Hop on Hop Off Tours such as Viator’s tour are a perfect way to see a city. With regular stops at reasonable intervals, they provide you with the flexibility to cherry pick your destinations-ideal when you are on a limited timeframe. They provide you with informative audio visual commentary which provides context and greater significance to the places you are seeing.
That is exactly how I spent my Saturday in Malta. I chose the South City tour which covers Valetta-Malta’s capital city, the three cities (Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea), Tarxien Temples, Marsaxlokk, Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim & Mnajdra, Castille and the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
The tour was on a double decker hop on hop off bus, stopping first at Valetta, the capital city of Malta. There was informative audio commentary throughout the trip, providing context and significance to each place. Valetta is the administrative, and commercial capital of Malta and is named after Jean Parisotte de la Valette. It was built as a fortress city and was completed in 1566 and included bastions, forts and Cathedrals. You could get off and explore St John’s Co Cathedral and museum, as well as the beautiful gardens. Since I had decided to spend the day in Valetta the following day, I decided to concentrate on Marsaxlokk and the Blue Grotto.
The next stops were the “three cities”: Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea. These offer a rich insight into Malta’s history and maritime life, being home to the numerous groups of settlers on the island. The harbour inlets have been used since the Phoenician times, with the docks providing a source of income for the local people. The three cities are the home to the Knights of St John and its palaces, fortresses and churches are much older than the ones in Valetta.
The next stop was the Tarxien Temples. The Tarxien Temples are an archaelogical complex in Malta, dating back to 3150BC. It was listed as a World Heritage site in 1980.
Marsaxlokk is Malta’s fishing village, situated in the South East of Malta. During the great siege of Malta, it was used by the Ottoman fleet as anchorage. Most of Malta’s fishing supply is caught here and it is filled with colourful fishing boats and seafood restaurants. Every Sunday, there is a fish market there. I decided to alight there and explore. Once again, it was a beautiful, day with bright blue sky and sunshine and the water was crystal clear. There were several fishing boats and seafood restaurants and cafes along the coastline. Since it was lunchtime, I decided to have lunch here and get my fix of fresh seafood.
Lampuki is one of the local fish in Malta and I had that grilled and served with homemade chips and a Meditterranean salad. Lampuki is similar to mahi-mahi and migrates to the Maltese waters during Autumn. It was delicious and I was well and truly in my element with alfresco dining and fresh seafood.
The next stop was the Blue Grotto, which I was really looking forward to after reading glowing reviews about the crystal clear waters, rugged rocks, It consists of a series of sea caverns on the South Coast of Malta. Its colourful reflections make it popular with tourists for snorkelling and scuba diving. When I got there, it was every bit as beautiful as I imagined. You could do short (ten minute) boat trips inside the caves for EUR 8, which I did. There were about five people to a boat and the waters were relatively calm and the different shades of blue within the water were beautiful and amazing. There were several cafes, small pubs and seafood restaurants, servicing the many tourists.
The next stops were Hagar Qim & Mnajdra, a megalithic temple complex. The last stop was the Mediterranean Conference Centre, which was a fairly non descript building. After the tour ended, I got off at St Julians Bay and walked to Sliema-once again past the port and through the shopping complex at Sliema, now illuminated with Christmas lights in all its glory. I had dinner at the same restaurant, once again ordering the Lampuki and the famous cassata for dessert. What an amazing day! I had seen so many beautiful sight and tasted some delicious food. An evening stroll along the water was the perfect way to end this. Stay tuned for more adventures tomorrow!