With more than 100 dive sites and a coastline dotted with towering cliffs and secluded bays, the sunny Mediterranean Maltese islands stand ready and waiting to offer you an active adventure.
With more than 250km (155mi) of dramatic coastline and some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean, Malta has plenty of natural assets for the adventurous to explore. Regarded by many as the best scuba-diving destination in Europe, it has more than 100 easily accessible dive sites, as well as more than 1,500 rock-climbing routes, innumerable caves and plenty of highways and byways to explore on foot, horseback or quad bike.
Whether you’re diving deep or climbing high, Malta’s dramatic rocky landscape, above and below the waterline, offers a huge variety of views and challenges. Nothing is more than an hour or so away (often much less) – and all directions, instructions and safety briefings are in English.
Pre-pandemic, some 50,000 people a year came to dive in the waters surrounding Malta’s three inhabited islands (Malta, Gozo and tiny Comino) – and with good reason. From Gozo’s luminous Blue Hole, dropping deep down beside the towering rock column, which, until 2017, supported the arch of the Azure Window, to Comino’s extensive shallow-water Santa Maria cave complex, there is something for every skill level. The Qawra Reef dive site, off the main island, has it all for the more experienced: plentiful marine life, a natural arch, a scuttled ferry boat you can swim right into, and even a 3m (10ft) undersea statue of Jesus Christ.
Licensed dive centres across the country offer Padi- and BSAC-approved courses, as well as guided dives and equipment hire.
If you’re not into diving, there is still plenty to enjoy in – and on – Malta’s wonderfully warm, clear waters, whether that’s snorkelling, windsurfing, sailing or sea kayaking. Gozo Adventures will take you on a full- or half-day kayaking tour around the scenic coast of Gozo. The exact route will depend on the wind and weather conditions on the day, but all courses are varied and fun. If you’re lucky, you may end up exploring the caves of Comino, and perhaps tipping out of your kayak (deliberately) for a dip in Malta’s favourite swimming spot, the Blue Lagoon.
Back on land, the craggy cliffs are as dramatic as any underwater drop-off – though they do require some effort to climb. Malta has more than 1,500 rock-climbing routes in some 30 different locations, many with stunning views. Malta Rock Climbing Club has lots more information available.
If you fancy something a bit faster, MC Adventure offers abseiling down the steep slopes of the Xaqqa Cliffs. If you have a need for speed, keep an eye on the Facebook page for zipline events (they take place once or twice a month) where the team set up a 150m (492ft) wire at beautiful Migra l-Fehra, just west of Rabat and Mdina. Launch yourself off the cliff and hurtle towards the sea – effortless, but not for the faint-hearted!
A less exhilarating way to explore the area – which offers you a lot more time to take it all in – is by hiking the self-guided Bahrija country walk. Starting and ending in Rabat, the trail takes you past traditional farmland – some on precipitous terraces – as well as dry-stone walls, ruins of a Bronze Age village, churches and chapels, caper bushes and fennel plants, with clifftop panoramas along the route.
Shanks’ pony not your style? There are other forms of individual transport that will take you off the beaten track: travelling to the rhythmic clip-clop of horses’ hooves, perhaps? Or the adrenaline-inducing vroom of a quad bike?
Gozo Quad Hire is a great place to rent a bike, or sign up for a guided tour of the island. Gozo is just 14km (9mi) by 7km (4.5m) but has an astonishing variety of landscapes for its size. You will find everything from vertical cliffs rising 145m (476ft) from the sea, narrow smugglers’ inlets and red sandy bays to chequerboards of ancient still-in-use salt pans. On a quad bike, you can see it all in a single day.
Golden Bay Horse Riding takes groups out daily in the beautiful, protected countryside of the Majjistral Nature Reserve. Join one of the regular one-hour morning or afternoon rides, or round off an active day with a sunset outing looking across the sea to Gozo as the cliffs glow golden over the sparkling Mediterranean.