With is year-round warm climate, Malta and its sister islands of Gozo and Comino, a Mediterranean archipelago, offer visitors an off-season summer experience in the Fall months with a diverse range of festivals and events. This hidden gem is perfect for travelers looking for off-the-beaten path destinations that offer breathtaking landscapes, and appeal to a diverse group of travelers. With more than 8,000 years of history, Michelin-starred gastronomy, local wine and year-round festivals, there is something for every visitor, even during the Fall months. The great destination offers more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.
What’s even better is that the Maltese Islands offer luxury for less than mainland Europe with an expanding luxury product with a diverse range of curated experiences. Valletta, the capital, and one of three of Malta’s UNESCO world heritage Sites, was built by the proud Knights of St. John. Malta’s patrimony in stone ranges from the oldest free-standing stone architecture in the world, to one of the British Empire’s most formidable defensive systems, and includes a rich mix of domestic, religious and military architecture from the ancient, medieval and early modern periods. Valletta also has thriving nightlife.
Quite famously, back in 2015, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited the island nation and its stunning shores, which served as setting for “By the Sea,” the movie in which they play a couple whose lethargic marriage is shaken by the sights and people of the Mediterranean. In the movie, the nearby island of Gozo doubled for the French Riviera — it’s just that beautiful.
Personally, I have visited Malta numerous times, while sailing on various luxury cruise lines. It is one of my world’s favorite destinations. Some of my special, time-tested things to do are to wander the charming streets, stop in the shops, and of course, savor a Nutella gelato.
Though separated from mainland Malta by a mere 5 km (approx. 3 miles) stretch of sea (25 minutes by ferry) Gozo offers a more authentic experience. The island is one-third the size of Malta, more rural and much more tranquil. Gozo is known for its picturesque scenery, pristine coastline and untouched country trails. Baroque churches rise from the heart of small villages, and traditional farmhouses dot the rural landscape. Its culture and way of life are rooted in tradition and yet open to the present. Developed just enough but not too much, Gozo is a masterpiece wrought by nature and shaped by 8,000 years of culture. Myth and reality meet here on what is believed to have been the Isle of Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey, where the sea nymph held Odysseus (Ulysses) in her thrall for seven years. There is already so much for visitors to discover: From peaceful, well-restored farmhouses in picturesque villages to five-star luxury hotels; close encounters with nature on land and sea to chats with friendly locals; breathtaking dive sites to mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine, and always the island’s remarkable history and archaeology. There is something for everyone on the sun-drenched, warm-hearted eco-island of Gozo.
If Odysseus arrived today, he would find it even harder to leave.
Here are some great Fall festivals for you to consider.
Notte Bianca – October 7, 2023
Organized by Festivals Malta, Notte Bianca is one of Malta’s biggest annual arts and culture festivals. For one special night, every first Saturday of October, the Valletta cityscape lights up with a spectacular celebration of the arts that is open to the public free of charge. Valletta’s streets, piazzas, churches, state palaces and museums are transformed into venues for a myriad of live performances and concerts, while many cafés and restaurants extend their opening hours. Notte Bianca celebrates the close bond between Maltese artists and audiences while forging international collaborations. The entire city of Valletta, from City Gate to Fort St Elmo, comes alive for Notte Bianca, guaranteeing a memorable night that truly holds something for everyone.
Rolex Middle Sea Race 2023 – Beginning October 21, 2023 in Valletta’s Grand Harbour
Malta, the crossroads of the Mediterranean, will host the 44th Rolex Middle Sea Race, an iconic race, featuring some of the world’s premier mariners on the most high-tech vessels in the sea. The race begins in Valletta’s Grand Harbour beneath the historic Fort St. Angelo. Participants will embark on the 606-nautical-mile classic, traveling to the Eastern coast of Sicily, up towards the Strait of Messina, before heading North to the Aeolian Islands and the active volcano of Stromboli. Passing between Marettimo and Favignana the crews head South towards the island of Lampedusa, passing Pantelleria on the way back to Malta.
The Three Palaces Festival Early Opera & Music Festival* – November 1–5, 2023
Organized by Festivals Malta, the festival focuses on the premise that “our ordinary is actually extraordinary,” which is coming from the fact that in Malta we are surrounded by magnificent buildings that we pass by every day and barely notice their beauty. It gives life to the philosophy that everyone should have access to heritage sites, to the transcendent beauty of art, as well as the right to participate in the expression of music. Education in the arts is a cornerstone of The Three Palaces Festival Early Opera & Music Festival, and broad access is given through school participation, arts tourism and musician gatherings that see emerging artists perform alongside the finest established artists in Malta and internationally. *Please note the website still has to be updated with the 2023 program.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN GOZO
Festival Mediterranea – October 14, 2023 – November 18, 2023
The 20th Edition of Festival Mediterranea will be celebrated in Gozo, one of Malta’s sister islands, from October 14, 2023 through November 18, 2023. This annual event offers all that Gozo boasts of in the cultural and artistic arena. This mid-autumn festival has an island-wide aspect, with a wide variety of indoor and outdoor events. Opera and other music concerts dominate the celebrations, but there are also international conferences, walks and talks in ancient and historic places, field trips, food and drink events and art exhibitions. Festival Mediterranea offers visitors a great opportunity to learn about Gozo’s temples and archaeological sites through a series of lectures and visits.
Opera is Gozo – October 1–31, 2023
October is Opera month with ‘Opera is Gozo,’ a festival celebrating this joyous and rousing art form in various locations around Gozo. Soulful arias fill the theaters and skies as international soloist’s, orchestra musicians, choristers and locals unite to perform, participate and take pleasure in all things opera. The festival includes two fully staged operas performed at The Astra theater and Aurora Theatre in Victoria as well as recitals, opera appreciation workshops and activities for seasoned opera-goers right through to opera newbies.
Bravo to this wonderful destination.
For more about my Wanderlust and Wellness travels, please Follow me on Instagram at @DebbiKickham.