Last updated on May 17, 2023 by Wandering our World
The question for many when trying to decide between Cyprus or Malta, is what separates these Mediterranean islands from each other? After all, the beaches beckon in both, and the crystal blue waters glisten in anticipation.
Yet while both island nations have similar climates and are fantastic coastal destinations, they’re actually very different from each other…
For example, Malta is smaller, easy to get around due to the excellent public transport, and it’s possible to see many sights in one holiday.
However Cyprus arguably has the better beaches and is perfect for leisurely beach holidays, but it also has some fantastic hiking areas too.
But that’s just the start when it comes to how different Cyprus and Malta really are….
That’s where we can help!
We know both islands well, so below we look at which is best for activities, beaches, explain what food you can try in each, as well as the natural attractions you can see. All so you can make the right holiday decision!
- A Quick Overview & Comparison
- Which Has The Better Historical Sights?
- Which Has The Better Beaches & Landscape?
- Which Has The Better Cities & Towns?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Has The Better Food?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview & Comparison: Malta vs Cyprus
Cyprus is known throughout Europe for its beaches, but what is less known by tourists is that it’s split into two parts – the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Independent Republic of Cyprus (the Greek south).
You’ll find great beaches in both areas, with the south tending to have busier stretches of coastline and lots of amenities. The beaches in the north are less developed, more rugged and wild.
And with almost 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s little surprise Cyprus receives so many beach lovers every year.
However this island nation is also a hiking paradise, and is far better than Malta in that regard. In fact, Cyprus’ highest peak – Mount Olympus – is 1952m high. Compare that to Malta’s highest peak which stands at just 253m!
Fact is, forests, mountains, and rivers are non-existent on the Maltese islands, but dive underwater and you’ll find fascinating sea landscapes.
The country also has some incredible cities and towns that date back thousands of years. The capital of Valletta, for example, is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. So for urban sightseeing Malta arguably has Cyprus beat.
There’s history and architecture packed into every square mile of Malta too, so it’ll come as no surprise to hear there are over 360 churches on this tiny island!
Which Has The Better Historical Sights?
The strategic geographical importance of both Cyprus and Malta made them ripe to be fought over by warring empires from the Assyrians to the Romans. As such, both have rich histories.
Cyprus: The Historical Sights
Cyprus is a divided island, but visitors are free to explore both sides.
So take the time to discover the glut of historical sites that are spread across Cyprus, each telling their part of the island’s story.
The north is often overlooked by tourists, but is well worth visiting – we’ve written previously on why you have to visit North Cyprus.
The city of Paphos offers tourists a bustling resort but do a bit more digging and unearth the Hellenistic necropolis, The Tomb of the Kings.
Paphos Castle, a medieval fortification turned national monument sits in Paphos harbor. Meanwhile, near the harbor are the remains of ancient Roman villas in Nea Pafos with its impressive mosaics.
Travel further across the island and find unassuming Byzantine churches with beautiful frescoes in the Troödos mountains.
While near Limassol is Ancient Kourion (Curium), a city left in ruins by an earthquake in the 12th century.
Castle hunters will also enjoy the St. Hilarion castle ruins on the Kyrenia mountain range or Kolossi near Limassol.
Malta: The Historical Sights
On the island nation of Malta, they are re-energizing their cities with contemporary architecture, but also work hard to preserve their past.
The Knights of Saint John built the 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.
While 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 that were built before the pyramids of Egypt.
Finally, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is an ancient burial ground which allows visitors to travel back in time to 4,000 B.C.
When it comes to ancient history, Malta is hard to beat.
Which Has The Better Beaches & Landscape?
Cyprus and Malta pack in extraordinary landscapes and captivating coastlines that are unique to each island.
Cyprus: The Beaches & Landscape
The sheer size of Cyprus compared to Malta gives nature lovers a lot of choice, from active breaks to tranquil beach escapes. So if you’re looking for outdoor adventure there’s no doubt Cyprus will suit you better than Malta.
This National Geographic map which highlights many places of interest is well worth bringing along to help navigate the country, especially if renting a car.
In Limassol, explore hidden sand dunes before heading over to the Salt Lakes of Limassol and Larnaca to visit the flamingos.
The Adonis Baths in Paphos are perfect for swimming in. At the same time, the Avakas Gorge offers unusual rock formations – a favourite with hikers.
Between Agia Napa and Protaras is a gorgeous national park called Cape Greco. There are two natural rock bridges, caves, and excellent diving spots.
Meanwhile, Cedar Valley is an idyllic pine forest with hiking trails where you can see Cypriot Cedar trees.
Up in the Troodos Mountains are the Millomeri Waterfalls that are really worth a visit. If you’re wanting to walk in the mountains – or elsewhere in Cyprus – this walking in Cyprus book could be a good buy.
Or if you’re craving white sandy beaches head to Nissi Beach which is arguably Europe’s best beach. In fact when it comes to beaches, you will have better choices for sunbathing and swimming than in Malta.
Malta: The Beaches & Landscape
The first thing you’ll notice is a lack of forests and greenery in Malta. Cyprus on the other hand has mountains, forests, hiking trails and much greenery inland.
Still, Malta’s limestone cliffs and red sand beaches are unparalleled in their beauty. There’s also dozens of fantastic walks on the island that showcase it’s stunning scenery. This map highlights some of the best, as does this walking on Malta book.
However this archipelago is a haven for snorkelers and divers who can explore wrecks, caves, and coves – and for those who like action under the sea, Malta is arguably better than Cyprus in that respect.
For example, 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 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, which are impressive Roman sea salt repositories.
Which Has The Better Cities & Towns?
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Malta and Cyprus will give you a richer, cultural experience.
We look at the best cities and towns on each island below, so you can see which may suit your holiday preferences the most!
Cyprus: The Cities & Towns
Starting near Limassol is the town of Omodos/’Ομοδος, best known for its wine production, and the Timios Stavros Monastery.
In Limassol/Lemesos is an attractive marina, 16th-century castle, and an opportunity to do some boutique shopping.
While the port city of Paphos/Pafos is a tourist hotspot with lively bars and souvenir shops, it has another side. Paphos is also full of historical gems, including medieval baths and churches.
In the north is Ktima (Upper Pafos) where you’ll find locals going about their daily business, colonial buildings, and museums.
The capital of Nicosia/Lefkosia is a ‘divided city’. That is where you’ll find the Green Line (the UN Buffer Zone). Across the city, a labyrinth of streets, tree-lined avenues and a vibrant street life await travelers.
Finally, Larnaca provides long stretches of golden sands, historic religious sites, and chic cafes.
Malta: The Cities & Towns
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 and are well worth visiting.
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.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: For something a little different, why not stay at Aphrodite Family Eco Camping – a budget glamping spot with unobstructed sea views in a very atmospheric place. It’s a great spot for families, in particular. See photos and rates here!
Luxury: The Ivi Mare is a real taste of luxury in Cyprus. This five-star, beach front hotel has wonderful ocean views, a gorgeous swimming pool, world-class service, and some rooms even have their own outdoor hot tub. See photos and rates here!
Budget: With gorgeous views of Valetta and the Grand Harbour, it’s little surprise BOCO Boutique Hotel is often booked months in advance. The service is fantastic too, as is the Maltese breakfast in the morning. See photos and rates!
Luxury: The five-star Hyatt Regency Malta sits in a wonderful sea-front location in St Julian’s. From the outdoor pool through to the views, everything is photogenic and oozes luxury. See photos and rates!
Which Has The Better Food?
The traditional food of Cyprus and Malta is a Mediterranean cocktail of the various civilizations that have inhabited the islands.
For foodies, these two are hard to separate. But here are some of the cuisine highlights:
Cyprus: The Food
Indulge in some meze dining when visiting Cyprus. From kebabs to hummus, you’ll find all kinds of tantalizing delights that are a mix of Turkish, Greek, and Middle Eastern food cultures.
However the stars of Cypriot cuisine are halloumi and the grilled sausage sheftalia kebab (şeftali kebap).
Cyprus is also home to the sweet treat Loukoumi, and prominent flavors include rose water, pistachio, and almonds.
If you fall in love with Cypriot cuisine and want to try it at home, then check out this award-winning Cypriot recipe book!
Malta: The Food
There’s an emphasis put on local ingredients such as rabbit and honey with Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavors.
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.
Cyprus vs Malta: Which Is The Better Choice?
If you’re thinking of a short vacation, then Malta may be better as it’s smaller, has great public transport and it’s easy to see the main attractions within a week.
But if you’re looking for the best beaches, or some great hiking, then Cyprus will be the best choice. However grabbing a rental car might be the best way to experience the island.
Whichever island nation you decide on, you will be guaranteed a Mediterranean climate, handsome coastlines, delicious food, and unique cultures. Enjoy!