Malta – the tiny meditereanan island situated between Italy and Africa is well known for its rich history and therefore the countless churches, fortifications, towers, medieval houses and manors. Due to the warm climate and the fact that Malta’s second language is English, the island attracts many sightseeing and beach tourists. But let’s forget about mainstream tourism for now. Let me take you to Malta’s countryside for beautiful walks off the beaten path.
Malta off the beaten path
Malta off the beaten path and track means beautiful walks around secluded places. Small authentic villages, dramatic cliffs and rocks, prehistoric ruins, canyons and valleys. It means stunning views, sea breeze and sunsets.
Away from the agglomeration and the urban areas such as Sliema, St. Julians or Valletta, you will find a great amount of beautiful countryside. As much as I like urban Malta, on each visit I’m falling more in love with the calm and the peace of the villages. They seem untouched from modernity and provide you with the blissful feeling that ‘the world is still ok’.
Walking and hiking in Malta, off the beaten path
Even if you are not a great hiker, you will not regret keeping a window in your sightseeing calendar for some beautiful walks around the island.
The steep Cliffs of Dingli, the pittoresque fisherman village of Marsaxlokk, the Ridge of Marfa or the temples of Ħaġar Qim. Those are just a few sites to name.
There is a variety of walks you can choose from. While my favorite are the amazing views from the top of the cliffs plunging into waves, there are also many beautiful inland trials. They will take you through valleys and fields, where you can observe farmers at work. You walk through picturesque villages with chapels and churches, with watch towers and windmills. You see palaces and other hidden gems dating from the middle ages.
In this rural scenery you feel like you traveled back to the times of the Knights. Malta’s rich history will unfold in front of your eyes through mysterious caves and prehistoric sites and temples.
Depending on the season you will find the island either green and lush (in winter: November-April) or brown and rocky (in summer: May-October).
From late summer onward you will find a surprising variety of wild flowers embedded into the rough and rocky scenery. The valleys are carpeted with capers, clover and fennel. The fields are full of vegetables. During the summer peak the island can be pretty brown and resemble a moon landscape, but exactly there lies its charm. Malta is often referred to as ‘The Rock’.
There is a variety of scenery for every gusto. The only thing missing in Malta is a forest walk, but at the same time I’m sure that’s not what you expect when visiting The Rock.
What I personally love about Malta is the fact, that you have the ‘wide angle’ wherever you go (outside of the cities). From many places you can actually see a great part of the island (it’s only 30 x 15km). Within a few minutes of drive you are at the ‘edge’ of the country where you can admire the horizon.
Malta is simply beautiful. No wonder many movie productions chose the little island for their shots. The natural landmarks convinced producers of Hollywood blockbusters such as Troy, Gladiator, Game of Thrones, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Da Vinci Code, Agora, The Boat, By The Sea, Popeye, Papillon and many more.
Perfect escape in times of Corona – Maltease countryside
At one point in my life this tiny island was my home. It’s been a while (12 years to be specific) since I moved away but I go back as frequently as I can.
This year I decided that Corona will not stop me either. Especially since my visit didn’t aim at the urban area. I already mentioned my growing attraction to the countryside. I’m not sure if it’s an age-related phenomenon but on each of my visits I realise that I am sitting less in wine bars and more on an edge of a cliff (ok, the wine is still there, but the setting is definitely different ; ) ).
2020 is year to seek nature. We stay away from cities and – surprise – we all find each other again on the same beaches and mountains tracks. Corona restricts us in flying and therefore we overcrowd our own country’s popular travel destinations. I never saw the mountain trails and the beach promenades of my two original home countries (Germany and Poland) so full of people. While it’s great to boost inland tourism, you don’t want to feel like on 5th Avenue during your hike in nature.
Seeking a calm place I chose Malta and its secluded trials. I was right. Malta was empty and amazingly tourist free. In 3 decades of regular visits, I never saw the island so peaceful.
Secluded hiking trails and amazing sunsets
Having said that, I should mention that the hiking trails were always pretty empty. Nor sure why. Apparently the locals don’t hike that much. And tourists just didn’t discover Malta’s beautiful walks off the beaten path yet. You still have the tails to yourself. Lovely.
I love my tradition of a golden hour walk. Together with my bestie – a landscape photographer and part-time park-ranger. Usually it’s somewhere along the cliffs edge (my fav), finishing off with a sunset picnic. While he is absorbed in photography-taking and I do wine-drinking. We then walk back in the dark, trying to not to fall from the cliff. The adventurer in me is happy!
This time I met his new ‘gang’ – environmentalists and colleagues from Il-Majjistral Nature Park. We walked and talked about the hikes that we did. I shared about my Himalaya trek and my Tongariro crossing. Someone else shared about the Camino de Santiago. Epic. Plus, I learned something about the local vegetation.
My highlight is always the sunset. Seen from almost everywhere. Each day a different, breathtaking spectacle. Yes, I know, that you already know…I can’t help myself – I love sunsets ! ; )
Best walks in Malta – off the beaten path
Dingli – Fawwara – Lapsi – Qrendi – Blue Grotto
As I’m usually staying at a friend’s house in Dingli, I like to start my walks from here. Dingli Cliffs are officially named the highest point on the island. They are steep and windy. This area attracts joggers and bikers and is a good starting point to walk south along the coast. You pass Fawwara, a Bronze Age village, Qrendi with the prehistoric temples, all the way down to the Blue Grotto cave. Amazing panoramas and constant view on the Filfla island.
Walking nord from Dingli you find yourself on the Baharija trail. Partially along the coast, partially inland, pasing rural areas, little chapels and churches. Enjoy the ‘Valley of Fennel’ and the turf.
Il-Majjistral Nature & History Park
Moving north you find yourself in a nature park. A wonderful walk between wild thyme and other herbs, in the company of chameleons and hedgehogs. Best during golden hour. Breathtaking views over Gozo. Amazing sunsets.
One of my favourites is the Marfa walk – along the coastline of the norderst part of Malta. Spectacular seascapes with views on Gozo, historic watch towers, like the Red Tower and chapels like the Immaculate Conception Chapel. Beautiful. Especially the blue painted Maria statue against the blue of the sea.
A small walk around Mistra Bay area with nice views on St. Paul’s Island, an uninhabited tigny island on the north-east side of Malta. It is said that the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked here.
Marsaskala – Marsaxlokk
Let’s move to the south-eastern part of Malta. I discovered this trail when living in Malta in 2006. You start from Marsascala, a quiet seaside town. You walk along the town’s promenade, passing St. Thomas Bay, climb to reach the cliffs of Il-Ħofra l-Kbira & Il-Ħofra ż-Żgħira in the Tomos pliažas hiking area. From here you can decide to go west to finish your hike in the picturesque fishing village Marsaxlokk. Have a cold Cisk (local beer) and admire the colorful Luzzus (traditional fishing boats) rocking lazily in the bay. If you have more energy, continue south to Delimara to have a peek at St. Peter’s Poll, Fort Delimara and Il-Kalanka Lighthouse.
Inland/ village walks
Having done the loop around Malta with our seaside walks, let’s move back to the south, where you find some lovely inland walks along the rural paths. From Buskett to Siggiewi & from Siggiewi to Qrendi. Passing farming areas, fields, Laferla Cross, various chapples, winyards and farmhouses. With a finishing point at Il-Maqluba sinkhole.
l-Qarraba, a short walk to a nice sunset spot
My tip for you: One of my favourite places in Malta. Perfect for a short walk: Il-Qarraba – the rock between Għajn Tuffieħa bay and Qarraba Bay. Find a nice spot somewhere above the Bay and watch the sun setting. Admire, below you, the golden sand of Għajn Tuffieħa beach. Amazing!
Windmills and watchtowers – themed walks
You will find a nice selection of themed walks such as ‘windmill walk’ (around Malta’s oldest town Żurrieq, down to the Bakkari Ruins), ‘military walk’ (from Qrendi, passed Maqabb, to Żurrieq) or ‘the watchtower walk’ (in Marfa). Check the official Visit Malta website (link below) for more information.
Gozo and Comino – Malta x 3
While I am talking about Malta, let’s now forget that there is also Gozo and Comino. Gozo being Malta’s smaller and greener sister. Comino – the tiny and cute addition to archipelago.
Gozo being rural, offers a timeless landscape. Life here is calm and dedicated to agriculture and fishing. It is more traditional and old school. The island is criss-crossed by farmers tracks, offering countless walking possibilities.
If you have more time in Malta, don’t miss out on Gozo. Although Malta’s famous landmark – the Azure Window – collapsed on a stormy night in March 2017, there are still plenty of amazing stretches of cliffs with mystic caves and arches.
My tip: The prehistoric temples of Ġgantija.
Comino offers great views, is secluded and ideal for a day’s hiking excursion. Especially in the winter time, with no beach tourisms. The inhabited island is perfect for hikers and photographers.
Quiet urban walks around Valletta & Mdina
Two more beautiful walks in Malta, while not exactly off the beaten path, yet quiet. I would recommend you to walk around the silent city of Mdina as well as in the backstreets of Valletta.
Mdina is a medieval town in the center of Malta, on the top of a hill. I love the atmosphere of this silent and peaceful place, with beautiful narrow streets and lanes, convents and churches. Lovely views from the walls surrounding the city. Best to visit in the morning.
Valletta is not only the capital and the business city. It offers something, I like to call ‘the charm of the back streets’. Wander around and dive in the atmosphere of this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. To me Valletta means charming steep streets, piazzas, cute wine bars on staircases, forts, churches, Baroque buildings and gardens with views. It’s the cutest capital city I’ve ever seen.
Useful Tips & Links for walking in Malta
- Hire a Mountain Bike. Some trails are just perfect for biking
- The buses don’t always take you to the secluded places. In the evening, after a long walk, it’s best to hire a the Maltese Uber equivalent: Bolt or Cool (shared lifts)
- Have a picnic during your hike. You should go for local products: Pastizzi (ricotta or pizelli), Gbejniet (local goat cheese), sun dried tomatoes, olives, a variety of dips with galetti… All that accompanied by a local wine. Yum!
- Download the official trails as PDS’s from ‘Visit Malta’
- Learn about Maltease fauna & flora and check out events such as birdwatching, guided walks, diving workshops, tree planting or beach clean ups – Majjistral Park
- Check out if your visit is during hunting season and beware of hunters. Unfortunately there is still this sad tradition of bird hunting in Malta. When you hear guns, make yourself visible. You don’t want them to mistake you for a poor birdy…
- Interested in purchasing beautiful photographic prints of Maltease landscapes? Have a look at the website of my talented friend Gil: Gilbert Vancell Nature Photography
- Read my previous blog posts about Malta (culture, food etc.): My Malta Story, Goodbye Azure Window, Let’s walk – Mallorca & Malta in pictures