With 96 points out of 100, the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo received the top score in the Climate category of IL’s Annual Retirement Index (released last month).
These islands, undiscovered jewels that most people couldn’t pinpoint on a map, offer blue skies and sunshine—even in January and February.
Malta and Gozo aren’t a mainstream destination for North American tourists. For discerning travelers with a love of culture, history, and excellent weather, that’s good news. It’s a treat to come across places that haven’t had all the charm and identity crushed out of them by the hoards of visitors who have landed on their shores.
Malta and Gozo are anchored almost in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. They lie 60 miles from the Italian island of Sicily, which is linked to Malta by regular ferry service. The next closest neighbors are in North Africa, which lies less than 200 miles away. Travel west and you arrive in Tunisia; go south from Malta and you hit Libya.
Malta‘s Sunny Climate Means No Snow
Both Malta and Gozo are blessed with mild winters and hot summers. Spring comes early, around late February, and the summer lingers until October. Frost and snow are completely unknown. There is winter rainfall, but it tends to fall in heavy bursts for short periods…an average of 583 mm (23 inches) a year.
Temperatures from November to April average 57 degrees Fahrenheit. During summer and fall, the average is 73 (it can get very hot between July and September). There’s no shortage of sunshine: an average of 6.5 hours daily in winter and 10.5 in summer.
But most people travel to Malta not just for the climate, but for the culture. Rich in archeological splendors, Malta is busy and densely populated…a place that is managing to embrace the 21st century without losing its past—and its past is pretty incredible. If you enjoy poking around ancient places, you’ll be in your element. The island’s position at the hub of the ancient trading routes has meant that over the centuries all the great civilizations have left their marks—Phoenicians, Arabs, Romans, Byzantines, Ottoman Turks, Crusader Knights, the French under Napoleon, the British…
The smaller island of Gozo has its own treasure-trove of antiquities, but here’s the big difference: it hasn’t been discovered by mass tourism—this is how much of the Mediterranean was 50 years ago, a place of close-knit village communities. More rural and old-fashioned than Malta, it’s an unspoiled backwater that has great appeal to bohemian spirits who want to live the simple life. An aura of dreamy enchantment hangs over the whole island, and even on the bustling streets of its “capital,” Victoria, there’s an air of laid-back tranquility.
Ochre-yellow in summer, green in winter, the islands are patchworked with low hills, terraced fields, and strings of villages. In some places, the flat-roofed houses give the landscape an almost biblical appearance, but there are also countless traditional farmhouses and baroque parish churches dotting the countryside.
The Maltese islands are a wonderful place to enjoy the sporting life. If you’re not a soccer fan (soccer is the most popular spectator sport on the islands during winter), don’t worry. You can watch or take part in lots of other things: horseback riding, trotting races at Marsa Racecourse, bowls, water-polo, tennis, squash, cricket, snorkeling, wind-surfing, sailing, and walking. Oh…and golf, too. In fact, just about anything short of skiing.
Plus, here you’ll find some of the best dive sites in the Mediterranean. Malta and Gozo are an underwater wonderland of fairy-tale arches, chimneys, and caves decorated by pink anemones and inhabited by seahorses.
Steeped in history and with the best climate in the world, these islands have even more to offer. Here you’ll find a low cost of living…affordable “houses of character”…zero crime…an excellent health care system…and serious tax breaks.
Subscribers to the International Living Magazine can get the Annual Retirement Index in full in the September issue…and our report on Malta in the October issue. Become a subscriber now and get instant online access to both issues.