Date(s) - 26/03/2015 - 06/04/2015
Travel Dates: March 26th – April 6th, 2015
Featured Attractions: Exclusive tour for only 17 lucky passengers to experience this glorious 12 day adventure to the very religious stronghold island of Malta. Enjoy 8 nights on the Island of Malta and 2 nights in Gozo. Experience the highly charged experiences on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Learn about the Maltese culture through its history, food and drink and fantastic tours.
It’s an Easter Extravaganza in Malta!
There is no better place on the planet to feel fully enthralled in the Easter experience. Malta is a very strong Roman Catholic country whose traditions mainly centre around the church, Only 17 lucky passengers will experience the Holy Week which includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In addition to the religious attraction, you’ll be fully engaged cultural experiences which include first class attractions, tours, and delectable food encounters. If you want to experience something very special at Easter this year, then you must join us in Malta.
Additional Resource: http://www.visitmalta.com/en/holy-week-and-easter
Intinerary & Price
LAND COST (Airfare is available from Toronto to Malta for $1275 – inclusive at time of publishing this trip)
$3139 Double CDN / $2829 Double USD
$3659 Single CDN / $3299 Single USD
10 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 3 dinners are including in this tour
Day 1: Thursday, March 26th Depart Toronto or your local airport for Malta.
Begin your journey today as you arrive in Toronto for your afternoon to Malta via Paris. Should you not be departing from Toronto, you’ll meet your MAXIMA Tour Director at Luqa International Airport in Malta. Remember to turn your clocks ahead by 6 hours.
Day 2: Friday, March 27th Arrive in Malta (D)
Upon your arrival in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, we’ll connect to our Air Malta Flights and continue onto Malta. Your connection time is approximately 2 hours and flight time from Paris to Malta is approximately 2.5 hours. We will arrive in Malta at 1:00pm to enjoy our 1st day. We will be transferred from the airport to our host hotel for the next four nights. Enjoy an included dinner at our hotel. The Marina Hotel Corinthia Beach Resort boasts an advantageous position overlooking the striking bay area of St. George’s. With its colourful fisherman’s boats and the great expanse of the crystal clear blue Mediterranean Sea, it offers a superb panorama.
Accommodations:Marina Hotel – Corinthia Beach Resort 4* or similar for four nights
Day 3: Saturday, March 28th Valletta City Tour (B)
For your first full day in Malta, awaken to the sounds of the sea and the anticipation of what the capital city, Valletta, has to offer. Enjoy breakfast at the resort followed by transportation to Valletta where you will learn about the landmark city that the Knights of Malta built. Most of the touring today will be by foot, so be prepared with comfortable walking shoes and appropriate clothing. Enter the majestic gates of Malta as you learn about its history, and the Auberges of the Knights. You will visit the Lower Barrakka Gardens en route to the Upper Barrakka Gardens. In order to set the appropriate tone for today’s touring, you will watch the high definition production of the Malta Experience. Just across from the Malta Experience was the Infirmary of the Knights. Built in 1574, it provided about 900 beds for patients who included knights, soldiers, sailors and foreigners. Being Hospitallers, the original functions of the Knights was to care for the poor, sick or injured pilgrims to the Holy Land.
Stroll down Valletta’s main street, Republic Street, en route to the famous Cafe Cordina where you will meet a family member who will tell you about his/her family history and specialties that they offer. Sample from an array of food items as you enjoy lunch on own in the gorgeous Piazza Regina. A short walk from Cafe Cordina will bring us to the unassuming St. John’s Co-Cathedral – the Church of the Knights of Malta. Inside you will discover a treasure trove of magnificent art and the opulence of the vaulted ceilings and tombstone flooring. It is here that perhaps the most famous work of art of famed artist Caravaggio is displayed – “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist” – which is his only signed piece in the world. From here, we gather to venture back to the hotel to relax and freshen up for dinner on own at the hotel resort or at one of the many fine restaurants close by.
Day 4: Sunday, March 29th Palm Sunday and Marsaxlokk Village (B,L,D)
Today kicks off Easter Week with Palm Sunday. Today we will be engaged in a Palm Sunday experience as well as visit some very popular villages. A tradition every Sunday morning is the return of the fisherman to land to sell their catch. You will travel to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk to observe the fish market as well as take some time to buy souvenirs and food products from the many other vendors that are present. A traditional fish lunch awaits you with options for those who do not each fish. Following lunch, we will return to the hotel to relax and freshen up for our evening. We will be departing the hotel together for a light dinner at a Maltese Band Club followed by a Palm Sunday Mass and Procession.
The Maltese band clubs have their roots in the sixteenth century when drums and flutes accompanied feasts and processions, but the idea of forming philharmonic societies started in the second part of the 19th century, under the influence of the marching bands of the British Empire. Virtually every town and village in Malta has its own parish band club – some even more than one. Today, band clubs are part of the social and cultural history of the Maltese islands, an institution of every town and village, spreading Maltese culture and teaching of music. As you will during the holy week, Band Clubs play an integral part in Village Festas or Feasts.
Today marks the first major day of the Holy Week. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. Our Palm Sunday experience includes a procession of the assembled worshipers carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. The Mass and procession will take place in the early evening.
Day 5: Monday, March 30th Village Life, Bakery Experience, The Three Cities (B,L)
Our third day will have us traversing some of the less travelled streets in Valletta and visiting the iconic Three Cities of Malta. Your morning begins with an immersion into village life with a stop in Qormi to visit a traditional bakery followed by a taste of a traditional Maltese Ftira. Every Mediterranean country has its unique shape and form of bread. They also have their own fillings. The Maltese opt for vegetarian or fish fillings and the bread is a disc-shaped semi flat bread that has a glorious texture. Learn from skilled artisans as you create your own Ftira.
The early afternoon will have us visiting the Three Cities. These towns extending towards Valletta and dividing the Grand Harbour into deep inlets, are known historically with different names but those most commonly used today are Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua. The Three Cities were the centre for the Knights of Malta’s naval operations and it continued to be an important hive of activity as the base of the British fleet in the Mediterranean. You will discover sites such as the Inquisitor’s Palace, Maritime Museum, significant military forts, and the iconic watchtower. We will return to the hotel by 4pm for you to enjoy the hotel amenities or venture out and explore the area.
Day 6: Tuesday, March 31st Northern Malta Touring, Arrival in Gozo (B,L,D)
Pack your bags as you head North to St. Paul’s Bay, Buggiba, and Mellieha. The typical rural landscape with terraced fields hosts a variety of interesting features that make this locality unique. St. Paul’s Bay derives its name from the apostle Paul who was said to have been ship wrecked near here at the St. Paul’s Islands. Hear the story of his influence in Malta and witness the beauty of this area as we traverse further northward. The rural village of Mellieha is located in the Northwest part of Malta. Its name is likely to have been derived from the Greek word “Melleca” meaning honey. Remains of the prehistory, a red painted Tower and the sheltered church courtyard will give a historic dimension to the tour combined with breath taking views overlying the rocky shore. We’ll enjoy a light lunch at a little hidden cafe with some of the best views in Malta.
From Mellieha, we travel to Cirkewwa to board the Gozo Channel Ferry for the island of Gozo where we will spend the next 3 nights. Gozo affords a certain charm and tranquility that sets it apart from the main island. Before checking into our hotel we will visit the Azure Window – a coastal landmark that features a bridge or table-like rock that reaches across the sea to an eroded pillar. Our host hotel is the rustic feeling Cornucopia Hotel. When you look out from the hotel, you will see a land that is very different from the Island of Malta. You will wonder if you are in Tuscany or perhaps Rio – the views are spectacular. A group dinner with wine is included this evening. Take the rest of the evening to only dream of what awaits you tomorrow.
Accommodations: Cornucopia Hotel 3.5* or similar for two nights
Day 7: Wednesday, April 1st Full Day in Gozo (B,L)
On this day, you will discover Gozo’s splendour. The production of sea salt has a long tradition in Gozo and the saltpans found near Marsalforn are still used today. You will arrive after breakfast to watch the salt being collected as it glistens under the sun. You then travel to a local farm to learn of Gozitan dairy production. You’ll have a hands-on opportunity in the collection of goat milk; you only live once! After our farm visit you will venture to the capital of Gozo for a leisurely walk through the village streets as we witness local people in their daily jobs en route to the Citadel. The Cidadel or Citadella is an area known to have been first fortified during the Bronze Age and later developed by the Phoenicians and continues development until, by Roman times, it had become a complex Acropolis. Up until the 18th Century, it was the only fortified refuge against attack for the inhabitants of the island. From here, you will experience a Gozitan cheese-making demonstration. The most popular cheese on all of Malta is called Gbejna and the very best comes from Gozo. Enjoy a traditional Gozitan platter lunch at a local restaurant. Like the Italians, Maltese enjoy a good game of bocce or lawn bowling. Join in on some fun at a local bocci club – perhaps even have an opportunity to challenge a Gozitan. What follows is a wine tasting experience at a local vineyard. Gozitan wine, while not widely distributed, is a true testament to the love that the islanders have of their land. There will be an opportunity prior to returning to our hotel to visit the oldest Neolithic temple in Malta – Ggantija. Travel back to the Cornucopia hotel to freshen up before enjoying dinner on own in the village square of Xaghra or in Marsalforn.
Day 8: Thursday, April 2nd Dingli Cliffs, Rabat, Mdina and the Seven Church Procession (B,L)
After breakfast in Gozo, we’ll make our way back to Malta via ferry and arrive at the majestic Dingli Cliffs for some amazing views. Make sure your camera is fully charged! The village lies on a plateau some 250 metres above sea level, which is one of the highest points of Malta. The area provides not only open sea views over the tiny, uninhabited isle of Filfla, but is also a good vantage point over Malta. A lunch will follow at a local restaurant.
Our afternoon will have us visiting Rabat and Mdina (the Silent City). The Arabs, during their 200 years of rule, divided the old Roman City of Melita into two: the citadel became known as Mdina and the rest of the area as Rabat. In Rabat we find St. Paul’s Church and Grotto as well as the St. Paul’s Catacombs. It is here where we learn the story of a shipwrecked St. Paul in Malta. The Catacombs of St. Paul are not themselves associated with Paul but derive their name from their proximity to St. Paul’s Church and Grotto. They are a fascinating labyrinth of 3rd-century AD subterranean tombs and the earliest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta. Next, discover the Domvs Romana (Roman Villa) where the mosaic pavements rank among the finest and oldest compositions from the western Mediterranean, alongside those of Pompeii and Sicily. Other attractions include Muslim tombstones, a draped female statue, a tiny bone baby rattle and decorative architecture.
On this day, known as Maundy Thursday in Malta, a tradition of visiting Seven Churches takes place. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. In contrast to joyful Easter celebrations when Christians worship their resurrected Savior, Maundy Thursday services are typically more solemn occasions, marked by the shadow of Jesus’ betrayal. In the evening, in most of Malta’s churches, takes place the celebration of the Eucharist. The most touching part of the mass is the washing of the feet of twelve men. It gives the meaning of priesthood as a service to the neglected ones involving even the most humiliating experiences. Parishes compete in order to make the best flower arrangements in front of the blessed sacrament. You will have an opportunity to take part in the visiting of Seven Churches (‘seba’ vizti’) where Christians kneel, reflect and pray beside the tomb of Christ. Another particular tradition is the replica of the apostles table during the first Eucharist celebrated by Christ. There is so much attention nowadays in order to reproduce this tradition in a meticulous manner. Valletta will be our city of choice for this spectacular evening.
Accommodations:Marina Hotel – Corinthia Beach Resort 4* or similar for four nights
Day 9: Friday, April 3rd Good Friday Procession (B)
Today marks the day in which Jesus was crucified – known as Good Friday. You’ll have some time this morning to relax and enjoy lunch on own. We will be travelling to the village of Zebbug in the afternoon to witness arguably the most spectacular procession on the islands. One of the first things that will seem different is that there will be relatively few bells rung across Malta. Instead you will find a wooden rattle (“cuqlajta”) that echoes throughout the village. After the celebration of mass in the church, Zebbug is turned into Roman and Jewish pageantry. We can expect to see Roman soldiers wearing armour, biblical characters and children carrying symbolic items. You will also see many in the procession that are hooded and carrying heavy weights, crosses or even walking barefoot as a form of penitence. The statues in the procession are very artistic and lifelike. The local bands participate in these processions by playing funeral music.
Day 10: Saturday, April 4th Neolithic Temples, Limestone Heritage, Gardens, Holy Saturday (B, High Tea)
Step back in time – specifically over 5000 years ago as you visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple builders have left their significant mark on the island with a multitude of temple sites. The two sites you will be visiting this morning are the Hypogeum and the Tarxien Temples. Consisting of halls, chambers and passages hewn out of the living rock and covering some 500m2, the Hypogeum’s rock-cut chambers are of diverse shapes and sizes and finished to different standards of workmanship. It was only discovered by accident in 1902 with its deepest room in the lower level being 10.6 metres under the road surface. The Tarxien Temples, also a World Heritage Site dating from 3600 to 2500 BC, is the most complex of all temple sites in Malta and consists of four megalithic structures. The temples are renowned for the detail of their carvings, which include domestic animals carved in relief, altars, and screens decorated with spiral designs and other patterns.
Unique to Malta is the Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens, located in the town of Siggiewi, which celebrates the Islands’ distinct stone, as well as its intricate history dating back over 22 million years ago. This award-winning agro-tourism attraction offers immense insight into local history and culture through a multilingual audiovisual presentation and an engaging walkthrough. We’ll make a quaint stop at San Anton Gardens in Attard which is next to the Presidential Palace. Establish by the 54st Grand Master of the Knights of St. John, it serves as a beautiful retreat animals and humans alike.
The city of Mosta is our next stop and it is here where you will discover the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and its significant connection with World War II. It is here that a German bomb dropped through the rotunda unexploded as parishioners prayed. Based on the Pantheon in Rome, the rotunda or dome is the 3rd largest in Europe and the 9th largest in the world. To cap off your day, we journey to Naxxar to Palazzo Parisio and Gardens, an 18th century palace, a treasure trove of delightful artefacts and a beloved family home. Located in the heart of picturesque Naxxar, this stately home is a place of wonder that begs to be explored. On your visit you will discover the intricate nuances of Malta’s historic nobility and their enchanting way of life. Touring this stately home offers great insight and sparks the imagination – whether you find yourself seeking inspiration from the grand Ballroom, the detailed Family Chapel or the fabulous walled Gardens and Orangery, you’ll find it. After some touring, bask in a High Tea experience before venturing back to the hotel to freshen up for an optional evening mass.
Optional Evening Experience: On Holy Saturday in the evening, around 8pm, there is a special celebration to commemorate Christ’s rising from the death. This celebration heralds The Easter Festivity in honour of The Risen Christ. Celebrations start in pitch darkness. They are then illuminated by flickering candle lights. Finally there is an ‘explosion’ of light where churches are suddenly illuminated with candles, chandeliers, bulbs, floodlights etc. Bells toll happily as they break the night’s normal silence in order to announce Christ’s central event – resurrection, exactly when the singing of the ‘Glorja’ commences.
Day 11: Sunday, April 5th Easter Sunday, Procession of the Risen Christ (B,L)
After breakfast, we will proceed to the village of Birgu for Easter Sunday Mass. That is to follow the mass is truly the highlight of the day. There are many traditions that are unique to Malta and the procession of the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday in Birgu is one of them. Here is an excerpt from the village website: The traditional runs by enthusiasts with the statue of the Risen Christ during the procession of Easter Sunday, were originated in the beginning of the 19th century. It was the first British Governor Sir Thomas Maitland who introduced a clause for a limited time of the procession, so that the statue does not linger outside more than the stipulated time enforced by him. If the procession took unnecessary time in the streets and goes beyond the limit the committee would be fined. Obviously the reason today is totally different, the law and all the past precautions taken to avoid a penalty were changed into a tradition.”
Throughout your vacation to Malta during Easter, you will see specific foods or snacks tied to the Easter period. One of them is the delicious Apostle’s Bread and the other is the Figolli. Qaghaq ta’ l-Appostli is a delicious type of bread which is prepared and sold during the Lenten period. In some areas (such as Rabat), these popular bread rings are sold weekly throughout Lent. However in most villages and towns, this bread is prepared specifically for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The other perhaps most significant snack at this time of year is the Figoli – especially among the children. These marzipan filled pastries come in many different shapes including men, woman, fish and baskets – possibly a reference to ancient symbols of fertility. Now a days, everything from duck, bunny, cars and butterfly shapes are utilized in shaping the figolla. They are ultimately brightly decorated in icing and chocolate, and the biggest ones often incorporate a whole Easter egg wrapped in foil.
After our morning in Birgu, we’ll return to our host hotel for a fantastic Easter Brunch with the rest of the day to be at your leisure.
Day 12: Monday, April 6th Depart Malta for Home (B)
After having experienced Malta through its beauty and remarkable cultural experiences we say farewell and begin our journey home. Today we depart early morning for home via a connecting flight in Paris. (B)
Know Before You Go
PASSPORT & VISA INFORMATION
A valid passport of more than 3 months is required for travel to Malta. IMPORTANT: We recommend that our clients traveling abroad take a photocopy of their passport and applicable visas. It should be packed separately from your actual passport and visa. We also recommend leaving a copy at home with your emergency contact.
Great Overview Video of Malta
Good Friday Procession in Malta
Easter Sunday Procession in Malta
The Risen Christ Statue Run in Malta
Great Overview Video of Malta
Good Friday Procession in Malta
Easter Sunday Procession in Malta
The Risen Christ Statue Run in Malta