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Best Places to visit in North Island, New Zealand in 7 Days

7 days Itinerary for the North Island, New Zealand

It happens very often that travellers don’t have much time to see the best of New Zealand that’s why here is my suggestion of New Zealand North Island itinerary for 7 days. It is a bit of a rush but still enough time to experience New Zealand’s North Island highlights.

7 days Itinerary for the North Island, New Zealand
7 days Itinerary for the North Island, New Zealand

This New Zealand North Island travel guide is perfect for the New Zealand self drive tours or exploring the country by bus. In both ways it’s a very easy and exciting route. I will start from Auckland and finish in Wellington, nevertheless you can also follow the New Zealand 7 days itinerary backwards. It covers the best of north island New Zealand to make your road trip memorable.

Best Places to visit in North Island, New Zealand in 7 Days

Day 1: Auckland

Auckland is the most populated city in New Zealand. It’s for it’s Westhaven Marina, busy CBD occupied by tall skyscrapers and surroundings filled with magnificent landscapes. It’s a nice smooth introduction to the Kiwi culture before you start your New Zealand North Island trip through the land of Tolkien’s mystical creatures. You can visit Auckland Art Gallery or experience bungee jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge or jump off the Auckland Sky Tower. I would suggest you to explore Auckland’s surroundings, they have a lot to offer. Check my Top 5 things to see in Auckland.

New Zealand, Auckland
New Zealand, Auckland

Auckland offers plenty of car rental companies to choose from. I would suggest Snap Rentals. It’s backpacker-friendly, accepts 18+ drivers with insurance costs being the same for drivers of any age. No extra charge for multiple drivers. Pick up locations in Auckland are Auckland City Centre (Hopetoun Street) and Auckland Airport. And Drop-off Locations: Auckland, Queenstown, Queenstown Airport and Christchurch Airport.

Day 2-3: Tauranga & Mount Maunganui

If you are enjoying a self drive tour in New Zealand then it will take you 2:30h to get to Tauranga from Auckland. Tauranga is one of the most populous cities in the Bay of Plenty region North Island of New Zealand. It’s surrounded by a beautiful coastline where you can go sailing, fishing or dolphin and orca watching. You can stroll through the harbour, enjoy the view and taste something delicious in one of the cafés.

Mt. Maunganui, Tauranga, New Zealand
Mt. Maunganui, Tauranga, New Zealand

But don’t stay too long in Tauranga. Just a 15 minutes drive away from Tauranga you will find the amazing beach town, Mount Maunganui. It has been named as the “Best beach in New Zealand”. There are plenty of beautiful walking tracks to the top of the extinct volcano Mauao, which rises 232 metres above the sea and offers amazing 360 degree view. There is also Gourmet Night Market with a wide range of fresh food from local farmers.

Day 4: The geothermal city of Rotorua

Rotorua is another geothermal treasure of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s located just one hour drive away from Tuaranga and offers various attractions. A special feature of this town due to the sulphur in the air is the incredibly strong smell of eggs that makes the journey unbearable and can be handled for only 2 days. 

Redwoods, Rotorua, New Zealand
Redwoods, Rotorua, New Zealand

35% of Rotorua’s population is Maori and the reason for that goes back to the time when the tribes just arrived in New Zealand. Shortly after they discovered lake Rotorua and it’s geothermal surroundings. They immediately saw the benefits, providing hot water and fertile soil. They also gave a spiritual meaning to the region. Nowadays there are numerous villages that you can visit and experience a journey back in time.

Where to stay in Rotorua?

Just for 1 night I would suggest to stay at Base Hostel. The positive aspects were the close proximity to the city and the free parking space for the driving backpackers. Wi-fi was available at the reception but only until 9pm, otherwise you need to pay $6 for 24h.

Things to do and attractions in Rotorua

Geothermal reserve walk in Hell’s Gate

The best way to start your day getting to know the sulphur-rich area is with visiting one of the 5 geothermal parks. We decided to experience the unique Maori owned active geothermal area with mud bath spa, Hell’s Gate. It’s a mesmerising field with erupting waters, pools of boiling mud and a volcano with the largest hot waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Every hot pool has a different temperature, for example the steaming cliffs pool is the hottest one and reaches 122C.

There is a separate charming area where you can relax and enjoy the landscaped view. I need to warn you though, your skin will have an egg odor for a few days. Addendum, you will need around 2h to visit this unique place.

Wine tasting at Volcanic Hill and skyline

New Zealand is famous for it’s rich variety of great wine. Every region produces it’s own liquid pride, as does Rotorua. Nevertheless there are only two amazing winemakers, who are creating divine wine together, Sean Beer and Brent Park. They gathered experience from all over the world and decided to produce high quality wine, poetically named Volcanic Hills. Their winery is small and they sell directly to costumers which makes their wine even more exclusive.

To explore the savoriness of Volcanic Hills’ wine you can have a ride on the breathtaking Skyline and visit the tasting room. The memorable ride on the Gondola will leave you in excited anticipation to see the top of the Skyline. The tasting room will spoil you with samples of wines from New Zealand’s best wine regions. While you are being a professional and decadent wine taster you can also enjoy the 180° panoramic views over Lake Rotorua. There are 5 different varieties of wine to try and each one has it’s own explosive flavours.

Night tour in Rotorua

This is one of the must tours in Rotorua! It’s something completely different because you will experience the nature of New Zealand by night. Everything that seems to be so normal by day comes to life by night. The shiny eyes of a cute opossum looking at you from behind a tree, curious wallabies and thousands of glowworms covering the walls of the forest like stars in the sky.

All this we witnessed with our great tour guide Stephen, who picked us up from the hostel. He told us about Rotorua’s history and forestlands, to which we were driving. When we reached the secret location, we were provided with torches and safety vests and we started our journey through the dark and mysterious woods. On the way Stephen was telling us about the fauna and flora, pointing out the most important plants. The wow effect were the glowworms adjacent the waterfall by night. It’s very hard to describe the beauty of the nature that we saw, you just need to experience it by yourself.

After the walk through the Native Forest we headed to a river where we could sit down, have a nice chat and enjoy hot chocolate with biscuits. Stephen’s wife is from South America and she makes really great hot chocolate, of which you can’t get enough!

Day 5: Hobbiton & Taupo

Hobbiton the movie set tour

Visiting New Zealand and not going to Peter Jackson’s famous movie set, where the adventure of the little hobbit Frodo began, is a sin! All tourists know it, that’s why 30% of Hobbiton‘s visitors haven’t even seen the movies and still were willing to pay $114. We’ve been told that the best time to experience hobbiton is in the morning, before the set is full with excited fans. Take the first bus from Rotorua to Hobbiton. The movie set is not the original one, it was rebuilt after the Lord of the Rings trilogy concluded. Because after the movies came out, many people came to the farm where it was filmed. So being a businessman, Peter Jackson decided to cooperate with the farmers again and open the attraction park for their faithful groupies.

Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata, New Zealand
Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata, New Zealand

The 2 hours guided tour will definitely leave you with an infinite amount of pictures and a happy smile on your face. Hobbiton is indeed an amazing place with incredible scenery that looks so genuine that you would like to choose one of the gardened houses and stay there forever. People who are working here are taking care of every element of the village, even the evergreen lawn grass is perfect! After a fun tour you will be invited for an ale or cider at the Green Dragon.

Must See Orakei Karako

You can only reach the geothermal treasure of nature Orakei Karako by car. It is a 45 minutes drive from Rotorua. It’s a volcanic colorful world of geysers, hot springs, mud pools and silica terraces. To get to the untouched geothermal paradise you need to take a ferry which will bring you to the other side of the lake. Don’t worry, it’s all included in the acceptable price of $36.

On your 1h self-guided tour you will discover 23 active natural geysers, numerous bubbling hot springs and the Ruatapu Cave. This impressive natural cave has a jade-green pool, which is thought to have been used as a mirror by Maori women for ritual preparations. It’s also one of the picturesque geothermal areas that doesn’t have so many visitors because of it’s hidden position. This means you won’t feel crowded when you enjoy the native bushwalk.

The lakeside town of Taupo in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island is one of the most beautiful and tranquil places to visit on your New Zealand North Island 7 days itinerary. The lake is actually an active rhyolitic volcano, which has produced two of the world’s most violent eruptions in recent geological history. The marvelous lake with the crystal clear water is also the largest lake in New Zealand.

Where to stay in Taupo?

We were staying in the centrally located Base Hostel. Base hostel is relatively new, rooms are very modern and the walls are still white. In the kitchen area guests are provided with all possible equipment and even a spacious deck, where you can enjoy your breakfast under the hot sun. The hostel would be ideal if not only for one essential thing: sleep. It’s located just above the Element Bar, which is part of the hostel.

Things to do in the evening in Taupo

Maori Rock Carvings Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Maori Rock Carvings Lake Taupo, New Zealand

Get to know Taupo with the famous boat cruise to the Maori Rock Carvings. The 14-metres artwork above the deep water was completed in 1980 by the team of four artists and is only accessible by boat. Join the evening trip at 4:30 with Ernest Kemp Cruise. Every guest gets spoiled with a cozy vibe, heaps of wine & beer, pizza and even some delicious treats by the end of the almost 3h long trip.

Day 6: Taupo & Wellington

Free Walks in Taupo

The morning is an ideal time to go to see the Huka Falls. Just follow the path next to the river in the opposite direction from the town. It’s one of the best free walks in New Zealand that will lead you to the natural hot springs first. After 30 minutes of walking you can soak into the hot bubbling water in Otumuheke Stream at Taupo’s Spa Park. Just don’t forget to grab a towel, swimwear, a pick-nick basket and 1-2 or even more friends. It’s better to arrive at this place in the morning, because the hot pools are famous but very tiny, so many locals and tourists want to enjoy them too.

The famous Huka Falls, one of the Taupo’s highlights are another 45 minutes away from the natural hot springs. On a sunny day the water on the lakeside walk is crystal clear blue and very inviting. Huka Falls doesn’t look like the waterfalls that we all know, the 220,000 liters of water per second flow horizontally.

Bungy Jumping & Tandem Swing in Taupo

You an also start your day in a thrilling way and get picked up by the Taupo Bungy Team. You can dip your head into the mesmerizing Waikato River from 47 meters high with Taupo Bungy. Definitely try the Tandem Swing. I believe that Bungy is more of a test on how courageous you are and the swing is more about enjoying the butterflies in your stomach and the picturesque view!

Where to eat in Taupo

For the fine eaters I would suggest Plateau. The dishes are masterpieces on the plate which taste divine. The staff is very friendly and polite. The prices are also acceptable.


On the way to Wellington

The drive time from Taupo to your the final destination Wellington is 5 hours. However there are some nice stops on the way. You can have a break at Ohakune for it’s walking and biking trails. Another option is to visit the National Army Museum in Waiouru. My suggestion would be to drive to Kapiti Coast and take a tour to Kapiti Island.

Day 7: Wellington

Cable Car in Wellington, New Zealand
Cable Car in Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. It has been named the world’s “Coolest Little Capital”. The cosmopolitan is famous for it’s amazing coffee culture and great culinary scene. Definitely check The Ultimate List of the Best Free Things to do in Wellington NZ. 

One day would not be enough to see the best of it but here are some suggestions. No doubt you should drive or walk to Mount Victoria and enjoy the panoramic view of the city. Start your walk from the Oriental Bay and stroll on the waterfront, taking time to visit Te Papa museum. Try the best Fish & Chips at The Chippery or check some more of my restaurant and cafe suggestions here. You can also take part in a Weta Workshop tour. The Weta Studios are the best special effects studios in the world.

Maastricht, the Netherlands

How to Spend an Awesome One Day in Maastricht

If you want to spend one day in Maastricht here is the perfect list of the things to see in the beautiful town on the souther tip of the Netherlands. Maastricht is one of the oldest medieval cities in Holland that has about 590 listed monuments. It’s very compact so you can explore this little town within 1-2 days.

Streets of Maastricht, the Netherlands
Streets of Maastricht, the Netherlands

Maastricht is also famous for being a university city with a large international student population. It’s also known as a birthplace of the well-known Euro. It has numerous things to offer like great dining, relaxed atmosphere, awesome cafes and delightful shopping. Moreover there are terrific museums and interesting Roman history.

Maastricht in the Netherlands
Maastricht in the Netherlands

Things to See in Maastricht

Het Vrijthof

One of the famous monuments in Maastricht is Vrijthof. It’s a medieval main square. If you visit Maastricht during the Christmas period you will discover a beautiful Christmas market here. Museum aan het Vrijthof was founded in 1973 with the intention to exhibit a huge collection of artworks that used to be owned by a rich couple of The Hague. Nowadays it presents masterpieces of contemporary artists. During the summer Vrijthof is surrounded by trees, cozy cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a drink on the terrace. Adjacent to het Vrijthof is the St. Servatius Basilica, a Romanesque cathedral worth visiting.

St. Peter’s Caves

St. Peter’s Caves is one of the highest spots in Holland. You can have a unique tour through miles of tunnels that were excavated by men through the centuries. The tunnel system is over 80km long. Interesting fact: The cave also served to keep Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” painting safe during WWII.

St. Peter’s Fortress

St. Peter’s Fortress was built in the 18th century with the purpose to defend the city from the French. You can access this magnificent 300 year old monument only on a guided tour that takes a bit over an hour. You will see the cannon gallery, underground tunnels and last but not least a breathtaking view from the top. The green surroundings of the fortress are a protected nature reserve.

Top Museums of Maastricht

Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht

Maastricht features various great museums that reflect it’s long history. Here are the best of them that you can’t miss. Museum Kelder Derlon displays archeological artefacts from the time when the Romans maintained garrison in Maastricht. Perfect for a family visit is Maastricht natural History Museum which offers a wide collection of scientific specimens, artefacts and the skull of a prehistoric aquatic lizard, Mosasaurus. It was hiding in the Meuse river for over 7o million years ago. Last but not least check out the Bonnefantenmuseum because of it’s vast collection of objets d’art and a great selection of paintings, statues and installations from the Medieval period to the present day.

The Meuse River Tour in Maastricht

Another great way to explore the little town Maastricht is by joining the Meuse River Tour by boat. Within an hour you can sail through the scenic waters of the Medieval town.

Shopping in Maastricht

Maastricht is a great destination for the shopaholics. It offers numerous amount of amazing boutiques, big brands and many unusual stores. Just walk through the labyrinth of cobble streets around the Wyck district and you will discover plenty of beautiful things.

Restaurant Tips in Maastricht

After a long day of walking and exploring the beautiful historic town you will definitely be hungry for delicious food and you would like to eat in Maastricht. There are numerous great places to have dinner in Maastricht, nevertheless my restaurant tip is to visit Harvey – Kitchen & Bar. This cozy eatery is open for lunch and dinner. It’s a bit out of town but definitely worth a visit. During the summer period you can enjoy drinks and snacks on the terrace.

new_zealand_beer_yeastie_boys
New Zealand beer “Yeastie boys”

The young owner who has been travelling the world and decided to open his own bar. That’s why you will find an outstanding menu with the modern cuisine. Beer lovers will be spoiled: There is a great variety of Belgian beers and even awesome New Zealand beers. The staff is very friendly and helpful if you need any advice on what to order.

Burger in Harvey - Kitchen & Bar, Maastricht
Burger in Harvey – Kitchen & Bar, Maastricht

We went for the BBQ Wild Chicken & New York Beef Burgers with fresh orange juice and a “Yeastie Boys” New Zealand Beer. My boyfriend was extremely happy because he didn’t expect to find New Zealand beer in Europe. Our portions were big and sumptuous with tasty fries on the side. Enjoyed every bite of it! So if you want to eat burgers in Maastricht don’t miss Harvey – Kitchen & Bar!

ONE DAY IN Maastricht
ONE DAY IN Maastricht

Where to stay in Maastricht

There are numerous of hotels in Maastricht but we were staying at EasyHotel Maastricht in the city centre. It’s an amazing to stay for 1 night. It offers free Wi-Fi, clean and tidy little rooms with very comfortable beds, a big flat screen TV and a private bathroom. Hotel also has 24-hour front desk with very friendly staff. It’s definitely an ideal place for budget travellers who want to stay in the heart of Maastricht.

And here you can find great info about Dutch Hidden Gems: The best off the beaten path destinations in the Netherlands.

MyHeritage picture

Review of the Best Ancestry test MyHeritage DNA kit

I’m convinced we all at least once in our lives questioned ourselves what is my heritage? If there is reliable and the best ancestry test to find out more about your family history? Not even being a genius in the history of the world we know that borders of countries were and are constantly changing, people have been traveling and exploring the world so probably our great grand parents also didn’t stay in the same little village their whole lives.

Furthermore I think learning your family history and ancestry is an essential part of understanding yourself. And when you find out your roots you might confirm something you always wondered about, or reveal something you never knew. There are numerous DNA testing companies but I’ve discovered an affordable MyHeritage DNA kit.

My personal MyHeritage DNA test review

So thinking about all these vital life changing questions I decided to amaze my boyfriend with this original present so he can discover his DNA genealogy and ethnic origins. I’ve read DNA kit reviews and decided to go with ancestry DNA test kit from  MyHeritage. It shows you with a simple DNA check great ancestry results like from which geographic regions and ethnic groups you come from. I saw that customers from all over the world can purchase it so I ordered one online. It was delivered within a few days. It was so simple to accomplish everything and the results were so interesting in the end that I couldn’t resist to order another one for myself too!

MyHeritage DNA kit

MyHeritage DNA kit

So how does ancestry DNA test kit of MyHeritage work?

Opened box of MyHeritage Media Kit

Opened box of MyHeritage Media Kit

After ordering ancestry DNA test kit online as I mentioned before within few days you will receive modern and cleverly designed box. By the way if you want to send it as a gift you can also ship the DNA kit to the address of this lucky person. All instructions can be found within the box. They are very simple, first of all activate your account with a few easy steps online. Afterwards use the sticks to scrape the inside of your cheeks for 1 minute each. It means no blood or any other tests should be provided, it’s pure saliva ethnicity test. The saliva samples will go into the special vials which you need to mail to the lab in enclosed envelope. You need to pay for porto costs so it depends on your country how much it will be. Anyhow it’s a little letter and in Belgium I’ve paid less than 5€.

What you will find inside of MyHeritage DNA box

What you will find inside of MyHeritage DNA box

When will I get my results?

Online results of MyHeritage DNA test

Online results of MyHeritage DNA test

Within the first 2 weeks you will get an email from MyHeritage that your vials with saliva ethnicity test have arrived in the lab and after that it will take around another 3-4 weeks. You will be informed via email when your DNA ancestry results are ready to be viewed. And after your DNA analysis you might discover some surprises like I did!

My personal results of MyHeritage DNA test

My personal results of MyHeritage DNA test

My personal results of MyHeritage DNA test

My personal results of MyHeritage DNA test

My Heritage DNA results

After viewing a little video presenting my ethnic origins and geographic regions I could look at my DNA results a little bit closer. I had no idea what’s my heritage could be. It was an unexpected surprise to discover that I have Japanese and Eskimo roots! I have no idea where it could come from but the 2,2% of Finnish ethnicity explains my affinity for cold Suomi and handsome Ville Valo.

Why you should do Family TreeDNA test

The other interesting thing is that you can find and connect with new relatives who share your DNA. Additionally you can create a family tree DNA results to uncover the full story of your family. I believe creating and building a family tree lets you leave a legacy for your children. Invaluable family history that could be lost forever can now be documented and passed from generation to generation. Isn’t it fantastic?

It also makes sense to provide your parents with the DNA kit so you will gain additional information like which of your results is maternal or paternal. Good to know: Your siblings may get different results as you do because of the nature of genetic inheritance.

Use this coupon and you will get free shipping: ELYSIANMOMENT.  Definitely try MyHeritage because it’s a best genealogy test and without any doubt it’s one of the most interesting and useful things to spend money. You can also give DNA origin test as a present because it’s something that will stay with you and your family forever.

Airplane in the sky

Review on Airport Taxi Transfers, Uptransfers

Nowadays we can’t imagine our lives without flying when it comes to holidays, business trips or any long distance travel. It can be fun and exciting but nevertheless it can also be tiring, especially if your flight is in the early morning or late evening and your only cherished thought is to reach your final destination asap. This is when Airport Transfers like Uptransfers comes in handy!

I was traveling back home from Malta to my small but cute town Bruges with my partner and our little baby boy. Our plane was landing in Charleroi Airport near Brussels which is a 2 hour drive away from Bruges. We were arriving in the late evening, that’s why I wanted to avoid any hassle in this small, crowded airport after our 3 hour flight and took to ordering an airport transfer to Brugge. There are various companies, but I had read nice reviews about Uptransfers, who provides Airport Transfers from and to airports around the world so I decided to experience their services.

How to book an Airport Transfer?

First of all it was very easy to book the Airport Transfer to Bruges online. You just need to decide if you need taxi service one or both ways, afterwards from which airport you should be picked up and where it should go. The number of passengers has no influence on the price only on the size of the car. And last but not least the day and time of arrival is doubtlessly also crucial.

https://uptransfers.com/

https://uptransfers.com/

The awesome thing is that afterwards you will see the prices, no hidden costs and you can choose the car or maybe bus that suits your taste and budget. In the last few steps you need to fill up some information regarding your flight, your name, mobile number and email address. After confirmation you will receive the email with all transfer details and the rendez-vous point. The payment option in this case is cash to the driver.

Booking Airport Transfer from Charleroi Airport to Bruges on on uptransfers.com

Booking Airport Transfer from Charleroi Airport to Bruges on on uptransfers.com

Unfortunately our plane had a 1 hour delay, nevertheless our driver was still there waiting for us. We could identify him immediately because he was holding a sign with my name on it. I can articulate myself in three languages but unfortunately not in French and that was the only language the driver spoke but it didn’t bring any confusions. The driver was very polite, professional and helpful with our luggage. There was a very comfortable and clean baby seat prepared in the car for our little boy. The car looked tidy from the outside and inside. Important to mention it smelled good too. Another fact that gets 10 out of 10 points is driver’s competent steering skills: He was not making sudden turns or stops, not speeding on, driving very smoothly and following all the traffic rules. After riding along in taxis in Malta it was a big change and also very considerate of a sleepy baby on board.

We arrived at our destination faster than expected, safely and without any superfluous hassle. Uptransfers provided our journey back home with everything what you would expect from the reliable Airport Transfer to Bruges: a great vehicle, good offer and qualified driver. I would recommend this company to anyone who wants to escape the airport mess and chaos and get to their place on time.

 

Malta things to do and see

How to Spend Great Family Holidays in Malta

Malta is the best destination for a family holiday with kids. It’s an island country located in the central Mediterranean Sea, it’s small but with a rich and turbulent history. The country is an archipelago with the three largest islands being Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta played a crucial role in the struggle of power between the ancient cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. But why are over 2M tourists so curious to travel to Malta every year? First of all the capital of Malta, Valletta is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites plus it has been crowned as the European Capital of Culture for 2018. There are various beautiful architectural masterpieces as well as the oldest Megalithic Temples in the world, which were also included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The weather & the best time to visit Malta

Moreover summer is almost all year round, winters are very short just 2 months long. I would suggest to visit Malta in September or beginning of October to avoid the heat of the hot and dry summers. Malta in September is warm, sunny and dry. The temperature is around 26°C to 29°C. Nevertheless take enough sunscreen and a hat to protect your skin from the vicious sun.

Streets of Malta's Capital, Valletta

Streets of Malta’s Capital, Valletta

Maltese people & Maltese culture

The medieval Malta is a small island with the population of 460,297 citizens. It’s full of lovely villages, reminiscent of when the Knights of Saint John settled the island. Maltese’ hospitality is renowned for it’s warmth and kindness. Additionally they adore babies and children, so if you travel with your little one and he gets fussy, don’t worry, people in Malta will smile and wave at him to help you out. The official languages are Maltese and English, making it easy to travel on the island. The Maltese language by the way is a fusion of Arabic and the Sicilian dialect of Italian. Because of being under British rule from 1800 until 1964 there are various English influences like driving on the left side of the road. Nowadays Malta is a part of the EU so the local currency is the Euro. Everyone who visits Malta can find something to fall in love with. No wonder that movies like Troy, Game of Thrones, Gladiator and Assassin’s Creed were filmed on this ancient island.

Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta

Getting around in Malta

There are various ways to explore and get around Malta. The public transport mainly bus rotates daily and frequents between all the towns including the coastal road. A one way ticket costs 2€ but you can also get a 1 week pass for 14€ to save some money. Because of high numbers of tourists and locals buses driving between St. Julian and Valletta are often crowded. Most families own cars but because the number of vehicles per household is one of the highest in Europe there is a lot of traffic going on on the roads of Malta.

MCabs Personal Driver Service in Malta

MCabs Personal Driver Service in Malta

A great and efficient way to travel in Malta is by private driver. Because we were visiting the island with our baby we decided to arrange personal transport from and to the airport with MCabs. We arrived pretty late and our driver was already expecting us directly at the arrivals gate with my name on a sign. It’s an amazing feeling to know that everything has been taken care of in advance. We arrived at our destination safely and without any hustle.

You can also find ferry services between Malta and Gozo, and even Malta and Sicily.

Where to stay in Malta

 St. Julian's (Maltese: San Giljan)

St. Julian’s (Maltese: San Giljan) in Malta

On our family holiday to Malta we decided to book a hotel which was based on the seaside town  St. Julian’s (Maltese: San Giljan). It’s situated next to Sliema, a former fishing village that turned into shopping and eating area and it’s north of the Malta’s capital, Valletta. St. Julian’s is known as a tourism-orientated area full of hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Honestly I was surprised that so many 5 stars hotel were located in this town, it’s not a very charming place, the atmosphere wasn’t very appealing to us and there is not much to experience as a family. Nevertheless we were lucky to watch the beautiful fireworks from our balcony dedicated to the Independence Day of Malta on the 21st of September.

Where to go in Malta with kids

As I already mentioned Malta is indeed an open air museum with numerous scenic towns. The main attractions of it are spread all over the island that’s why we decided to experience MCabs’ Full Day Tour to save some time and patience while we were also traveling with our baby. It was the best decision to see everything in one day on our family vacation in Malta.

Valletta, Malta

Valletta, Malta

Visit capital of Malta, Valletta

We were picked up from our hotel at 9:30 am and headed straight to beautiful Valletta. It’s a must visit and wander through the charming narrow streets of Malta’s tiny capital Valletta, built by the Knights of St. John on the peninsula. It’s founder decreed that it should be “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen”, and it retains it’s 16th-century golden-stone fortresses. Don’t be fooled by it’s size because Valletta is “one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world”.

View from the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta

View from the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta

James, our guide was showing us the most significant areas and buildings of Valletta. He told us a lot about Malta’s history like the meaning of Order of St. John. Besides on another day you can also visit the famous St. John’s Co-Cathedral if you don’t mind standing in the long queue, or the Casa Rocca Piccola, a 16th century palace repleted with impressive paintings and antique collections. Enjoy the picturesque view of the Three Cities and Grand Harbour from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. If you make it there at 12am you can witness a midday gun salute, firing the cannons. Surely but right Valletta spoils it’s guests with numerous cafés and restaurants where you can enjoy a glass of local wine or beer Cisk on the terrace.

Exciting Corsairs of Malta Tours

Exciting Corsairs of Malta Tours

Fun things to do in Malta: Pirate Tour

There is another great guided walking tour that introduces you to Malta’s shady mysterious past and I  would definitely recommend it to everyone. Corsairs of Malta Tours are full of provocative and captivating information, on the other hand if you are traveling with little ones it can also be organized to be innocent children’s ears friendly. I didn’t expect that there are so many dark secrets about the corsairs, the Order of St. John and Malta’s cruel history. All these intriguing facts have just recently been exposed and the tour guides are continuing to research this shocking topic. That means more and more of these violent but colourful facts will be added to every tour.

The Most Famous Fishing Village in Malta, Marsaxlokk

The Most Famous Fishing Village in Malta, Marsaxlokk

Things to do in Marsaxlokk, Malta

After spending 2 hours in the capital of Malta we’ve been driven to one of the most famous fishing villages in Malta, Marsaxlokk. The brightly colored fishing boats, morning markets and restaurants serving freshly caught fish among the harbour are the main attractions of this peaceful place. Interesting fact though every boat has an eye painted on the bow, the symbol of health and protection. It ensures that the fishermen are being kept safe while they are out to sea.

The "Silent City", Mdina

The “Silent City”, Mdina

Things to do in Mdina

We tasted the local seasonal fish lampuka at one of the restaurants in Marsaxlokk. My tip let your tour guide know what your budget is for the lunch so you won’t be surprised with the bill. Afterwards we made our way to an ancient capital of Malta: Mdina. Located at a high point in the heart of the island, medieval Mdina has been dubbed as the “Silent City”, which perfectly describes this place. Approximately 300 residents mainly aristocrats and nobility live in the fortified city that traces back to 800 BC. There are limited cars and all this contributes to the peaceful and timeless atmosphere.

The View from the Top of Mdina, Malta

The View from the Top of Mdina, Malta

We were exploring magical Mdina, walking through it’s walled, narrow laneways and visiting some churches. We could also enjoy the 180º view of the island from the top of Mdina. Afterwards we were invited for a drink in one of the gorgeous cafés with unique views over the countryside, Fontanella Tea Garden. Regrettably I didn’t try their homemade cake but this place is famous for it!

Rotunda of Mosta, Malta

Rotunda of Mosta, Malta

Rotunda of Mosta, Malta

Rotunda of Mosta, Malta

Why you should visit Rotunda of Mosta

Our final destination after the exciting day of getting to know the best of Malta was the Rotunda of Mosta. Mosta is at 66m high the third largest unsupported Dome in Europe after the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Golden limestone from the outside and amazingly colorful and quiet inside, this gorgeous building is indeed impressive. There is a tragic and fortunate story behind it: During WW2, a half tonne bomb was dropped on the building, going through the roof, it didn’t explode or injury anyone, this was regarded as a miracle. There is a small room in the church which shows a replica of the bomb.

Replica of the Bomb

Replica of the Bomb

Around 6pm we were brought back to our hotel bursting with memorable impressions of Malta. My partner and I were truly amazed on our first day what this tiny island has to offer and our baby seemed to enjoy his first trip as well. It was doubtlessly worth to plan a tour with MCabs, our guide James showed us the best of Malta and introduced us to the authentic Maltese culture. Loved it!

Visit Malta’s the Three Cities of Cottonera

The Three Cities of Cottonera, Malta

The Three Cities of Cottonera, Malta

One of my favorite parts of our family trip to Malta was to be transported back in time and explore three fortifies cities of Cottonera: Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. The most common and easy way to get there is to use the 58m high Upper Barrakka lift in Valletta that you can take downstairs for free. This lift will bring you down in 25 seconds from where you can enjoy the  beautiful view of the harbour. It is also possible to combine the ferry ticket to the Three Cities for the lift as the quickest alternative to get back into the city from the Valletta waterfront.

The streets of Senglea, Malta

The streets of Senglea, Malta

The three cities are mine kind of area: tranquil streets, picturesque views and colorful details of the architecture. This is where the Knights of St. John first settled in the 16th century and many of the buildings and forts are older than in Valletta.

Pinterest Top Things To do in MaltaVittorioso also known as Birgu existed since the Middle Ages well before the arrival of the Knights. It’s also the most popular and impressive one. Vittoriosa’s waterfront is truly impressive with various sizes yachts and a fortress on a peninsula. Senglea Cospicua suffered great damage in WW2 and needed to be rebuilt. Today they are full of golden limestone houses blended with historical buildings, charming narrow streets and  appealing restaurants. The Three cities are indeed an open air museum where you can get lost for the whole day.

Food in Malta

Maltese Traditional Snack, Pastizzi

Maltese Traditional Snack, Pastizzi

While you are in Malta it’s crucial to taste the traditional cuisine which offers you an influence of cultures like Sicily, Arab and Malta’s own. The prices in Malta are a bit high for the EU standards: 10-15€ for pizza or pasta and 20-25€ for mains. A typical and very popular Maltese snack is pastizzi: Deep fried pastry filled with ricotta or any other delicious mix of vegetables and meat. It’s extremely tasty but you need to be careful not to exaggerate with it’s consumption because one pastizzi which costs around 30-40 cents contains about 500 calories. Yes, I know calories don’t count on vacation but there should be a limit.

Traditional Maltese Pizza, Ftira

Traditional Maltese Pizza, Ftira

The best place to dine in Malta

To experience high quality and traditional delicious food I would suggest to visit Nenu the Artisan Baker in Valletta. This place is not only serving local authentic cuisine but also lets you immerse into the history of Malta. Relics of the old bakery can be seen in the restaurant and their traditional delicious Maltese pizza, ftira is made in an oven that is between 80-100 years old. Ftira has a thick but fluffy base and often topped with different local specialities like cheese, fish, meat, olives and even potatoes. We’ve tried one with the seasonal local fish Lampuka. In addition to it we ordered the local favorite beer Cisk and Malta’s very own soft drink, Kinnie, which is made with bittersweet oranges and aromatic herbs. Kinnie reminded me somehow of coca cola with a zesty orange aftertaste.

Octopus Stew with Potatoes

Octopus Stew with Potatoes

We also ordered a traditional octopus stew with potatoes, which was my flavorful highlight of the night. Before our mains were served we were being treated with fresh-made Maltese bread and delicious dips. Important to mention that Maltese hospitality is a top class in service: The staff is quick, helpful and friendly. Nenu’s menu offers great choice of Maltese food with decent portions. This place is also very beloved by locals so I suggest that one makes a reservation.

Amarino Ice Cream in a shape of Flower

Amarino Ice Cream in a shape of Flower

For a tasty cooling dessert on a the hot day I would highly recommend to visit the small but wow ice cream café Amorino. This place is not only serving delicious Italian ice cream with natural ingredients and amazing flavors but also shapes your ice cream into a flower, a true masterpiece. You can also ask to taste some flavors before you make your final decision and add as many as you want to your floral creation.

If you are searching for some other interesting holiday destinations in Europe, you can find some inspiration here!

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