Travel Extra Editor Kevin Flanagan meets Tolene van der Merwe, Director of the Malta Tourism Authority, to find out how they are doing post-pandemic
We met in The Dean Hotel on Harcourt Street for lunch. Outside, the sun was splitting the pavements. Inside, a collection of Ireland’s leading travel writers were discussing the great food, local traditions, and over 7,000 years of history, that make Malta a destination for just about everyone. It is also just a short three-and-a-half-hour flight away with Ryanair from Dublin or Shannon Airports. Though some eyebrows were raised at the dramatic increase in Ryanair prices to the island, there is a sense that it’s just another challenge we all have to deal with.
But once there, the holidaymaker is spoilt for choice. Tolene van der Merwe, Director of the Malta Tourism Authority, was on-hand to discuss how Malta is gearing up for a very busy post-pandemic season. And she was excited to share with us all the news from this Mediterranean paradise. And I have to share her enthusiasm. When it comes to abundant outdoor activities, beautiful beaches, coastlines, cliffs, and countryside – Malta has few equals.
I know Malta well. One of my best friends bought a villa there in 2002 and we made an annual pilgrimage to Gozo with family and friends. I still remember the fantastic views that Malta has to offer for those on foot. You can walk from the Dingli Cliffs to the Wied iż-Żurrieq (just outside Qrendi). The route goes through Wardija ta’ San Ġorġ, followed by Fawwara, the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Temples. At Wied iż-Żurrieq, you can take a boat ride to the renowned Blue Grotto, or enjoy a traditional meal in one of the many local restaurants nearby.
With such a fantastically favourable climate and an astonishing array of underwater sites, Malta is consistently voted one of the best diving destinations in the world. Indeed, myself and my son Ciaran, earned our first PADI qualification there and dived the legendary Popeye wreck – something I’ll never forget.
Malta’s seabed is studded with wrecks of boats and statues, each providing insight into its vast and vivid past. Offering a wide choice of shore and boat dives at varying depths, there’s something to suit divers of all abilities. Whether it’s a scout around the awesome HMS Maori, or a plunge down to the 10,000 tonnes Um El Faroud, no two dives are ever the same.
One thing I’d recommend while you’re in Malta: don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a wine-tasting and a tour at Meridiana Wine Estate in the middle of Ta’ Qali. The estate has 17 hectares of vineyards and a picturesque limestone farmhouse. A tour of the estate includes a visit to the fermentation hall and underground cellar, both set within a picturesque Maltese farmhouse. The highlight of the tour is of course the tasting of the premium wines on the panoramic terraces overlooking the vineyard.
The 32nd edition of The Malta Jazz Festival is set to take place from the 11th – 16th July. Considered by the international jazz community as a beacon of artistic integrity, the Malta Jazz Festival presents a panorama of jazz music in all its facets. The festival aims to achieve a perfect balance between the savant and more popular elements of jazz. This year’s eclectic line-up includes John Scofield, Richard Bona & Alfredo Rodriguez sextet and many more.
This summer, you can fly directly to Malta from Shannon Airport or Dublin Airport with Ryanair. (Visit ryanair.com for the latest offers.) While Cassidy Travel and Sunway offer packages with flights and accommodation.
Visit visitmalta.com for further information on Malta
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