When it comes to planning our next getaway, my fiancé, Steve, and myself like to try somewhere new and tick another destination off our wish list. Malta wasn't a destination that topped our list, but when we decided to take a holiday there in early September last year, we were so pleased we did. We haven't stopped recommending Malta to our friends and family since!

Danielle and Steve enjoy an evening out in Salina.

The Sunny Coast Resort Club (1201), overlooking Qawra Bay in Malta was where we stayed. This looked like an ideal escape to some much-needed winter sun. This resort is signed up to the RCI exchange holiday programme and is popular with RCI members, and we could see why right away.

This charming resort is ideal for a classic sun, sea and sand holiday. With a calming atmosphere, this is the perfect spot for the ultimate chill out holiday, having the bustle of local bars and restaurants just a stone's throw away. Though there are many facilities on resort if you choose to have a lazy day - a lido, an outdoor pool, three outdoor Jacuzzis, a heated indoor pool and a restaurant, as well as lots of water sports that can be booked.

Danielle awaiting her meal at the on-site restaurant at the Sunny Coast Resort Club (1201) in Malta's Qawra Bay.

The Sunny Coast Resort Club (1201) in Malta is a peaceful resort, but is only a stone's throw away from the bustle of local restaurants and bars.

Beaches and bays

A big draw for visitors coming into Malta is its coastline. It's pretty rugged, with rocky coves scattered among the sandy bays.

Staying in Qawra meant that we had our very own natural sun beds. The flat rocks - nature's platforms - which fringed the waterfront made perfect spots for us to stretch ourselves out under the ever-present sun, while catching the cooling breeze wafting in off the Mediterranean Sea.

If you can tear yourself away from your sun lounger, there's lots of opportunities to explore on this sunny and compact Mediterranean island. We enjoyed taking walks along the coastline. If you follow the Qawra's scenic promenade, which is edged with pineapple trees, it will lead you to Bugibba, Qawra's bolder and busier neighbour, filled with an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants to keep you entertained.

Continue walking and you'll find the idyllic village of Salina. The clear, bright blue water of Salina Bay attracts those with a fascination with all things below the waves, who choose this spot to go snorkelling and rock pooling. In the evenings you have your pick of small romantic restaurants overlooking the tranquil bay, the perfect end to a perfect day.

Malta's rocky coast provides smooth natural platforms which make the perfect sun loungers, out by the sea and catching the cooling sea breeze.

The Baroque

While visiting Malta, there was no question that a visit to the capital should top our list of places to see. Valletta was just an hour's bus journey away from where we stayed in Qawra and, with a bus stop directly outside of the resort, getting to the island's capital required very little effort.

My image searches for Valletta before taking our trip were impressive, but this elegant Baroque city really has to be seen in person to be believed. Valletta wears its history on its sleeve. Often described as an open air museum, the place really showcases its history and culture with an endless stream of museums, works of art, palaces and monuments, and splendid buildings lining its streets, many of which are quite steep, opening up to the most incredible views beyond the city.

It really is a pleasure to get lost here, just wandering Valletta's cobbled streets, encased by imposing towering town houses. But you should remember to stop at regular intervals to simply look up at the colourful array of balconies, window casements and richly sculpted masonry sitting high above your head. It's a busy and fascinating skyline.

Valletta is home to some stunning architecture. Stopping to glance up from time to time rewards you with glimpses of its elegant past, such as this Baroque window casement.

It is a pleasure to simply wander through Valletta's ancient streets.

The daily saluting battery demonstrations overlooking the Grand Harbour are spectacular.

During our explorations of Valletta, we watched one of the daily saluting battery demonstrations overlooking the Grand Harbour. Be warned, there really is a big bang when the gun fires. It's a great way to take in the military heritage of Malta.

We took a well-earned coffee break from wandering the bustling city, in an old palazzo and discovered Caffé Cordina, a popular café with the locals that has been nestled in Valletta for over 175 years. Trying out a number of the Maltese pastries is a must. We managed to save a little room for some gelato as well, and what tops off this café is its beautifully lit interior which spills over with chandeliers and traditional décor, mirroring the timeless ambience that shines outside.

The Grand Harbour at Valletta is grand in every sense of the word.

Danielle and Steve took a coffee break at Caffé Cordina, a popular café with the locals that has been serving coffee for 175 years.

What to eat in Malta

For us, dining out plays a big part in all of our holidays. Imagine our delight when we discovered that Malta is the perfect food-lover's paradise. With Mediterranean, Arabic and North African influences, the food really is worth travelling for.

Because of its location, seafood, such as tuna, salmon, and shellfish, were big hitters on Maltese menus. We especially enjoyed the Italian influence, from risotto through to gelato. What goes hand in hand to complement the delicious dishes is the generous side order of the warmth and charm of the restaurant staff themselves. The Maltese people are among the most hospitable we have encountered anywhere.

The variety of exotic dishes was a highlight for the couple, who enjoyed a candlelit dinner at the Duo Restaurant in Qawra, which specialised in traditional Maltese dishes.

The night lights of Salina, as viewed from the couple's table at one of the many local restaurants.

A real stand out restaurant for us was Duo Restaurant in Qawra. We sampled traditional Maltese dishes presented in modern ways, such as the rabbit ragu. We found that the perfect way to finish off a meal, is with the local liqueur of the island, Zeppi's Bajtra, which is made from prickly pears.

A typical street in Valletta, where the shopping opportunities are as fascinating as the architecture and the history.

Danielle and Steve enjoyed every aspect of their Maltese adventure, but were especially impressed by the food.

Our holiday finished in spectacular fashion with an amazing fireworks display which lit up the night sky across the whole of Qawra Bay! Much as I'd like to think the fireworks had been laid on as a fiery farewell tribute to us, we just got lucky, as our trip coincided with Victory Day (8th September), which is widely celebrated by the Maltese. It was the perfect way to end what had proven to be a magical holiday in Malta.

There are nineteen resorts scattered across sunny Malta in the RCI exchange holiday programme. If you click on the button below, you can browse the many different resorts offering holidays on this Mediterranean island gem.

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