The Maltese archipelago, situated almost at the center of the Mediterranean, includes the islands of Malta, Gozo, Comino, Comminotto and Filfla. Its situation in the central Mediterranean has made it an important strategic base since the earliest days of navigation. The first civilization to leave any significant remains flourished in the third millennium BC, building many megalithic temples. Later the island was occupied by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians and the Romans.
Independence from Britain was achieved in 1964, and 40 years on Malta was the smallest of the 10 countries to join the EU in May 2004.
Each year, the population of Malta is tripled by an influx of tourists - the nation's main source of income. The Maltese islands offer the attraction of clear blue waters, secluded bays and sandy beaches while, in the towns, medieval walled citadels and splendid baroque churches and palaces reflect the rich history of the islands.
The Maltese islands have indeed been described as one big 'open-air museum'. What makes them unique is that so much of their past is visible today. It is easy to delve into the islands' mysterious prehistory, retrace the footsteps of St Paul or see where the Knights of St John defended Christendom. Worlds apart from the main resorts and the capital Valletta, are the islands’ villages, which are the soul of the islands’ past. Yet with their lively festas and unique everyday life, they are very much part of the islands’ culture today. Then there are the seaside villages, where the rhythm of life is dictated by fishing.
The Maltese archipelago is situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, with the largest inhabited island, Malta, lying 93km (58 miles) south of Sicily and 290km (180 miles) from North Africa. Gozo and Comino are the only other inhabited islands. The landscape of all three is characterized by low hills with terraced fields. Malta has no mountains or rivers. Its coastline is indented with harbors, bays, creeks, sandy beaches and rocky coves. Gozo is connected to Malta by ferry and is more thickly vegetated, with many flat-topped hills and craggy cliffs. Comino, the smallest island, is connected to Malta and Gozo by ferry and is very sparsely populated.The Maltese islands, situated almost at the center of the Mediterranean, offer the attraction of clear blue waters, secluded bays and sandy beaches while, in the towns, medieval walled citadels and splendid baroque churches and palaces reflect the rich history of the islands.