Swinging Through South Malta
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.
Oh Alex, it all sounds perfect! I’m so glad you had a great time and left (although sad) with a smile and many happy memories!
It was truly the perfect trip. So many smiles x
Loved this post! The turquoise color of the water… sigh. And the Blue Grotto, wow! Malta seriously seems to be showing off big-time 🙂
I know, right?! I wish I had had time for the boat ride into the Blue Grotto.
Gorgeous photos! Peter’s Pools looks like a stunning spot- wishing I was there now!
I’m on another beautiful island at the moment so can’t really complain but yeah, this spot was really special 🙂
I always have mixed feeling when I see markets catering to tourists, especially when they were originally for locals. It’s becoming a lot like that in tourist cities in India, but they usually have a local market that no tourist know about as well. Everything looks beautiful! Was wondering, in places with lots of fish, are you a fish eater? I don’t know if I ever noticed on your blog!
OH AND I am finally getting emails when you reply to my comments! woo hoo..
Nope, I don’t eat fish 🙂 That is great news about the comment replies — yay!
Thanks for posting the great pics. I am in the middle of the Nevada desert and I miss Malta so much!!!!
I’m happy to share, David! Thanks for reading!
LOVE LOVE LOVE – Another 3 places to add to my to do list… 🙂
You’re going to love it, Carla! So happy I gave you some ideas.
Peter’s pools looks so inviting! There are a couple of natural rock pools in Sydney that look like that and I can’t wait till it gets a bit warmer here so I can swim in them again 🙂
I will definitely be asking you for the details on those when I finally get to Australia 🙂
Make sure you do Alex! I have lots of Sydney tips:)
The water looks so blue and clear!! Mother Nature showing off indeed… now I have a strange urge to go swimming!
I think you’d really like Malta, Amanda! You should consider it for a future trip…
Love the fishing boats and amazing blue water! Not sure if this is happening with everyone or just a glitch for me but since the website upgrade I don’t get email alerts on new posts. Weird –
Hey Kim, thanks for letting me know about that! The emails are now coming from MailChimp instead of Feedburner… could you check your spam mail and let me know if they are ending up in there? I’d really appreciate it, thanks!
Wow! Pictures are amazing (as always) 🙂 Your compliment on your photography skills is definitely justified 🙂
Haha, thank you 🙂 Good thing I have insurance in case I throw out my arm patting myself on the back!
I have had the same thought about markets in my travels as you did here – so many souvenirs and just not the same vibe anymore. That water – wow!! So glad you had such a great time. Btw – you’re pictures are amazing 😉
Thank you so much Katie! And yeah, I guess it depends on the market but in this case I found it disappointing. If I needed shotglasses and t-shirts, I’d head to a souvenir shop!
Wow, the color of the sea is unbelievable! Also love the cliffs Mother Nature is definitely the world’s greatest artist! 🙂 By the way, totally second your compliments on your photography – the pictures of the harbor are amazing! Until you said that your visit was a bit underwhelming, I thought it must have been a highlight in Malta! 😉
Aw, thanks Melanie! I know I say this about a lot of places, but this part of Malta is impossible to take a bad photo of!
I love the Mediterranean… and Europe overall. All great photos and a perfect way to finish the trip.
lol, there’s a Baywatch logo on that USA boat.
Duh! That’s why it was perfect for me! (Just kidding.) 😉
Seriously amazing photography, Alex! I am in love with the Blue Grotto shots. Such clarity and great colors!
It was stunning! Must go back someday to take the boat ride through 🙂
Wonderful pictures! The colors alone make me want to visit. I definitely have a new place to visit on my list!
Malta is well worth a spot on anyone’s bucket list, Brittany! Hope you enjoy it when you get there 🙂
So beautiful and blissful! Even though I’m sitting at a desk right now, I can just feel the relaxation that these photos ooze. Peter’s Pools looks completely enchanting, I would have never been able to resist either.
It was well worth a salty flight to Belgium 🙂
Alex, I have been reading a lot about Malta. It looks like a hidden gem of a place to visit. Thank you for making me add it to my bucket list.
You are so welcome Steve! It was a nice surprise for me 🙂
Malta looks great! Thanks for the tour. But the sea seem devoid of life. Malta looks seriously over fished.
I enjoyed seeing and experiencing Malta through your eyes! Thanks.
I’m so glad to hear that Ron! I loved this trip — and it seems you guys did too 🙂
Ahhhhh, “handicraps!” I love it. Truly gorgeous photos of Anders jumping into the water. I’m always impressed with your photography skills.
Thanks Alex, that’s so sweet! And don’t worry, I only made Anders do that three or four times to get the shot…
Looks wonderful Alex. Everything is so colourful. So cute. You are brave for jumping into that swimming hole. That looks pretty deep! :-/
I don’t know what it is Tammy but I love jumping off things 🙂 I do get scared, but it’s so worth the thrill!
I love all the colors of the boats and goods at Marsaxlokk. But it is sad to hear that all of those beautiful sea creatures are being sold at the market while underwater Malta is pretty devoid of fish. Out of curiosity, is overfishing a big problem on Malta?
From what I understand (talking to a Maltese friend studying marine biology), yes, overfishing has been a major problem on Malta. Hopefully the prominence of the diving industry on Malta will start to change that!
Oh wow, Malta looks amazing! Seriously beautiful.I had never really considered going to Malta until now – looks like another destination to add to the ever-growing list!
It’s an itch that can never be scratched! Enjoy ticking off that list, Christie 🙂
I now want to immediately jump in that swimming hole 😉 The weather here on the Galapagos is not so great today, I want that Malta sunshine here right now 🙂
Ah, but it’s still the Galapagos! Someday I must go!
That’s such a colourful harbour! I love those bright little boats and the water looks sooo inviting – especially now that I can feel a winter chill in the air here in Canada!
I can’t accept that winter is already coming to North America! Noooo! Arriving home for Thanksgiving is going to be a big shock…
Wow, another bevvy of shots for the Maltese travel bureau! 😉
Those boats though, they look so Asian with their colour!!
I sent this post along to the MTA, so hopefully they’ll be sharing it soon 🙂 Thanks Chris!
Wonderful photos Alex, I love the colours and they are edited beautifully! x
Thank you Helen! That is a much appreciated compliment 🙂
Talk about an action-packed last day. On the subject of tacky tourist “handicrafts”, what kind of people buy stuff like that? The fact that they make it means there’s obviously a demand for it, which makes me shudder…
Ha, I can only imagine. Although I don’t begrudge anyone a solid fridge magnet or shot glass collection 🙂
Wow this post just put Malta on my travel wishlist for next year. Your photos are gorgeous! And that water hole looks sublime.
Malta will be thrilled to have you, I’m sure 🙂 It’s a really cool little country — enjoy!
Uh, YEAH. I would have jumped, too! They water looks good enough to drink.
A bit salty, but pretty delicious 🙂
I loved Malta when I went. Unfortunately I couldn’t get to Gozo because of bad weather. I’ll make it back eventually, because I have heard it’s one of the best parts. Great pics btw!
Gozo is definitely a reason to go back! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for better weather for you 🙂
OMG, ALEX!! I literally can not rip away from you blog. Im obsessed with all of your adventures! I love this one so far the blue waters and cliff jumping look so amazing!! Happy TRAVELS
Thank you so much for this sweet comment, Victoria 🙂 I love sharing my adventures here!
Hey! Thanks for this super helpful post! Your photos are beautiful! I’m planning a trip to Malta in August. After reading this I’m thinking that renting a car for a couple days is a necessity but I’m a little worried about bringing a rental car down dirt lanes, is there a risk of doing damage to the car?
Hey Siobhan — we were a little nervous but we took it slow and the car was totally fine! I’d just go for the good insurance if you’re nervous 🙂
What is the easiest (and/or cheapest) way to travel to Malta? Do you recommend plane or boat?
I flew, and that was the only option I looked into. I believe boat service is limited. Enjoy your trip!
I’d say that plane is easiest and cheapest, but it can be quite romantic doing it by rail down Italy and Sicily, then taking the ferry from there. Eight years ago, my partner and I did travel up through Sicily, Naples and up to Rome, stopping in our favourite cities and staying at some amazing holiday rentals. It was a journey we still mention from time to time.
What lovely pictures! Makes me crave for the summer months. Next time you’re on the island, do pop by.
I’d love to return to Malta someday!
Wow this is soooo effing amazing! A good friend of mine had a boat sitting gig in Malta for like 3 months…b she never posted any pictures so I LITERALLY HAD NO IDEA IT WAS SO STUNNING!
Now I have to go. I have to jump off those rocks. It is my new single life priority.
Oh my gosh I can’t believe she denied you all that natural beauty 🙂 It’s so gorgeous! Totally took me by surprise.
The colors in your photos are absolutely magnificent! 🙂
Thanks Lisa! Malta is gorgeous!
Hey! Really love Malta as well. I was there this summer for a week.
Just started my blog, maybe you will take a look.
It is a beautiful place. Best of luck in blogging and travel, Roxana.
Your adventurous posts are delightful to read and very informative and to the point. When it comes to Malta, you outlined so well all its beauty, and I can tell, we are a family of three and we lived in Malta, St. Julians for 6 years (originally from Scandinavia). We are now back in our darling homeland but miss dearly our sunny Malta. Keep up the good work and good luck on your future travels.
That certainly sounds like a fabulous six years! Happy to hear I did your adopted homeland justice 🙂 Thank you for reading!
Wow! I just found your blog today while searching for Malta’s sightseeing places, so i will spend quite a lot of time reading it, it looks perfect! I travel for Malta tomorrow and basically i am a travel lover, so I enjoy reading a lot for new places. Your pictures are simply perfect. What kind of camera do you use and do you use any filters or programs?
Thank you and greetings from Bulgaria!!!
Hey Hristina! Check out my “Obsessions” page for info on all my camera gear! Hope that helps!