Explore Malta’s colorful history dating back to the dawn of civilization. This small archipelago off the coast of Sicily boasts some of the clearest waters in the world and architectural wonders that are thousands of years old. Farm-to-table experiences and participation in local traditions will have you fully immersed in the unique culture of Malta! Then you’re off to Sicily, the stunning island surrounded by bright blue Mediterranean waters and dotted with towns built right on the hilltops and cliffs. The outside world fades away when visiting Sicily, and yet the architecture, food, and culture all hint at the country’s Greek, Arab, Roman, and Phoenician influence. The views are breathtaking, the beaches are spectacular, the volcano is active, and the food is some of the best in the Mediterranean!
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Today we will transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to Valletta, Malta.
Note: The airport location and airline will be confirmed no sooner than nine months before departure.
Welcome to Malta! Upon arrival in Valletta, we will settle into our hotel in nearby Sliema for the next five nights. Although Sliema is a European town, the quaint, flat limestone roofs and ornate baroque churches adorned with limestone carvings make this place oneof- a-kind, with a touch of history and a slower pace of life. Dinner will be enjoyed as a group this evening.
Following breakfast, we will get to know the capital city of Malta. Valletta was built by the Knights of St. John after the Ottoman’s “Great Siege of Malta” in 1565. The fortified city boasts over 320 monuments in a 0.2 square mile radius and is the 2018 European Capital of Culture. Within its main gates is a great mix of history and lively culture. We will begin with a walk in the Upper Barrakka Gardens to enjoy a breathtaking view of the only natural harbor in the Mediterranean before visiting the Manoel Theatre, one of the oldest working theaters in Europe. Up next is a tour of the Grandmaster’s Palace staterooms and armory before we head to St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Built shortly after the Great Siege of Malta, the church’s austere exterior is in drastic contrast to its splendid, high baroque interior. The artistry is amazing, from its tombstone laid floors to the vaulted ceiling painted scenes from the life of John the Baptist. In the oratory are two wonderful masterpieces by the artist Caravaggio – St. Jerome and his only signed piece, The Beheading of St. John the Baptist. We will end our day with an entertaining folklore dinner.
(Breakfast and dinner included)
Today we’ll head out into the countryside. The agricultural sector here is small but diverse, and almost all of the products grown are consumed on the island. We’ll learn about life on a small farm and enjoy a special farmer’s lunch of local foods and wine. Then we’re off to explore the silent city of Mdina, Malta’s only medieval city with a range of architecture that includes Norman and Arabic features. Next up is a walking tour of the village of Rabat and a visit to St. Paul’s Catacombs, a series of underground Christian, Jewish, and Pagan tombs that are the earliest evidence of Christianity in Malta. Back above ground, our next stop is the coastline to take in the spectacular views of the Dingli Cliffs and discover the mysterious cart ruts in the limestone at Clapham Junction. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
(Breakfast and lunch included)
After breakfast this morning, we will join our guide for a lovely countryside walk with jaw-dropping views. Today is a special market day in Marsaxlokk, known as the main fishing village in Malta and the best place to see the brightly painted fishing boats. We’ll learn about the village and its fishing culture and browse the fish and souvenir market. This afternoon will involve more sightseeing, beginning with the famed Blue Grotto. We will board a boat for a ride through the series of sea caverns that highlight the beautiful waters in the area. It’s a very refreshing experience! Not far away are the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples. These temples date back 5,500 years and are thought to have been built to worship a fertility goddess.
Enjoy a full day at leisure. Explore the Sliema waterfront or make your way back to Valletta. No matter where you go, there are countless opportunities for shopping, dining, and sightseeing!
This morning we will depart Malta and travel to Sicily by catamaran. Upon arrival in Sicily, we will visit Syracuse’s Archaeological Area with its Greek Theatre, Roman Amphitheatre, and Altar of Hieron II. A visit to the nearby island of Ortigia will have us seeing the Temple of Apollo, the Cathedral, and the Fountain of Arethusa with the famous papyrus plant. Free time will be available this afternoon to walk to the Grand Harbour to explore and have lunch on your own before we board our motorcoach for the drive to Taormina. After settling into our hotel, the group will gather for a delicious dinner.
(Breakfast and dinner included)
Today we will take a walking tour of Taormina, a town that sits near the active volcano of Mount Etna. The town is known for the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theater still used today. Cliffs drop to the sea forming coves with sandy beaches near the theater, and a narrow stretch of sand connects the beach to the tiny island of Isola Bella. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Do some shopping and people watching in the squares or along the lively main street of Corso Umberto, visit the public gardens, or dive deeper into the history of the medieval quarter.
We will get a closer look at Mt. Etna today as we walk through the volcano’s ancient woods and past eccentric craters and unique lava formations. Along the way, we’ll be able to admire the summit craters in the distance and visit a volcanic cave. Next, we are off to a winery and vineyards for a wine tasting and lunch made with fresh, local products. The grapes grown in the area around Etna benefit from the rich volcanic soil and result in wines that any traveler to Sicily must try! On the way back to the hotel, we will also have the opportunity to taste some honey and liquors directly from the local producers. A wonderful farewell dinner is in store this evening.
(Breakfast, lunch, and dinner included)
We will transfer to the airport after breakfast for our flight home.