In addition to being the longest-reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II was also the most well travelled, having even lived abroad for a few years before she ascended to the throne. But one destination held a place in her heart unlike any other.
Throughout her 96 years of life, Queen Elizabeth made six trips to Malta, including a two year stint living in the Mediterranean archipelago while Prince Philip was stationed there as a Naval Officer.
She spoke fondly about her time in Malta in 2015 during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
“Malta was always very special to me. I remember happy days here with Prince Philip when we were first married,” said the Queen in 2015.
Lady Pamela, who was one of the Queen’s bridesmaids, has also spoken of the love the late monarch had for the island.
“The Princess really loved Malta because she was able to lead a normal life, wander through the town and do some shopping,” she told Mail Online.
“It was the only place that she was able to live the life of a naval officer’s wife, just like all the other wives.
“It was wonderful for her and it’s why they have such a nostalgia for Malta.”
With 300 days of sunshine per year and Queen Elizabeth’s stamp of approval, here’s why Malta is well worth adding to your travel bucket list.
Built in the mid-18th century, Villa Guardamangia is a sprawling summer palace that the Queen — then Princess Elizabeth — and Prince Philip called home from 1949 to 1951.
The 1,500 square metre villa features eighteen rooms, stables, a sprawling garden and even a bunker.
While you can no longer stay at the property, it is currently undergoing a major restoration project to recreate what it looked like when the royals called it home, and will be turned into a museum for all to enjoy for years to come.
Hotel Meridien Phoenicia
The Queen was also known to frequent Hotel Meridien Phoenicia, a five-star resort that is widely regarded as the country’s most iconic hotel.
With dreamy views and a classic Mediterranean style, the Hotel Meridien Phoenicia is worth a visit, whether you’re staying the night or just getting a drink at one of the bars.
The resort features four restaurants and bars, an outdoor wellness centre to get a massage on one of Malta’s 300 sunny days per year, and even has the capacity to host weddings and major events.
The entire capital city of Valletta is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason.
With architecture dating back to the 16th century, including the picturesque St. John’s Cathedral, and the Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens — which offer stunning views of the harbour, the capital city looks like something out of a fairytale.
If you can be flexible on timing, it’s worth checking out the Maltese Carnival, which runs for five days and has been celebrated annual for nearly five centuries.
Often referred to as Malta’s ‘sister’, Gozo is a 20-minute ferry ride away and is the second largest island in the Malta archipelago.
You can visit the ancient Citadella, which is worth spending half a day exploring the museums and taking in the spectacular views. Or, you can have your own Game of Thrones moment at the Azure Window (which sadly doesn’t look like it once did during the Dhanerys Targaryn and Karl Drogo wedding, as a result of wind and wave damage).
Located on the island’s southern coast, the Blue Grotto is a complex of seven caves that is named after its bright blue waters.
If you don’t have a car, getting to Blue Grotto only takes half an hour from Valletta, and with restaurants located right near where the cave boats dock (the caves themselves are only accessible by boat), you can make a day out of it and grab a bite to eat and a drink or two after exploring the caves.
Make sure you visit in the morning during the summer months, particularly on clear, sunny days to see the water at its clearest and bluest as the sun shines through the caves before lunch.