10 Things You Might Not Know About: Malta

There are over 200 islands in the Mediterranean, but a staggering 90% of tourists only visit 10% of them. As one of the less known islands (or archipelagos), Malta is located south of Sicily and northeast of Tunisia. It has a rocky coast, beautiful beaches, steeped in history, and is one of Europe’s smallest countries. Interested in finding out more? Well, then let’s go!

1) Malta is an Archipelago

Credits: François Kaiser

Malta is not just one island. Instead, it is an archipelago made up of 7 small islands. The two largest islands, Malta and Gozo, are regularly inhabited, while the third-largest island, Comino, has only one luxury resort. The remaining four are entirely uninhabited. 90% of Malta’s population lives on the main island, while 35,000 of the approximately 440,000 inhabitants of Malta live on the neighboring island of Gozo. Together with the 405,000 inhabitants on the main island of Malta, they make up 99.9% of Malta’s citizens, as only three people currently live on the island of Comino.

2) One of the Oldest Inhabitant Islands

Ġgantija” Temple in Gozo
Credits: FritzPhotography

It’s one of the most remote places in the Mediterranean, but there is evidence that people have lived in Malta since the Neolithic (5000 BC). This is proven by the 11 so-called megalithic temples of Malta. The relics are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the oldest free-standing structures on earth.

3) Forests? Nope. Lakes? Nope. Rivers? Nope.

Credits: Ferenc Horvath

You won’t find three things in Malta – forests, lakes, and rivers. Sure, there is a single tree standing around, but you will look in vain for large, closed forest areas. Malta’s landscape was shaped by forests 2,000 years ago, but the Romans put an end to this when building their ships. Since then, there have been no contiguous forests in Malta for centuries. You can only find some in parks or small landscaped areas. Besides that, there is also not a single permanent river or lake in Malta! Therefore, Malta’s residents have to rely on the supply of freshwater from Sicily.

4) Two Official Languages

Credits: Reuben Farrugia

Malti is the original language of Malta. English had only been one of the national languages ​​since the occupation of Malta by Great Britain in the 18th century. The Maltese language is a mixture of all the influences that Malta has been subject to over the centuries. Maltese is most similar in pronunciation to the Arabic language. The fact that English is one of Malta’s two national languages ​​means that the country is one of the most popular travel destinations for English language travelers.

5) Influenced by Great Britain

Credits: Tchoutcho Dantine de Thier

Malta once was a British colony, which is why you see many common British things in Malta. These include those famous red phone booths, UK sockets, and driving on the left side of the road. Only after 1964, Malta gained its independence, leading to emerging as a republic in 1974. Malta has been a member of the European Union since 2004.

6) First Divorce in 2011

Credits: Hutomo Abrianto

Malta was one of the last three countries in the world where divorce was not possible. Malta’s residents have only been allowed to divorce since a referendum in 2011. The vote was pretty tight, with 53% “yes” votes. For example, Gozo residents voted more than 65% against the new law. Most of the supporters were in the southern cities of Malta. The last two countries in the world where divorce is not possible are the Philippines and the Vatican. Well, talking about “happily ever after “… 

7) 160,000 people from Malta live in Australia

Credits: Ostap Senyuk

Yep. There are more people from Malta living in Australia than on Malta’s second-largest island, Gozo. To put the number into perspective: 160,000 people, which is more than a third of Malta’s population. There are more than 400,000 people worldwide who are from Malta and live in another country. However, Malta still ranks 48th among the world’s happiest countries, says a UN report from 2013.

8) Most Public Holidays in Europe!

Credits: Mike Nahlii

The residents of Malta can enjoy staying at home for a total of 14 times a year. This is ensured by the many Catholic and national holidays in Malta since it has the highest percentage of Catholics in the EU due to the Catholic Order of Malta that ruled the country between the 15th and 18th centuries, which didn’t change even later as a British colony. As another fun fact: Malta’s residents can choose from precisely 365 churches, which underlines once again the Catholic history of Malta. 

9) Malta’s Houses Are All Built From The Same Stone

Credits: Zoltan Tasi

Since Malta’s houses share the same building material, the residents love to decorate their houses and homes with colorful doors, balconies, shutters, and a dash of kitsch to stand out from the rest. And in general, people from Malta seem to be extremely creative, since Malta’s unofficially called Europe’s arts-and-crafts capital. The “Ta ‘Qali Crafts Village” in Attard (a makeshift village made up of disused aircraft hangars from the Second World War) is a beautiful example of the country’s vibrant arts and crafts scene. There, you can watch local glassblowers, potters, jewelers, and all sorts of other hippie artisans selling and producing their authentic Maltese goods right from their workshops.

10) Made for Movies

Credits: Micaela Parente

Thanks to its pristine nature, calm coastline, ancient artifacts, and relative darkness, Malta has served as a film set for many major Hollywood productions, from ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Troy’ to ‘Captain Pillips’ and the TV series ‘Game of’ Thrones.’