At the crossroads of the Mediterranean, halfway between Europe and North Africa lies the Maltese archipelago consisting of 3 main islands. Malta (the largest island), Gozo and Comino covering a surface area of 316 km². Of the three islands, Malta can be considered to be the hub of administrative and commercial activities. Gozo, the second largest island is more rural, characterised by fishing, tourism, crafts and agriculture while Comino is largely uninhabited.
Because of its strategic geographic location and its excellent harbours, Malta has always been a major attraction to the world’s maritime powers. As a result, Malta was ruled by many foreign powers, starting with the Phoenicians and ending with the British. Thus Malta was in continuous contact with diverse cultures, which greatly enriched the islands’ historical, archaeological and cultural heritage. Malta boasts of a 7,000-year history with prehistoric temples older than the pyramids of Egypt and Britain’s Stonehenge.
Today, Malta’s relaxed lifestyle, its climate and sea make it a favourite holiday destination. The Maltese Islands also boast of a number of natural attractions, from its unique limestone walls and natural harbours to its clear crystalline waters and beautiful coastline as well as a number of folklore and traditions ingrained deep in the heart of the Maltese culture.
The Maltese economy has experienced a shift over the years - from a manufacturing based economy the islands have moved towards a more service-oriented industry. The growth in the services sector is mainly due to great human resource potential found in Malta and its strategic location in a very important region. In the past few years steady growth has been registered in the provision and development of niche financial, ICT and tourism services. Malta is thus strengthening its position as a major hub for the provision of transhipment, financial services and Information and Communication Technology and pushing to become a leader in the region.
Malta's climate is typical of the Mediterranean; sunny and with hot, dry summers, warm and sporadically wet autumns, and short, cool winters with adequate rainfall. The average hours of sunshine during mid-winter range from five to six hours. Although mild, winters are generally damp and rainy with occasionally short chilly periods.
Malta has two official languages, Maltese and English, a legacy of British rule that lasted over 160 years. Malta became independent in 1964, a republic in 1974 and joined the European Union in May 2004. Although predominantly Catholic, the Constitution of Malta guarantees freedom of worship and association.
Malta is a truly exceptional island having preserved much of its extraordinary past influenced by the different cultures which have left their mark upon this small state. Malta, Gozo and Comino are renowned for the hospitality and generosity shown by the people, with the typical warmth and spontaneity of the Mediterranean region