The Republic of Malta is a small archipelago located in the Mediterranean Sea, about 90 km (57 miles) south of Sicily. It is one of the world's smallest countries, with a total land area of about 310 square kilometers, the largest island in the group being the one that supports most of the human population. The capital of Valletta and the town of Birkirkara combine with a number of smaller communities that make up the majority of the republic's 400,000 residents.
Malta has a long history that is mostly connected to ancient civilizations and their use of the island group as a strategic base for maritime operations. It is referenced often in religious manuscripts and documents, especially the Bible, which makes note of a visit to the islands by St. Paul, who taught Christianity there after being shipwrecked. Catholicism remains the primary religion of the Maltese people today. Malta became a part of the British Empire in the year 1814, and in 1964 gained its independence as a self-governing republic.
The large island of Malta is characterized by a shoreline that is alternately rocky and smooth, with a number of suitable harbors and small inlets. The geography of the land is rather flat, with low hills overlooking cultivated lands. The climate is average for a Mediterranean location, with dry, warm summers and cooler, rainier winters. Average rainfall is about 55 cm (22 inches) per year, and the islands have one of the highest annual amounts of sunshine (about 3000 hours) of any location in Europe or the Mediterranean region.
Malta depends on trade with other nations for most of its food and manufactured goods. The chief industry is limestone, which is quarried throughout the main island, and a bustling tourist trade. Malta receives approximately 1.3 million visitors annually, mostly arriving by air and disembarking at Malta International Airport, a modern facility located in the center of the largest island.
Traveling to Malta, most locals will recommend the city of Mdina, just a short 8 miles and a 20 minute drive from Maltas capital city of Valletta, Known as the “Silent City” This walled city dates back to around 700 B.C and it earliest settlers, the Phoenicians.
Visitor to Malta find no shortage of spas, resorts, and recreational clubs. The islands are a popular destination for beachgoers,water skiers, scuba divers, and those preferring historical walking tours. A number of fine hotels highlight the skyline of both Valletta and Birkirkara. Local bus service is reliable and inexpensive; getting around the largest island is quite easy, with most destinations being within twenty minutes of each other. There is regular ferry service between the main island of Malta to Comino and Gozo, and the licensed White Cab taxis can be flagged down at any corner. The monetary unit of currency is the Euro, and making change is easy at nearly any bank or hotel in the republic.
Malta’s Catholic history shows up regularly in the number of activities and annual festivals on the islands. Most notable are the L’Imnarja, or harvest festival, which takes place in June, and the individual village feasts that are held in honor of the local patron saints. The Maltese people regularly welcome visitors to participate or observe traditional festivals, and tourist guide brochures mention the exact dates and locations of many of these observances.