Cyplon, the Middle East and Mediterranean specialist, has introduced Malta to its collection. In order to introduce travel agents to this new destination, the company recently organised a fam trip for travel agents and members of the media, and invited Travel Daily UK to join them…
DAY ONE WHERE TO GO:
On the first morning of the trip, the fam group made the short journey from St Julian’s to the delightful Maltese capital city, Valletta; rightly designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Built on a grid system it is easy to navigate. The city is full of stunning architecture reflecting its diverse history. Also famed for its glass, the city boasted a unique Christmas tree, built entirely of glass baubles.
A must see is the city’s St John’s “Co-Cathedral’, built by the Knights of St John and completed in 1577. The plain, somewhat austere façade hides the fabulous baroque interior, created by Mattia Fretti. The co-cathedral is also home to two commissioned Caravaggio masterpieces – one of St. Jerome and the other depicting the beheading of St John the Baptist.
For a spectacular view of the harbour, the group headed to the beautiful Upper Barrakka Gardens, which were founded in 1661 as the private gardens of Italian knights.
WHERE TO STAY:
Recently refurbished, the Hilton Malta oozes contemporary class. Using a clear, pale, colour palette, all the public spaces are spacious and welcoming. With a fabulous view of the sea, this St Julian’s hotel boasts five pools – four outdoor and one indoor – a spa and all the conveniences guests would expect from a five-hotel.
Diners can choose from three restaurants: the Blue Elephant, the Merkanti Beach Club and Oceana. For lighter meals and snacks the al fresco Aqua Bar, the Quarterdeck Bar and the lobby bar are all good options.
Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay and Marina Hotel Corinthia Beach Resort
Part of the same complex, guests from both the five-star Corinthia and four-star Marina can use the resort’s facilities. The art deco Corinthia is lavishly decorated, creating a sophisticated atmosphere. Rooms are spacious and nicely decorated, and all have balconies.
Guests have access to a spa with an indoor pool and seven outdoor pools with access to the sea via the hotel’s rocky beach. The resort has an extensive range of restaurants, offering a wide range of cuisines.
The Marina is spacious, brighter and more modern than its sister hotel. It also offers a range of large suites, which span the width of the hotel. Perfectly in tune with the festive season, Marina’s Christmas decorations included a fabulous gingerbread train, coated in chocolate.
The fam group spent one night in the Marina and three members of the group were upgraded to suites. Rooms were tastefully decorated and beds exceptionally comfortable, making it feel closer to five-star than four-star in quality.
WHERE TO GO:
The second day of the fam trip began with a trip to Mdina, one the finest examples of an ancient walled city in Europe, with an extraordinary mix of medieval and baroque architecture.
The name “Mdina” is derived from the Arabic for “fortress”, and the city sits on a hill near the centre of Malta offering a glorious vantage point from which most of the island is visible. On a clear day even distant Sicily can be seen from the city walls.
The history of Mdina dates back more than 4000 years, and it was here in 60 AD that the Apostle St. Paul is said to have lived after being shipwrecked on the island. This compact medieval city reflects the architecture of the various rulers of Malta, including the Knights of St John, the Arabs, the Venetians and the British.
Mdina’s narrow streets are filled with fabulous ancient palaces, quirky café’s and many gift shops, where you can buy the famous Mdina and Valetta glass. This near to Christmas many of the group could not resist the temptation to pick up a few delicate Christmas baubles.
During the day the city is bustling with tourists, but at night it becomes a quiet, magical retreat, earning its nickname ‘the silent city’.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Palace and The Victoria Hotel, Sliema
Set amid the bustling streets of Sliema, the Palace and Victoria hotels offer guests easy access to the harbour and the ferry across to Valletta, or boat trips to the nearby islands of Gozo and Comina.
The Victoria is in the process of being refurbished. It is a good standard four-star hotel boasting a beautiful traditional pub, the Penny Black. Guests can also eat in the light and airy Copperfields restaurant, or their new restaurant, It-Terrazzin. There is also access to indoor and outdoor pools and a spa.
The Palace is a five-star hotel with rooms that are beautifully decorated, comfortable and spacious. Of particular note are their stunning themed suites. Guests can choose from ‘Light’, ‘Music’, ‘Texture’, ‘Fragrance’, ‘Flavours’ or ‘View’.
Diners can choose from the Tabloid or TemptAsian restaurants. TemptAsian (pictured) is situated on the top floor of the hotel and offers spectacular panoramic views across the harbour to Valletta.
The Palace also offers a wide range of facilities, including a spa, indoor pool and outdoor rooftop infinity-edged pool.
The Westin Dragonara Resort
This spectacular five-star hotel is surrounded by Mediterranean on three sides, so all rooms have a sea view. The décor whispers tasteful elegance throughout.
The classic style is reflected in its beautifully appointed bedrooms and lavish suites. The hotel is especially accommodating to families, offering a spacious kids club facility.
Outside are two pools, open seasonally, as well as access to the hotel’s private sandy cove. Inside the fitness club includes a heated pool which is accessible year round.
Guests have a great choice of restaurants, each with its distinctive style and cuisine. Of particular note is Quadro, which is one of Malta’s best fine-dining restaurant. Certainly the menu offered to the fam group lived up to that claim.
WHERE TO STAY:
Hotel Fortina and Fortina Spa Resort
The Fortina consists of four- and five-star hotels. Rooms are large and comfortable with the choice of a range of suites including a number with their own private pools.
The outdoor pool meanders through the resort’s stunning tropical gardens and includes a swim-up bar. In a quiet spot in the gardens, guests can also find a relaxing jacuzzi. Of note must be the resort’s spa, offering an extensive range of therapies and treatments.
Fortina’s appreciation of the role spa therapies can have in ensuring a relaxing and refreshing break is reflected in their ground-breaking spa suites. Guests have an extensive choice including a therapeutic bath with seven programmes including seaweed, salt and essential oils. A steam shower, a ‘Dermalife Machine’ offering body detoxification therapy and a private spa for two.
Finding somewhere nice to eat is no problem, with access to six restaurants offering cuisine appealing to any palate.