Malta or Cyprus: Which Island Nation to Visit?


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Dreams of jetting off to a beautiful Mediterranean island nation fill almost everyone’s mind every now and then. With perennially good weather, crystal clear waters, fascinating history and great cuisines, flocking to a Mediterranean island like Malta or Cyprus for a seaside escape is an attractive option no matter where you find yourself in the world.

And while coastal destinations like Italy, Spain, or Croatia are always popular places to head for a bit of sea and sunshine, there are also numerous islands in the Med that people continue to flock to each year. Therefore, if you’re looking for an ideal island nation to visit in the Mediterranean and are stuck between choosing between Malta or Cyprus, this article is here to help.

Choosing between Cyprus or Malta to visit can feel like a daunting, impossible task as, on paper, both nations seem to offer similar things. However, having visited both nations and travelled around them extensively, I can effectively say that both Malta and Cyprus have unique and different things to offer visitors. While both Cyprus and Malta boast a similar climate and coastal boasting, there are things about Cyprus that will appeal to some travellers and there are other things about Malta that will appeal to others.

If you’re stuck on deciding whether you want to visit Malta or Cyprus, then make sure to read on as you’ve found the right place! Both countries have so much to

Malta

Though small in size, Malta has an incredible amount to offer visitors and is beginning to shed its reputation as a destination solely for those looking to visit all-inclusive resorts. More and more potential visitors are seeing the joys that Malta boasts including beautiful, historic cities, crystal blue waters, and delicious cuisine.

Located just south of Sicily and not all that far north from Tunisia and the North African coast, Malta has seen countless influences over the centuries and is truly one of the most fascinating places to visit if you want to get a good overview of European history. From the cobbled streets of Valletta to the rugged nature of Gozo, visiting Malta is always a good idea.

If you’re struggling to choose between visiting Malta or Cyprus for a holiday, here is how Malta stacks up:

View of Valetta from Sliema Harbour
View of Valetta from Sliema Harbour

Accessibility

One of the first things that you need to consider when deciding whether Malta vs Cyprus is better to visit for you is how accessible each island is. This encompasses both the ease of getting there from abroad and also how easy it is to get around the country.

When it comes to Malta, though it is an island nation, the country is quite accessible in both aspects mentioned above. When it comes to actually getting to Malta, you will be happy to know that there are countless flights per day to the island from destinations all across Europe and further afield. Big-name airlines like British Airlines and Lufthansa fly to Malta along with its national carrier, AirMalta.

However, if you’re travelling on a shoestring budget or just don’t like to spend the majority of your holiday savings on a flight, you will be happy to know that budget carriers like Ryanair, Easyjet, and Wizzair all operate numerous flights across Europe to Malta. This means that you will almost always find a flight connection from to Malta from any European city.

There is only one airport on Malta and you will see why when you realise just how small the island nation is. Getting from the airport to anywhere on the island is fairly straightforward. There are buses you can take to most major cities and towns and you can also grab a taxi at an affordable rate. For instance, a taxi from the airport to the major urban area of Sliema will only cost about €15-20 and it is only located about 20 minutes away.

You also can reach Malta by ferry from Sicily. Numerous connections leave between the islands daily, meaning that though Malta is an island nation, it is still very possible and easy to reach the island without having to take a flight.

Getting around Malta is also incredibly straightforward. Because of its small size, everything is located within easy reach of each other and the island is also blessed with a great public bus network meaning that it’s easy to get around if you’re only relying on public transit. Many people do want to rent a car in Malta in order to have some flexibility in their itineraries, however, this really isn’t altogether necessary and you can easily see all the sites that you need to see while relying on the humble bus.

There is also a great ferry network in Malta that connects both cities and islands quite affordably. For instance, you can cut down on a lot of transit time by hopping on the ferry from Sliema to Valletta or the ferry from Valetta to the Three Cities. There are also frequent and regular ferry connections between Malta and the island of Gozo which also makes it possible to visit Gozo as a day trip. The Gozo ferry allows for car transit, however, the Valletta and Three Cities ferries are solely for passengers.

All in all, if you’re struggling to choose between Malta or Cyprus and accessibility is a major component for you, then Malta checks most of the boxes as it’s easy to get to and get around without relying on your own private vehicle.

Public transport might be a factor when choosing between Malta or Cyprus
Ferries are a great way to get around Malta

Affordability

Unlike a clear cut difference like accessibility that can help you choose between Malta or Cyprus; when we get into how affordable each country is it can be a little bit harder to pinpoint.

While neither Cyprus nor Malta are absolute budget places to visit, neither country is going to seriously break the bank, either. In fact, your average trip cost to Malta is likely going to end up being roughly the same as a trip to Cyprus.

Food prices in Malta aren’t necessarily knock-your-socks-off affordable, however, they can be incredibly good value-for-money. Portion sizes are large and one main dish can easily feed two people — especially if you share a starter beforehand. There is also very little discrepancy between a more upmarket dining establishment to a more budget-centred one, meaning that you can get an incredibly high-quality meal at a very good price — particularly when you factor in what you get.

Activities prices in Malta can get pretty steep, depending on what it is that you choose to do. Where museum entry usually isn’t too expensive (normally around €5 per person, with student and senior discounts available at most establishments), certain attractions can be quite pricey. Even entrance into the iconic St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta is more expensive than most museums at €10 per person and entry into the Hal-Saflieni Hypogeum is €35 for adult entry.

Accommodation prices don’t have to be incredibly steep, especially if you opt for budget choices like a bed in a hostel. Expect a double ensuite room in a hotel to start at around €50-60 per night.

Where you can end up saving a lot of money in Malta is on transportation, especially since it isn’t necessary to rent a car. Bus fares and ferry fees are quite affordable and your daily budget per person on transportation needn’t be over about €5-10 per person.

Sliema is a popular place to stay in Malta
Sliema is a popular place to stay in Malta

Things to Do

Now that we’ve covered the affordability and accessibility of Malta vs Cyprus, let’s talk about the things there are to actually do in either country.

Malta, despite its small size, manages to pack a lot into its diminutive area and there is plenty to keep visitors busy in Malta for a week or more. Malta has a lot of fascinating history that spans many centuries and includes countless different influences and cultures. There are charming seaside villages to visit, historic cities to explore, beautiful beaches to relax on, and wonderful wineries in which to sip some local vino.

There are ancient sites, museums, active adventures and more on offer in Malta and, to lean into cliche, it has something to offer everyone. When comparing Malta or Cyprus and you’re thinking of what there is to do, it is worth noting that it is easier to get to everything in a shorter period of time in Malta solely due to the fact it is so much smaller. Malta and Cyprus also have different histories and different influences throughout history, so you will see distinct differences.

One of the most glaring difference between historic sites in Malta vs Cyprus is that you will not get any of the Ottoman influences in Malta that you do in Cyprus. This is because the Ottoman Empire, despite laying siege to the island in the 16th century, was never able to conquer the country. Malta also takes more North African and Italian influences than Cyprus and it is evident in its architecture and culture.

Both countries have a lot to do, however, Malta might have more packed into it when you factor in the sheer small size of the country compared to just how many things to do there are.

Exploring Mdina won't add to your Malta trip cost
Explore Mdina’s streets doesn’t cost anything!

Cuisine

If you’re looking for an underrated and delicious food scene that hasn’t made it on an international scale, then, by all means, choose Malta over Cyprus! Maltese cuisine is one of the most unique in Europe and, while it has strong Italian influences, it also draws from North Africa, France, and even British cuisines.

Of course, there is a prevalence of fresh fish and seafood that pepper menus no matter where you find yourself. With the sheer amount of different seafood dishes available, I would say that Malta is the better place to visit for fish lovers!

While in Malta, make sure to tuck into a delicious dish of octopus in garlic or a traditional rabbit stew or perhaps a whole grilled lampuki (dorado)! You cannot go wrong with anything from a traditional Maltese menu!

Maltese Food: Octupus
Traditional Octopus Dish in Malta

Cyprus

Located in the southeastern Mediterranean, Cyprus has long been a hotspot for those looking to soak up the sun year-round while enjoying the hospitality of friendly locals and a laid-back lifestyle. Though Cyprus boasts a great coastline in cities like Paphos, Larnaca or Limassol, its inland capital city of Nicosia is one of the most interesting and dynamic in Europe and is very much worth exploring, as well.

Cyprus is also known for its significance in Greek mythology as the birthplace of Aphrodite. Located near the city of Paphos, you can find the place where the goddess of love and beauty was, per legend, born.

Cyprus has a lot to offer visitors and it can be difficult to choose whether to visit there or Malta. This is how it stacks up to the latter nation:

Aphrodite's Rock is a must visit on any Cyprus itinerary
Beautiful Aphrodite’s Rock

Accessibility

When comparing the accessibility of Cyprus or Malta, there are certainly differences when it comes to the two island nations. First and foremost, Cyprus is a much larger island that is located further away from the majority of mainland Europe, so travel times both on and to the island are going to be longer.

Besides that, however, Cyprus is an incredibly popular destination to visit and there are numerous air connections from across Europe and beyond to the island. Both big-name and budget airlines fly to Cyprus and serve both of its airports. The country’s largest airport is located in the eastern city of Larnaca and the other high-traffic airport is located in the western part of the island outside the city of Paphos.

When comparing Cyprus and Malta and the ease of actually getting around is called into question, Cyprus will likely fall short solely because its public transit system isn’t as well-developed. This means that getting around Cyprus as a tourist is incredibly inconvenient if you don’t rent a car.

If you do decide to visit Cyprus and want to hire a car while there, we recommend browsing RentalCars.com to find the best deal on a car. It aggregates all of the best prices across all available companies ensuring you pay the lowest price.

We also like taking out a third-party excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance in order to get some peace of mind should anything happen to your car and to avoid the high fees if you purchase directly through the rental company.

All in all, if you don’t mind or would prefer to have your own car a drive around your holiday destination, then Cyprus is a good option for you. If you would rather not drive, then Malta may be a better choice for you.

Driving in Cyprus is the best way to see the country!
Driving in Cyprus is the best way to see the country!

Affordability

As mentioned earlier, if choosing between Cyprus or Malta to visit and cost is a major factor for you, then it may not help you to make the decision as a visit to both Cyprus and Malta will likely cost you about the same.

For things like food and accommodation, prices between Malta and Cyprus are nearly indistinguishable. Cypriot portion sizes are large and you usually get a great value for money if you’re eating at a local establishment. I do think that there is a greater difference in price between upmarket and mid-range restaurants, but altogether quality and prices are more or less the same between the two countries. The same goes for the cost of accommodation.

Where you may end up spending more in Cyprus than you would in Malta is in transportation. This is because it is all but necessary to rent a car or go on day tours in order to see the sites on the island and this costs significantly more than the occasional bus or ferry ticket. So in Malta where you are looking at about €5-10 per day, in Cyprus, you are looking at over €20 per day on transportation.

Conversely, prices of tourist attractions in Cyprus are much lower and given the sheer amount of ruins and historical sites on the island, this is great news. Don’t expect to pay much more than €5 to enter the most extensive of archaeological parks and museums.

With these things considered, Cyprus might prove slightly more expensive to visit, but some of the different factors of your overall trip cost may end up evening out.

Sea Caves in Ayia Napa is worth adding to your Cyprus itinerary
Sea Caves in Ayia Napa are free to visit!

Things to Do

It’s hard to compare Cyprus or Malta when it comes to things to do as both island nations pack a lot into a small space. Where Malta has so much to offer historically spanning over numerous different influences and culture, Cyprus is the place to go if you’re a fan of ancient Greece and Hellenistic-era ruins. Claiming to be the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite, Cyprus clearly has a massive Greek influence that spans millennia and you can see some truly phenomenal ruins and historical sites.

Where Cyprus can differ from Malta in terms of things to do is that Cyprus is much bigger than Malta and therefore there is more open space and more room to get out into nature. In particular, there are mountain ranges in Cyprus (the Troodos Mountains) that are filled with villages and hiking opportunities galore — something that Malta, unfortunately, cannot offer to the same extent.

Though their histories and cultures are significantly different, both Cyprus and Malta share a lot of similarities when it comes to things to do, but things in Cyprus are further spread out so it will take longer to do everything there than it would in Malta.

Ruins at Kato Paphos Archaeological Park
Ruins at Kato Paphos Archaeological Park

Cuisine

Cypriot cuisine draws a lot of influence from, unsurprisingly, traditional Greek cuisine, with dishes like souvlaki and mousaka available on most menus. Surprisingly, despite its island nature, traditional Cypriot food lies more heavily on land animals rather than seafood, so it may not actually be the best destination for pescatarians or fish lovers — head to Malta for that.

Cyprus is famous for halloumi and you can get plenty of it while you’re there and it is absolutely delicious! You also cannot leave the country without eat a traditional mezze meal — where you will get numerous courses of local specialities for a flat price. Most restaurants will offer a meat option, however, you can find seafood mezze available in many coastal restaurants.

All in all, if you like Greek food and are happy to eat it on your holiday, then Cyprus is a great choice for you!

Dips from Agios Demetrios
Complementary dips & salads from a Cypriot tavern

Malta or Cyprus: The Verdict

So which country should you visit, Malta or Cyprus?

All in all, I would recommend heading to Malta if you want to cover a lot in a short period of time. Malta has a unique culture, a good public transit system, and a small area that will allow you to see quite a lot of the country in only a handful of days.

Conversely, if you want a more leisurely holiday, want to go for a hike in the mountains for a bit, are a Greek mythology buff, and like renting a car and exploring while on holiday, then Cyprus might be the choice for you!

Either way you choose to go, there is no denying that you will have a wonderful time on your getaway to the Mediterranean!

The Tombs of the Kings is one of the best things to do in Paphos
The Tombs of the Kings in Cyprus

Trying to decide between visiting Malta or Cyprus can be difficult as it seems they offer very similar things. However, both countries have unique sites, histories, and cultures that make them distinct places to visit. Can’t decide? Then why not visit both!

When travelling in either country, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We recommend WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads 

Are you trying to choose between Cyprus vs Malta? Have you been to either? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

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