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Malta: The Hidden LGBTQ Gem of the Mediterranean

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday January 17, 2022
Originally published on January 13, 2022

Are you ready to replenish your travel bucket list? A collection of islands tucked between southern Italy and northern Africa offers alluring adventures for savvy LGBTQ+ travelers unlike anywhere else in the world. We're talking about Malta, the hidden gem of the Mediterranean.

Boasting more than 300 days of sunshine per year, dramatic historical sites, affordable luxury accommodations, and some of the world's best diving spots, Malta's five islands (only three are inhabited) deliver "wow" factor unlike anywhere else on earth. And for the sixth year in a row, the country has ranked number one on ILGA Europe's Rainbow Map & Index for its human rights policies.

Getting There

Enjoy a scenic ferry ride from Sicily via Virtu Ferries, or island-hop between Malta's more rural island of Gozo and the country's capital city of Valletta onboard the Gozo Fast Ferry. If you want to descend right into the action, arrive by plane through a connection at one of many European locations.

3 Ways to Experience Malta

Below Sea Level — Malta is known as one of the best dive locations in the world, with certified experts guiding divers among wreck sites, shore dives, and boat dives. Recently, Heritage Malta established the Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit to preserve these historical sites through sustainable tourism efforts, preserving them for generations to come. Don't dive? No worries, snorkeling still offers excellent opportunities to view underwater wonders.

Malta Pride — For an entire week each September, Malta's capital city of Valletta becomes the European epicenter of LGBTQ+ culture and celebration. Malta Pride (September 2-11, 2022) returns next autumn and promises "a number of events, initiatives and opportunities for the LGBTIQ+ community to come together, raise awareness and celebrate diversity and inclusion." Early fall is one of the best times to visit Malta as the temperatures begin to cool and the city comes alive with Pride.




Year-Round Culture — With centuries of varied European influence, Malta's rich cultural identity manifests in incredible architecture, museums and galleries, music and special events throughout the year. Some of our favorite picks include MUZA, one of Europe's newest art museums with a collection spanning 400 years, and Art Box, a modern art gallery and workshop on the island of Gozo. For something of a more ephemeral nature, the Malta International Fireworks Festival promises to light the night sky this April.

MICHELIN STAR MEALS

Malta continues to establish itself as one of Europe's gastronomic hubs, with two new restaurants awarded Michelin stars in 2021, bringing the total number of Michelin star restaurants to five. The latest epicurean award-winners include:

ION — The Harbour — Executive chef Alex Dilling helms this rooftop restaurant, which sits atop the stunning Iniala Harbour House. Both five-course and seven-course menus are available, with delectable offerings such as locally line-caught lampuki with cucumber, dill and smoked cream; Brittany lobster en croute; and venison accompanied by potato, juniper and chartreuse. The only thing that tops the Tainori chocolate dessert is those gorgeous harbor views.



Bahia — Named for a type of orange grown near the village of Lija in central Malta, Bahia has gained international recognition thanks to executive chef Tyrone Mizzi's immaculate attention to detail. The restaurant will relocate to the elegant Corinthia Palace in Attard this spring, where both a la carte and tasting menus will be offered, along with vegan and gluten-free options, and hopefully the return of Mizzi's whimsical one-night affairs, such as a reverse tasting menu that starts with dessert and finishes with an amuse-bouche.

3 PERFECT PLACES TO STAY IN MALTA

Malta offers plenty of accommodation options no matter your budget. Here are three of our favorite picks to consider when looking for the best hotels in Malta.

Iniala Harbour House — It's not just the Michelin star rooftop restaurant that caught our eyes at this newly opened boutique hotel. The stunning design fits beautifully among Valletta's historical architecture, with modern touches and amenities to elevate your stay. Opt for city or harbor views, depending on your preference, and who doesn't love a head butler?


Malta Marriott Hotel & Spa, St. Julian's — Marriott, long-known as an LGBTQ+ inclusive brand, recently invested 30 million euros in refurbishing this stunning seaside property steps from Balluta Beach and St. Julian, and a short drive to Sliema, known for great shopping.


Corinthia Palace Malta — Five-star luxury awaits among beautifully appointed rooms and suites at the Corinthia Palace, but the real treat is a day (or more!) of pampering at the onsite Athenaeum Spa, which offers a range of ESPA treatments incorporating pure, natural ingredients, aromatherapy, and holistic therapies. Be sure to venture across the road to explore the San Anton Palace and Gardens.


Of course, no trip to Malta is complete without a day on the water. Consider a private yacht charter for a sunset champagne cruise, or better yet, experience the islands by yacht for a multi-day adventure of a lifetime.

Ready to discover more? VisitMalta.com.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.