Travelers, Instagrammers and, no doubt, a fair number of locals, were devastated when Malta's iconic Azure Window collapsed earlier this year. A perfect storm of poor weather and coastal erosion sealed the fate of the spectacular sandstone arch — a one-time Game of Thrones star — which was swallowed by the sea in early March, leading to sighs from nature lovers, and, from the less romantic, anxiety about the loss of a reliable marketing asset.
Not all is lost, though. Ever optimistic, we are taking the opportunity to highlight Malta's other charms, of which there are many. National Geographic and Bloomberg, which both declared the archipelago a "place to go in 2017" — without even mentioning the Azure Window — would agree.
1. The Charming Capital
While images of coastlines may have been your first introduction to the Maltese islands, it is surely the images of the fabulously romantic capital city Valletta that will seduce you. The city's grid of narrow streets is lined with gorgeous palazzos, each one bedecked with brightly colored balcony boxes. Baroque churches open to reveal ornate interiors; monuments appear around every corner, and it's all wrapped up in a series of fortifications. It's not all ancient architecture, however: Architect Renzo Piano's redesign of the 16th-century City Gate and Parliament Building was revealed just a couple of years ago, to mixed reaction.
2. A Burgeoning Arts and Culture Scene
For a country with no degree-level art program and only one independent gallery (Blitz), Malta's arts scene is surprisingly healthy. Malta is in a period of high cultural activity right now, with an ongoing program of events surrounding its presidency of the EU; the run up to Valletta sharing the title of European Capital of Culture next year, and, next month, Malta returning to the Venice Biennale for the first time in 17 years. Also next year, a new art museum, named Muza, will be revealed.
3. A Feast of Festivals
From May through September, dozens of village festas are held throughout the islands. Each honors a local patron saint and is marked with processions, music, and a lot of fireworks. Looking for something a little more contemporary? Book your trip for late June when the Isle of MTV rolls into Malta's beaches, nightclubs, and pools.
4. Dwejra Beyond the Arch
If you are really determined to get your sandstone arch fix, there is the quieter, off-the-beaten-path option of Wied il-Mielaħ, also on the island of Gozo. But, really, why not take the opportunity to check out the Dwejra Bay, former home of the Azure Window, and now considerably quieter having lost its most-famed attraction. Swim in the shallows of the inland sea, dive in the Blue Hole, and snorkel around the offshore islet of Fungus Rock.
Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.