Touring the Astounding Hotels of Malta
PHOTO: The Ta Cenc Hotel tries to blend into the natural landscape on Gozo. (All photos courtesy those featured)
Malta’s mild winters probably played a role in the destination’s selection by InternationalLiving.com as one of the easiest places for retirees to fit in overseas. The magazine said that “Malta blends the best of southern-European graciousness with one of the best qualities of life to be found in Europe.
First-world standards of service and infrastructure, a wealth of historical and architectural treasures from its eons of history (including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites), world-class golf courses and the sparkling Mediterranean, all in a country one-tenth the size of Rhode Island.” No wonder then that the in-flight magazine of Air Malta has so many real estate ads.
The location of the Maltese islands of Malta, Gozo and Camino between Sicily and Tunisia makes for wonderful weather in the shoulder season and winter. The summer, when the islands get most of their tourism, is extremely hot. Across Malta and Gozo there are some 1,971 different lodging options offering some 45,800 rooms. Lodging in Malta ranges from city hotels and sprawling resorts to B&Bs and farmhouses.
About 135 of the hotels are labeled five-star, though that assessment is very wide and you’ll find many degrees of quality within the five-star designation. The bulk of Malta’s hotels are located in the four-star category. June and July see Malta’s occupancy rates in the mid-80, in the 70s in June and September. Occupancy dips down to the 50s and 60s in such shoulder months as April and May and October.
You might call the Corinthia Palace Hotel Malta’s fancy guest room. Located across from the Presidential Palace and the Botanical Gardens, it regularly hosts dignitaries and world leaders. The 150-room hotel opened in 1968 in the center of Malta, roughly halfway between Mdina and Valetta. The roots of the hotel and the entire chain of Corinthia Hotels run through the hotel’s dining room. Originally, a five-star restaurant, the owners grew the hotel out of the restaurant. Today Corinthia’s 10 Hotels can be found in destinations from London to Khartoum.
Valletta is one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful cities thanks to the impressive bastions of its Renaissance-era fortress walls. Within those walls lie the city’s Baroque architectural treasures.
For the visitors that really want to immerse themselves in that Baroque splendor there is the Palazzo Prince D ’Orange, a Relais & Chateaux property in central Valetta. The 18th century Palazzo was used by British officers in World War II and was opened as a special hotel in 1999. Since then it’s been used by such celebrities as Angelina Jolie and Orlando Bloom. The Baroque Palazzo has two spacious apartments plus a small gym and a spa with a sauna. Luxury Suites, which operates the Palazzo, has plans to expand throughout the country. They will open four on Gozo in village squares with the first opening this month.
Going to a Gozo
PHOTO: Gozo’s Villa Orchidia offers a manor-esque accommodation at deluxe prices.
Gozo, Malta’s second largest island, is home to about 28,000 people year round, but the summers are much different when tourists from Britain, Germany and Italy take to the island’s beaches in very big numbers.
The Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz is a true five-star, though not a true luxury property. It’s a very well-maintained version of the sort of sprawling full service resort you might find in Phuket or in Cancun. The resort features 83 rooms and 46 suites. Three pools, three restaurants, two bars, a dive center, tennis courts and an Ayurvedic Spa lead a long list of activities and services available on the 30,000 square meters of manicured grounds. Opened in 1999, Kempinski acquired the property in 2001 and just completed a total, top-to-bottom refurbishment and it’s in fabulous shape. Most of the hotel’s guests hail from Britain and Germany.
The 83-room Hotel Ta Cenc is a very comfortable 83-room family hotel designed to suggest a Mediterranean village, though it has more of the feel of a Mexican hacienda. What’s important is that the architects chose to spread the hotel out across 1.5 square miles of bird sanctuary.
The hotel encourages guests to wander trails throughout its 400-acre landscape. Mindful of the bird sanctuary, the designers used textures and colors that blend into the landscape. The hotel has several tiers of lodging from standard to trullo suites. Though you can see the sea, the hotel shuttle is there to bring bathers back and forth.
Many Gozitan farmhouses have been converted to hotels and Gozo Farmhouse Ltd. offers about 25 of these farmhouses all over the island. These houses are ideal for families or for groups of up to three couples. They have kitchens and can arrange have all kinds of services from cooks to tours options available. The Villa Orchidia, one such farmhouse, has four bedrooms and rents for about $2,500 per night. If you do the math that’s about €312 per night, per person at eight pax. The Orchidia feels more like a manor than a farmhouse and has a fine swimming pool and sprawling grounds.
According to Gozo Farmhouses General Manager Paul Scicluna, “When they come, Americans will spend six or seven nights. Our properties range from as low as €65 to €400 per night. The best deals come in the shoulder seasons March through June and again in September and October. Those are beautiful times of year here.”
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