The Maltese archipelago lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean, 93 km south of Sicily and 288 km north of Africa.


description here The archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino with a total population of over 400,000 inhabitants occupying an area of 316 square kilometres.

Malta is the largest island and the cultural, commercial and administrative centre.

Gozo is the second largest island and is more rural, characterised by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture.

Cominois the smallest of the trio, has one hotel and is largely uninhabited.

History


Humans have inhabited Malta since about 5200 BC, when Stone Age hunters or farmers arrived from Sicily. Early Neolithic settlements were discovered in open areas and also in caves, such as G?arDalam. Around 3500 BC, a culture of megalithic temple builders then either supplanted or arose. They built some of the oldest existing, free-standing structures in the world in the form of megalithic temples such as those at ?a?arQim and Mnajdra. After 2500 BC, Malta was depopulated but soon became the home of Bronze Age settlers, who settled in sites such as Bor? in-Nadur. They built first fortifications in Malta.

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description here Malta was later ruled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines and Arabs before it was occupied by the County of Sicily in 1091. The island then became part of the Kingdom of Sicily until it was given to the Order of Saint John along with Gozo and Tripoli in 1530. In 1565, the Order and the Maltese withstood a major Ottoman invasion which became known as the Great Siege of Malta. The Order ruled Malta for over 250 years and built many great pieces of architecture, including the capital city Valletta. In 1798 the French under Napoleon occupied Malta and ruled for a couple of months until the Maltese rebelled. In 1800, the British took control over Malta and the island initially became a British protectorate, and a colony a couple of years later. The British ruled for about 150 years and Malta became independent in 1964. Ten years later the State of Malta became the Republic of Malta. Malta joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the Euro four years later.

Economy


Malta - the smallest economy in the euro zone - produces only about 20% of its food needs, has limited fresh water supplies, and has few domestic energy sources. Malta adopted the euro on 1 January 2008. Malta's economy is dependent on foreign trade, manufacturing, tourism, IT, gaming and financial services, and was hurt by the global economic downturn, but fared better than most other EU member states. Malta has low unemployment relative to other European countries, and growth has recovered since the 2009 recession. Malta's financial services industry has grown in recent years and it has avoided contagion from the European financial crisis, largely because its debt is mostly held domestically and its banks have low exposure to the sovereign debt of peripheral European countries.

Economy

Attractions


Valletta Valletta described by UNESCO's World Heritage website as "one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world", Valletta is Malta's capital city squeezed in less than one square kilometre of space. From the rich St. John's Co-Cathedral, to the pristine 300 year old Manoel Theatre, restaurants, arts, monuments, traditional balconies, shops and malls, museums, forts and bastions, flea markets... Valletta has got it all.

Mdina is Malta's medieval jewel. It's distinctive narrow winding streets sheltered by imposing walls of nobles houses are simply beautiful and suggestive to stroll in. Hardly any signs of modern development are noticeable and the lamp-lit evenings are surreal. A number of attractions related to its history are well worth visiting and you also get the best views of Malta from here.

Mdina

Gozo Gozo is a smaller rural island to the north of Malta just a half-hour ferry ride away. It is a vivid glimpse into what Malta was up to a few decades ago. A slower pace of life, welcoming locals, open countryside, raw rugged coastlines, sleepy unconverted villages and traditional crafts. Gozo's must-see attractions include the Citadella, Ggantija Temples, ta' Pinu Sanctuary and the Dwejra area.

Comino is a miniscule island half way between Malta and Gozo. In an area of just over a square mile, it packs a day's pleasurable walk complete with a charming little chapel, picturesque castle and dramatic cliffs, a four star hotel with self-catering apartments and the incredible Blue Lagoon. The latter's turquoise waters must be the best spot for swimming and snorkelling anywhere in the Mediterranean.

Comino

Sun, sand and sea Sun, sand and sea. Even though Malta has a multitude of historic and cultural gems, the sunny weather, some of the cleanest sea anywhere and idyllic beaches remain a main draw for tourists. There are the obvious popular sandy beaches as well as the rugged but no less beautiful rocky coasts. Gozo also has a number of unique spots and Comino's Blue Lagoon is material for glossy brochures.

Diving. Thanks to the ideal weather, diving in Malta is an all year round sport. The Mediterranean waters surrounding the Maltese islands are some of the cleanest and clearest seas you will ever see. With dramatic underwater drop-offs, intriguing caves, a variety of natural and artificial reefs, a healthy marine life and very professional diving schools dotting the islands, diving here gets two thumbs up.

Diving

Village Religious Feasts Village Religious Feasts. This is another typical southern European tradition. The sheer amount of effort, energy, fanaticism and belief that goes into these 'festas' draws in the crowds, both local and foreign. Follow the town band and statue processions, let your hair down in street parties and meditate in adorned churches, taste traditional delicacies from street stalls and marvel at breath taking firework displays.