Malta Ranks 3rd on European Best Destinations 2024 List and Nabs ‘Best Beach’ Top Spot

Written by Albert Fenech
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The Islands of Malta and Gozo entered the tourism sector in the late 50s and early 60s and the first visitors were mainly returning British servicemen and their families, eager to enjoy the island’s turquoise sea and year-round sunshine once more.

Over the years, the annual arrivals figures started off with a few thousands, then increased to hundreds of thousands, and have now surpassed more one million annual visitors, turning tourism into one of Malta’s main economic pillars.

Things don’t seem to be slowing down either, especially now that Malta has received a boost from the influential European Best Destinations (EBD), which recently released its list of the “20 Best European Destinations 2024,” ranking Malta at number three behind Marbella and Monaco—a great honour for the Maltese Islands.

For this, one million tourists from 172 countries were consulted and cast their votes based on quality of life, culture, hospitality and heritage against a background of social welfare considerations. In its description of Malta, the EBD described it as “the sunny one” and an ideal locality for romance, families and friends, and was ranked most popular among those aged 25 to 45, as well as the top destination for LGBTQ+ travellers.

Malta Best Beach

Nearly 200 steps take visitors to what’s been called Malta’s Best Beach, Ghajn Tuffieha (photo by Rhododendrites – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Best European Beach: Ghajn Tuffieha Bay

Also assembled by  EBD was this year’s rankings of the Most Beautiful Beaches in Europe and Malta’s Ghajn Tuffieha Bay topped the list.

Based on the votes of 103,224 worldwide travelers from 116 countries, the 15 beaches selected include secluded, popular and wild beaches for romantic escapes or family adventures; feature activities such as water sports and nature walks and are also among the safest and cleanest in Europe.

What does Ghajn Tuffieha mean?

A small explanation of the bay’s name – Tuffieha in Maltese means apple, and Ghajn Tuffieha can be translated as “the apple’s eye”, which is what I believed it to mean as a young boy. However,the word ghajn can also mean, a well, as in a water well, and thus Ghajn Tuffieha can is also translated to the well of apples,  which I acknowledge now is the original meaning of the bay.

Two other Maltese seaside localities, St Paul’s Bay and Golden Bay, were also in the top 15, together with sandy bays in Greece, Spain and Portugal.

 

Malta Best Beach

Sunset is a popular time to visit Gajn Tuffieha (photo by Andrea Scanu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

About Ghajn Tuffieha Bay

Known as Riviera Martinique or Riviera, Ghajn Tuffieha Bay is located on the north -western side of Malta, close to a tiny village called Manikata.

This beach is in the middle of two other bays, Gnejna Bay and Golden Bay, and high rock peninsula formations create a complete separation between the three, making each a one-of-a-kind retreat with unique character.

Għajn Tuffieħa is a picturesque red sandy beach with one disadvantage (or advantage, depending on how you look at it). Accessing the beach requires a 200-stair descent, making it a huge deterrent for persons with mobility issues.

On the sands, lifeguards are on duty but always check the flag status, RED for danger from turbulent waves and BLUE suitable for tranquil bathing. On the left-hand side of the bay is a nudists’ area.

Before descending to the beach there is a kiosk for light refreshments.  On the beach is a restaurant.

Around Ghajn Tuffieha

At the top of the cliffs just west of the bay there is an ancient defence tower, Għajn Mixkuka Tower, which was built in 1637 by the Grandmaster Giovanni Paolo Lascaris as a lookout post to signal the approach of invasive (especially Ottoman) forces.

Government works in 1929 discovered a freshwater spring in the area and this gave a new meaning to the name of the bay as Għajn Tuffieħa, the Well of Apples. The voluminous flow of fresh water led the Romans to construct the Roman Baths in the area.The baths consist of a number of rooms and include a latrine, changing rooms, and dormitories. Intricate mosaics of coloured marble and stone were also discovered.

 

Malta best

There’s more to see than beaches in Malta, including the village of Birżebbuġa (Photo by Dave Robinet CC BY-SA 3.0)

How to visit Ghajn Tuffieha?

Parking on top is highly limited so either arrive early or resort to a taxi or public transport.

Public Transport Routes

 

44: Valletta – Għajn Tuffieħa, every 30 minutes.

101: Cirkewwa – Għajn Tuffieħa – Mgarr, every 60 minutes.

223: Bugibba – Għajn Tuffieħa, every 60 minutes.

225: Sliema – Għajn Tuffieħa, every 60 minutes.

TD5: from Sliema and St. Julian’s, every 60 minutes but this bus runs only in the summer.

Plan your trip at www.VisitMalta.com

Malta catacombs

Mdina was once Malta’s capital city and is worth a visit  (photo by Nancy Cachia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

***

BeSeeingYou In: Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, Matla

Good to Know: It’s a 200-step descent to the bay, thus not suitable for those with walking disabilities

WOW! Factor: Ghajn Tuffieha Bay was ranked as Europe’s Best Beach by EBD

Tip:  Use public transport if possible

 

 

Author bio: Albert Fenech

salina46af@gmail.com

Find more travel inspiration at BeSeeingYou

Albert Fenech
Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management and Administration with a leading construction company building the Benghazi Hospital in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, Malta’s leading insurance Broker and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees and Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He was Publications Editor for the Malta Football Association for 25 years and has written for a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books.

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