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Malta

Malta Highlights: Malta is a beautiful Mediterranean island country, which contains everything from mysterious Megalithic buildings to spectacular diving sites, and from gorgeous beaches to enchanting fishing villages. Malta is an archipelago, but just three of its islands are occupied: the main island of Malta, sleepy Gozo, and tiny Comino. The elegant capital is Valletta, built by the Knights Hospitaller in the 16th century and remarkably unchanged, while inland you’ll find the sleepy ancient capital of Mdina. There are scores of popular resorts along the coast, including bustling Sliema and St Julien, and several resorts along St Paul’s Bay, including Qawra and Bugibba. Don’t miss the spectacular Megalithic temples, such as Ggantija (on the island of Gozo), Hagar Qin, and Tarxien, all World Heritage Sites. Food & drink: Maltese cuisine is Mediterranean, with an original twist which reflects the country’s proximity to southern Italy and North Africa. Delicious local specialities include ‘pastizzi’, savoury pastries filled with ricotta, and main dishes such as ‘timpana’, a succulent, meaty pasta dish baked in pastry, or ‘ross fil-forn’, baked rice with a tomato sauce. Local cheeses and charcuterie make wonderful snacks, and desserts include ‘kannoli’, a sweet pastry with a ricotta filling, or the honey-drenched Christmas speciality, ‘qagħaq tal-għasel'. Off the beaten track: You can escape the crowds by heading to the tiny, car-free island of Comino, just 3.5 square kilometres, which is most famous for the intense turquoise waters of its Blue Lagoon, but also boasts a host of wonderful walking paths and biking trails.