THE MAGIC OF MALTA    "Merhba"- Maltese for Welcome

Day 1 – Saturday 11th May 2013
Fly to Malta with Air Malta and on arrival transfer to the comfortable Osborne Hotel in the centre of Valletta for seven nights on room and breakfast basis. This lovely 16th century building was originally constructed by the Knights of the Order of St John and is just minutes walk from Valletta’s beautiful historic buildings, art treasures, museums, restaurants, cafes and shops. The hotel has a restaurant, lounge bar, small roof top swimming pool and sundeck with panoramic views of Valletta.

Day 2 – Home of the Knights
We begin our tour with a trip to Birgu, the cradle of Maltese civilization, also known as Vittoriosa, to walk through the narrow streets shaded by historic buildings some of which housed the Knights of Malta. We see Fort St Angelo, the Knights' most impressive fortress and the Freedom Monument. Then we board a typical Maltese boat known as a ‘Dghajsa’ to cross the harbour and return to Valletta, where we visit the ‘Malta Experience’ an audio-visual show which condenses Malta’s rich 7,000 years into 45 minutes. Next we visit the Hospitallers’ Ward. Free time before we meet for an afternoon walk to explore more of Valletta. First to the magnificent St John’s Co-Cathedral followed by entry to the Grand Master’s Palace State Rooms and Armoury. Finally, to Upper Barrakka Gardens for the views of the Grand Harbour and Vittoriosa. (B)

Day 3 – Standing Stones
Today we set out to explore some of the oldest free standing buildings in the world beginning with the Tarxien Temples. The oldest of the three temples dates back 6,000 years and a wealth of prehistoric artefacts have been discovered here. Close by is the Hypogeum, with its incredible underground necropolis, discovered during building works in 1902. It consists of halls, chambers and passages hewn out of living rock and is believed to date from around 3,600 to 3,000 BC. Then to Marsaxlokk, Malta’s premier fishing port. We have time here to relax and enjoy a fish lunch or peruse the stalls in the local market. Next, we head to Ghar Dalam a natural water worn cave, the oldest of Malta’s national monuments that has yielded fossilised bones and teeth belonging to dwarf elephants, hippopotamuses and deer which lived in the area between 180,000 and 18,000 years ago. We continue to Haqar Qim and Mnajdra Temples, perhaps the best preserved and most evocative of Malta’s prehistoric sites. Close by we find the famous Blue Grotto, so we take some time to enjoy this lovely coastal area with its caverns and deep blue sea. On our way back to the hotel we have arranged a private wine tasting at the excellent Marnisi Estate. A delightful way to end a busy day. (B)

Day 4 – Valletta
After breakfast we walk to the National Museum of Archaeology that houses an exceptional array of artefacts from Malta’s unique prehistoric periods. The collection is housed in the Auberge de Provence, one of the first and most important buildings to be erected in Malta’s baroque capital city, Valletta, after the Great Siege in the late 16th century. In AD 60 St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta and brought Christianity to the population. A short walk takes us to St Paul’s Shipwreck Church, known as ‘Valletta’s hidden gem’. Lunch at leisure before we meet up to make a special visit to Casa Rocca Piccola, for a tour and private talk by the Marquis Nicholas de Piro, a serving Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.This beautiful Palace is the only privately owned property open to the public in Valletta. Originally built in the 16th century for Don Pietro La Rocca, a Knight of Malta, it is now the family ancestral home of the 9th Marquis de Piro and his family. One of the most popular things to see at Casa Rocca is the network of underground passages and tunnels cut out of the rock over its 400 year history. One particular tunnel takes us into a huge cavern used during the WWII to shelter over 100 people from the heavy bombing. (B)

Day 5 – Rabat and Mdina
Today we head inland and visit the ruins of the Domus Romana, a rich Roman town house where the mosaic pavements rank among the finest and oldest compositions from the western Mediterranean. We proceed to Rabat to visit St Paul’s Catacombs, a typical complex of interconnected, underground Roman cemeteries that were in use up to the 4th century AD. St Paul’s Catacombs represent the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta. We enter the walled city of Mdina and visit St Paul’s Cathedral with its museum of treasures, Palazzo Falzon, one of the oldest houses in the city and stroll through the narrow streets - one of the world's finest examples of a living medieval city. We have a lunch break before heading to the Ta Hagrat and Skorba Temples, where pottery has been discovered dating back as far as 4,500 BC. Next to the coast at Dingli with the highest cliffs on Malta and time to explore the mysterious cart ruts at Clapham Junction generally thought to date to the Bronze Age. (B)

Day 6 – Island of Gozo
We drive to the north of the island of Malta for a ferry crossing to the island of Gozo. We begin our tour at the Brockdorff Circle, a site consisting of a series of natural cavities adapted for burials. Then to the Ggantija Prehistoric Temples which are located on the crest of the hill south of Xaghra built more than 5,000 years ago. As the name implies, these are the largest of the megalithic temples found on the Maltese Islands. The scenic drive through Gozo’s green countryside takes us to the neighbouring bays of Xwejni and Qbajjar, and the Qolla l-Bajda Battery, one of the numerous watchtowers along the coastline of the Maltese islands. Here we see saltpans said to have been used since Roman times. We continue to Victoria, Gozo’s Capital City, also known as Rabat where we visit the Citadel and Gozo's Cathedral. We have a refreshing lunch break at Ta Rikardu Restaurant a typical Gozitan tavern. After lunch we drive downhill to Dwejra Bay where we get to see the ‘Azure Window’ whose arch has been created by the constant pounding of the water. Close-by we see ‘Fungus Rock’, so-called because the plant, which grew on them, was reputed to have miraculous powers of healing. ‘The Inland Sea’ is a pool whose only outlet to the sea is through a natural tunnel. We return to the harbour for the ferry crossing back to Malta and our hotel. (BL)

Day 7– Grand Harbour
This morning we have arranged a relaxing but informative boat trip. We will take to the water in our private boat for a tour of the Grand Harbour and surrounding coastline. This is one of the best ways to understand the formidable ramparts of this remarkable Island. Free time this afternoon for last minute shopping, a leisurely stroll through the streets of the capital or just relax in the sun by the hotel pool. (B)

Day 8 – Saturday 18th May 2013
After breakfast we transfer to the airport for our flight to London. (B)

"Saha"- Maltese for Farewell and Goodbye

Escorted by top local guides throughout we enjoy the wonderful landscapes and explore the many different periods of occupation that have all left their mark on these magical Islands.

(B) = Breakfast (BL) = Breakfast and Lunch (BLD) = Breakfast Lunch and Dinner



DEPARTURE DATE  Saturday 11th May 2013






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