a tour of The Hypogeum, a remarkable pre-historic underground complex. We continue on to visit the Tarxien Temples, four megalithic temples constructed in southern Malta between 3600 and 2500 BC. The site lay hidden for centuries until its discovery in 1914. Our group lunch will be on the seafront in one of Marsaxlokk’s fish restaurants. In the afternoon we pause to look at the Blue Grotto before visiting the 5000 year old Hagar Qim Complex, dating from the Ggantija phase, and the Mnajdra Temples, three conjoined Neolithic temples dating from c.3000 BC. The evening will be free.
- Day 6: Sunday 15 April
- We leave the hotel to drive to Birgu, the first maritime town on the island. Its primitive church, San Lorenzo-a-Mare, was built by Spanish seafarers with the help of their kings. We then continue to the ‘Malta at War’ Museum and the atmospheric Inquisitors Palace. Our group lunch will be at a restaurant which has fabulous views of the Marina and Valletta. After a free afternoon we shall enjoy a private visit to the historic Casa Rocca Piccola. This was built in the late sixteenth century for Don Pietro La Rocca, a Knight of Malta and is now the family home of the ninth Marquis di Piro who will be our host. We continue to our final group dinner in a nearby restaurant.
- Day 7: Monday 16 April
- We spend our last morning in Valletta, walking to the Manoel Theatre, built in 1732 by Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. We shall also visit the nearby St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. After coffee we continue to The Grandmaster’s Palace, the central governing location of the Knights for whom the richly decorated interiors were created. The British then followed and today the Palace is the seat of Malta’s government. Our final group lunch will be at a well-known and popular restaurant in Valletta after which we continue to the airport for the return flight to Heathrow.
- Price: £2,490 per person
- Price without flights: £2,330
- Deposit: £300
- Single Supplement: £395 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: Stephen Brook
6 Nights with Breakfast at the 5* Hotel Phoenicia
Upgrades Harbour View £300 per room
Outward: KM101 Depart London Heathrow (T4) 1050, arrive Malta 1500
Return: KM102 Depart Malta 1705, arrive London Heathrow (T4) 1930
2 Dinners & 6 Lunches with wine, water & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, services of Glorianne Mizzi & Tour Manager Stephen Brook
Travel to/from Heathrow, 4 Dinners
Weather Conditions for Malta in April are:
Average Temperature between: 13oC - 18oC / 55oF - 64oF
Rainfall: 15mm / 0.5inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.