SHARE
COPY LINK
PRESENTED BY VISIT MALTA

Five unusual things you can do in Malta

Malta may be a small island but size can be deceiving. From an entire ‘village’ full of cats to a neolithic necropolis, there’s much more to Malta than meets the eye.

Five unusual things you can do in Malta
Diving at the site of the Azure Window. Photo: Visit Malta

Presenting five unusual things you shouldn’t miss in Malta.

Explore a prehistoric tomb

From mythological Atlantis to the lost city of El Dorado, hidden or lost places have always captured the imagination.

In Malta, you can explore an underground burial site that went undiscovered for thousands of years. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a neolithic necropolis nestled under the streets of Paola, also known as Raħal Ġdid. The large underground burial chamber is a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of seven on the island. Dug directly into the limestone, the prehistoric complex, which was in use for up to 1500 years, dates back to 4000 BC. Carved with Stone Age tools like flints and antlers, the subterranean chamber, complete with stellar acoustics if you feel like a chant, paints a fascinating picture of prehistoric life. Make sure to book in advance, numbers are limited with just 10 people admitted per hour.

Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. Photo: Visit Malta

Cosy up with the cats

Malta is a country where you’ll find The Three Big Cs of Tourism: culture, cuisine…and cats.

Yes, in Sliema, a town on Malta’s northeast coast, is Cat Village, a park that’s home to many (well-fed and healthy) homeless cats. There’s also a giant multicoloured cat statue because what cat village would be complete without one? It’s an essential pitstop for all visiting ailurophiles (that’s ‘cat fans’, to you and me).

Test the waters

Malta went into mourning when its famous Azure Window, a 28-metre-tall rock arch, collapsed in 2017. But where one door closes (or one window collapses), another one opens.

The arch itself is no longer there but under the water a new tourist lure has emerged. Where the limestone formation once stood has become a popular diving spot that is quite literally swimming with marine life. With a depth-range of five to 52 metres, it’s suitable for divers of all levels who are keen to explore this underwater playground.

It’s a spectacular sight at the moment but won’t stay this way long. Soon, the sharp-edged chunks of white rock will be smoothed down by the ebb and flow of the Mediterranean and blanketed in plants — so there’s no time to waste if you want to catch it in its current condition.

Delve into the ‘Dark Cave’

Ghar Dalam. Photo: Visit Malta

Malta has more prehistoric sites than a caveman could shake a club at. The island’s oldest prehistoric site, of which the lowermost layers are over 500,000 years old, was discovered in the second half of the 19th Century. Għar Dalam (the ‘Dark Cave’) has gifted palaeontologists, archaeologists and ecologists with the bones of Ice Age animals, remains and artefacts from the first human settlers in Malta and many geological features including stalactites and stalagmites. There’s also an interesting little museum at the entrance where you can read about how the cave was formed and see some of the treasures its turned up.

Take a bite of Maltese history

Food is to culture what eyes are to the soul. It’s the window into a country’s history and the simplest way to understand local culture. There are plenty of restaurants where you can try modern Maltese fare, but if you really want to get a taste for the island’s past then try Heritage Malta’s new concept ‘Taste History’. Join professional historians, curators and chefs and sample traditional dishes revived from the 17th and 18th Centuries. From what would have been typical peasant snacks to a merchant’s decadent dinner, it’s a unique opportunity to discover Malta and its eclectic past through your tastebuds.

Photo: Taste History – Heritage Malta

Click here to start planning your trip to Malta

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Visit Malta.

 

TRAVEL

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

SHOW COMMENTS