The question for many when trying to decide between Croatia or Malta, is what separates these holiday destinations from each other? The beaches beckon in both, and the crystal blue waters glisten in anticipation.
Yet while both nations have similar climates and are fantastic coastal destinations, each has its own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
Below is our honest comparison as we pit Croatia vs Malta. We compare both before looking at the sights to explore, the food you can try, what natural attractions you can see in each, as well some amazing towns and cities you should visit.
Croatia or Malta: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both nations have fantastic sun-soaked coastlines, and countless ancient towns and cities that are packed with history.
However Croatia has over 800 islands, and most tend to be less touristy and far less commercialized than Malta – which effectively packs its tourist sector onto one island. With so many islands, Croatia also wins hands down vs Malta when it comes to which country has the better beaches.
You will also find that most Croatian islands – as well as the regions on the mainland – have a rustic regional and unique charm to them. This is often seen in the cuisine (as we explain later) which differs depending on what region of Croatia you visit.
Therefore Croatia is probably the better holiday choice if you’re looking for a more adventurous vacation that involves island hopping with a rustic and remote feel. Mainland Croatia is also a great hiking destination, and has some of Europe’s most beautiful cities – such as medieval Dubrovnik.
Malta has many upsides too. For one, it tends to be a slightly cheaper destination than Croatia in terms of hotels, food, and drink. It has its own share of historical sights to see too – including ancient temples that are older than the Pyramids!
Also, as a much smaller nation than Croatia, Malta is compact and therefore its natural and cultural sites are all within close reach. That makes it the better choice for a shorter holiday as you can easily and cheaply tour the island with a rental car.
That gives you the option to enjoy the beach in the morning, drive inland and visit centuries-old villages and their friendly inhabitants in the afternoon, then have dinner in the capital in the evening. That’s the biggest advantage to Malta, how easy and accessible it is to enjoy all aspects of this country.
Croatia or Malta: Alluring natural wonders
Both Croatia and Malta have a stunning coastline, but these nations also have much more to offer than just sun, sea, and sand.
For some of the best beaches in Croatia, head to the island of Susak. This gorgeous small island is ringed by golden beaches and fantastic warm swimming water. Our favourite beach there is Spiaza.
If you’re dreaming of stunning turquoise water that’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling, and a place where you can take pictures to make your friends back home envious, then head to Brač Island. The hues of blue that are layered across the sea in places such as Lovrečina Bay are breathtakingly beautiful. Whilst the backdrop of olive groves among ancient buildings makes this island a real gem in Croatia’s crown.
On the mainland, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must visit for any tourist to Croatia. This mountainous region is famous for its chain of 16 terraced lakes which are joined together by gushing waterfalls. One of the most beautiful national parks in Europe, this area is also full of hiking trails of varying difficulties.
Staying on the mainland, head south towards Klis, near the seaside city of Split. The landscape here – rocky and mountainous – was fought over for centuries, with many fortresses built to help defend the region from marauding armies. Klis Fortress is one of the most impressive ancient structures throughout Croatia, and despite being over 2000 years old has become increasingly popular in recent years after featuring in Game of Thrones!
Back out to sea, take a visit to the pristine Elaphiti Islands. The lush vegetation in this small archipelago and its unspoiled beaches and water make it a perfect place for a romantic walk or picnic. With the islands being small and easy to navigate, it’s a great place to hire a kayak and enjoy the calm water.
Malta is tiny compared to Croatia, but this little island nation still packs a punch.
The first thing you’ll notice is a lack of forests and greenery in Malta. Still, its limestone cliffs and red sand beaches are unparalleled in their beauty.
The archipelago is a haven for snorkelers and divers who can explore wrecks, caves, and coves. Malta’s famous Azure Window collapsed into the sea, but divers are now taking the opportunity to breathe new life into the natural landmark by visiting it underwater.
Over on the Maltese island of Gozo is Inland Sea, a large lagoon brimming with small fishing boats in the summer to take visitors to Fungus Rock and the gorgeous cliffs that surround Dwejra Bay. It’s also a popular diving spot!
Gozo is also home to the Qbajjar Gozo Saltpans, the impressive Roman sea salt repositories.
Croatia vs Malta: Fascinating cities and towns
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Malta and Croatia will give you a richer, cultural experience.
Croatia oozes with ancient history, and with the cities and towns in this nation fought over for centuries by different civilizations, that tumultuous past has left its fascinating mark up and down the country.
The awe-inspiring city of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its iconic Old City – which is ringed by huge stone walls that jut out into the ocean – make it one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It’s no wonder then that the TV series Game of Thrones chose Dubrovnik to represent King’s Landing – the capital city in the series.
Pula is another city that deserves every tourist’s attention, mainly due to the incredible Roman ruins that are scattered throughout this coastal settlement. Visit the huge Pula Arena – one of the world’s six largest remaining amphitheatres – which was built 2000 years ago. In our opinion it rivals the one in Rome, and is also far less busy – a big bonus!
Beautiful Šibenik is another of Croatia’s stunning coastal towns and is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites – the Cathedral of St James and the St. Nicholas Fortress. Steeped in history, take half a day to wander this pretty town and enjoy a coffee beside buildings that have stood for hundreds of years.
On the island nation of Malta, they are re-energizing their cities with contemporary architecture, but are also working hard to preserve their past.
The Knights of Saint John built the stunning capital of Valletta in the 16th century in a grid-like system. Its early Baroque façades are dazzling, and historic attractions include the ancient St John’s Co-Cathedral, Teatru Manoel, and Grandmaster’s Palace.
Peppering the landscape are Megalithic temples which are 5 – 6,000 years old. Discover the Tarxien temple complex in the south of Malta or travel across to Ggantija on Gozo to see structures built before the Pyramids in Egypt!
Finally, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is an ancient burial ground which allows visitors to travel back in time to 4,000 B.C.
Fortified Birgu, Senglea, and Cospicua are referred to as the ‘Three Cities’ and are often forgotten about in the eyes of tourists, but they offer a slice of authentic Maltese life.
In the center of Malta is Mdina, an ancient and small, fortified town which also goes by the name, ‘The Silent City’. Its streets are a maze of hidden courtyards and limestone buildings.
On Gozo, all visitors are drawn to the medieval city of Rabat (Victoria) with its Citadel visible from everywhere on the island. It’s the cultural center of Gozo, with bustling markets and friendly ambience.
Valletta is rich in historical sites, but visionary contemporary buildings such as the Valletta City Gate have reinvigorated this ancient city. A boat ride across the Grand Harbor is also a must, even for short-term tourists.
Croatia or Malta: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of Croatia and Malta is a Mediterranean cocktail of the various civilizations that have inhabited these nations.
Croatia is a foodie’s paradise as each region of the country typically has its own delicacies and traditional dishes.
The Croatian region of Dalmatia is particularly famous for its seafood centered dishes, and Octopus Salad is one of the areas most iconic meals.
Black risotto – found throughout the country – is another seafood speciality and is a squid ink rice dish that is often accompanied with shellfish.
Away from the coast, the region of Slavonia is known for its spicy sausages. Slavonian kulen, made up of pork, spices, paprika and garlic, is a must try.
Rakija is the national drink of Croatia, and the perfect way to start or end your holiday! The alcohol is distilled from locally grown fruit – usually plum – and is drunk straight up. Just remember to say Živjeli! – pronounced: zhivyelee – as you pick up your glass. That’s ‘cheers’ in Croatian!
There’s an emphasis put on local ingredients in Malta – such as rabbit and honey – often cooked with a Sicilian of Middle Eastern twist.
In Valletta, take in the Is-Suq tal-Belt food market which is situated in an old derelict Victorian building and let your taste buds run wild.
Try local delicacies such as Timpana (baked macaroni), Gjebna cheese, Aljotta (fish soup) and Zalzett Tal-Malti, a local Maltese sausage.
Pastries in Malta are called Pastizzi, and a favourite for locals is Imqaret, a fried date pastry.
Croatia vs Malta: Which one should you choose?
Croatia and Malta make fantastic holiday destinations, and if time and money were limitless we would recommend both!
However if you’re looking for great beaches and an island hopping adventure packed with culture, ancient history and breathtaking beauty, then Croatia is the better choice. With over 800 islands, Croatia is an adventure lovers paradise and is also the better destination for hiking.
Malta has its own unique charm, and as a small compact island everything is within close reach making it the perfect destination for a short vacation. With a rich history, a stunning capital city, and as a slightly cheaper destination in general than Croatia, Malta is certainly worth visiting.
Whichever nation you decide on, you will be guaranteed a Mediterranean climate, handsome coastlines, delicious food, and unique culture.