Spread throughout only 316 square kilometers in the Mediterranean Sea is the closest you'll find to Heaven on Earth. The 400,000 thousand people who live here just call it Malta.

It's a relatively new nation, only gaining independence from Britain back in 1964, but it's history dates back to the Phoenicians from Antiquity. There's a Catholic majority, and the country does have a conservative attitude.

That doesn't mean you won't be able to hit up its incredible beaches--it just means that if you're visiting places like its many churches, cover up.

The capital city is Valletta, a city full of churches and cafes, palaces and museums. From here you can get bus connections to just about any where else on the island, and not very expensively either.

The vintage buses will take you to the ferries that'll shuttle you over to Gozo and Comino, two smaller (and less inhabited) islands. Gozo isn't just a pretty face with its beaches and hiking trails; the Santa Maria Cathedral has a dome with 3-D artwork, marble floors, and a museum.

Another historical site on Gozo are the Ggantija Temples, built 5000 years ago--and have earned a UNESCO designation.

Gozo does have what's known as the Azure Window, a complex of caves with brightly colored coral, and rock formations.

Back on the big island, the Blue Grotto is a site to behold too. Named for the one on the island of Capri, Malta's Blue Grotto runs from light turquoise to a deep blue along limestone caves; and said to best be seen in the early morning light.

On Comino, the Blue Lagoon welcomes the beach loving crowd for a day of sun-filled fun. Just prepare yourself for the crowds that flock here every summer, it's peak season.

You could head to Golden Bay, another sun-kissed coast with golden sand; offering horseback rides along the beach. You can even get a sunset ride, quite romantic really.

Pulling yourself away from the pristine beaches might be hard, but knowing you're of to see the lands of medieval Knights might get you motivated. Mdina has a 13th century palazzo and a Cathedral overlooking St. Paul's Bay.

All the sightseeing and beach activities can make you hungry. Maltese cuisine has a Mediterranean flavor with dishes like pastizzi, a pastry stuffed with peas or ricotta cheese. Fenek, by the way, is rabbit cooked in wine. Enjoy whatever you eat with Cisk lager, the national beer.

It'll be easy to order off the menu (and with no food health concerns, it's even easier to order) if you don't speak Maltese, since English is also the official language. Italian is widely spoken, too.

Getting from place to place in Malta is simple. Buses are inexpensive, and bicycle and mopeds are also readily available. Just remember they drive on the left side.

Since Malta is part of the European Union all you need is a European Union ID Car, for others a passport will do. Some foreign nationals need an onward ticket, but no visa. It's always best to check with the consulate before leaving home, since rules are always changing.

Don't let anything stop you from visiting Malta, a true paradise in Europe--if not the world.

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