Geographic location, history, culture and economic relations are the principal elements that have determined Malta’s geopolitical relevance as a European and Mediterranean island state over the ages. Located in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, the Maltese archipelago is situated 93 km from Sicily to the north, 288 km from North Africa, and is half way between Gibraltar to the east and Alexandria to the west.
The Maltese Islands, with a population of over 425,000, are an archipelago consisting of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino and a number of other smaller islands and outcrops, including Cominotto, Filfla and St Paul’s Islet. Total surface area is 316 km2. Malta is the largest island, with Valletta as its capital, the seat of government, with a concentration of administrative and commercial activity (although not the main residential area).
Malta has no mountains or rivers. A series of low hills with terraced fields on the slopes characterise the island. It is well served with natural harbours, chief of which is the Valletta Grand Harbour. Malta Freeport, to the south of the island, is one of the Mediterranean’s leading ports for container transhipments, benefiting from Malta’s strategic position, which has allowed it to develop as an important trading post. Malta’s international airport is situated 5 km from Valletta.
Gozo, the second largest island, is located to the northwest, some 25 minutes away by ferry from the closest port, Cirkewwa. The island is more rural and less densely populated (it has some 30,000 permanent residents), with a slower pace of life. Comino has four registered residents and also boasts a four-star hotel.
The islands’ climate has contributed greatly to a thriving tourism industry and it is such a safe place to bring up young children or to retire. There are really only two seasons in Malta: the dry summer season, and the mild winter season, with average daytime temperatures of 30°C (86°F) in July and August and 12°C (54°F) in winter. Average rainfall is nearly 476 mm (18.7 ins). Rain rarely, if ever, falls during the summer months.
Malta Fact File
• Country’s full name: Republic of Malta (Repubblika ta’ Malta).
• Capital city: Valletta
• Population (2013): 425,384
• Official language: Both Maltese and English are official languages.
• Currency: Euro
• Religion: Roman Catholicism is the religion of 98% of the population. Other denominations have places of worship.
• Location: 93 km south of Sicily; 288 km east of Tunisia.
• International dialling code: +356
• Internet domain: .mt
• Area: Malta is composed of three major islands (and three minor): Malta, 246 km2 (94.9 square miles); Gozo 67 km2 (25.9 square miles); Comino 3 km2 (1.1 square miles). There are also some minor uninhabited islands.
• Terrain: Mostly low, rocky, with dissected plains and many coastal cliffs.
• Climate: Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Annual rainfall is 584 mm (23 inches) and falls mostly between October and March. Average temperatures: Dec-Feb, 13.2°C; June-Aug, 25.8°C.
• Average annual rainfall: 476 mm
• Administrative divisions: The country is administered directly from the capital Valletta. There are also 67 local councils.