It was my last day in Malta. Despite the island’s diminutive size, I had yet to step foot along its South Coast, aside from landing at the airport. With an early afternoon flight and one last day with the rental car, Anders and I set off early to hit up as many last minute Southern sights as possible before I departed.
Our first stop was the colorful Sunday Fish Market at Marsaxlokk.
I’d heard rave reviews of the market and was excited to go somewhere that Anders had never been — though the island is small, Marsaxlokk and his home base of Buġibba are basically on opposite ends. The market sells not just fish but also fresh produce and the usual tourist junk and handicraps (I’m still under the impression that I coined that term, and hope to never be disillusioned.)
In fact, I was kind of surprised how many stalls were catering to tourists rather than local restauranteurs. It seemed the ratio of shotglasses to shrimps was three to one.
Aside from the patchwork of canvas-draped stalls, the harbor is also a main attraction. The rainbow-hues of traditional Maltese fishing boats have graced a thousand postcards, and had me running ’round the docks waving my camera around with joy.
Anders was extremely excited to find a boat just for me.
To be honest, while these pictures make it look pretty fantastic (see how I just casually gave myself a huge compliment there on my photography skills?) we were a little disappointed by Marsaxlokk. On the upside, I did love seeing the still-in-use traditional fishing vessels and watching locals bargain passionately in Maltese over the price per kilo for fresh eel.
Yet the market seemed to cater heavily to tourists, and the authentic bits — where there were actual fish for sale — kind of depressed us. Being enthusiastic divers and seeing how relatively devoid of sealife Malta is, we couldn’t help but think how much more beautiful a barracuda is under the water than on a chopping block.
But there was more to explore. On the tip of a local friend we followed the vague directions in our guidebook a short drive away to Peter’s Pools. We were quickly catching on that most beaches worth going to in Malta involve a precarious drive along a one-lane dirt road followed by a sweaty hike to the sea. We were also catching on that they were so insanely worth it.
I mean come on.
As I was getting on a flight in a few hours and didn’t have anywhere to shower before doing so, we had planned to just walk down to the pools, take a few photos, and move on. And then I saw that water. Handing the camera to Anders, I bolted back to the car to get our swimsuits.
How could we resist?
Despite the swimming hole’s difficult access, it quickly began to fill with savvy locals and in-the-know tourists. But we didn’t begrudge sharing the beauty with our fellow bathers — it only added to the relaxed but lively Sunday atmosphere.
And yes — hell yes! — I jumped too.
We pretty much had to tear ourselves away from Peter’s Pools. Should I return to Malta someday, I’d pack a cooler and plan an entire day in this blissful spot.
But we were starving and Anders, ever the excellent tour guide, had a few more highlights to show me before it was time to check in for my flight. Next on the list? The famous Blue Grotto.
Though we only had time to spy it from the perfectly-placed viewing platform, and not to take one of the regular thirty-minute tourist boat rides into it, I was awed. I wrote in my post about Gozo that Malta just kind of feels like Mother Nature showing off, and this was yet another example. Seriously.
The final stop on our South Coast road trip was Għar Lapsi, a popular dive site and swimming spot for locals. It was fun to see a place Anders spends so many of his work days, and add yet another item to the long list of reasons to return to Malta someday.
All too soon, it was time to fly away from the island it seemed I’d just arrived on. And with one more sad but now familiar goodbye, I was on my way to Belgium. I hadn’t known what to expect from Malta, but left with a smile. It was exactly the week I’d needed — unplanned, relaxed, spontaneous and with so many surprises around every corner.
Thank you for hosting me, Anders — and thanks for being amazing, Malta!
Many thanks to the Malta Tourism Authority for proving me with a rental car throughout my stay.