The question for many when trying to decide between Malta or Greece, is what separates these Mediterranean 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 it’s own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
Below is our honest comparison as we pit Greece 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.
Greece or Malta: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both nations have fantastic sun-soaked beaches, as well as ancient towns and cities that are packed with history.
Greece has over 6000 islands, with 227 inhabited. Therefore most of the islands in Greece tend to be less touristy and far less commercialized than Malta – which effectively packs its tourist sector onto one island. With so many islands, Greece also wins hands down vs Malta when it comes to the best beaches. In fact, most islands in Greece have at least one beach that is better than those on Malta.
You will also find that most Greek islands have a real rustic regional and unique charm to them. Furthermore, as this nation is the cradle of civilisation, it’s one of the best countries in the world in terms of historical and cultural excursions.
As such, many of the islands in Greece have their own unique feel, different cuisines, mini cultures, and are packed with historical sights. Therefore Greece is the better holiday choice if you’re looking for a more adventurous vacation that involves island hopping with a rustic and remote feel. Mainland Greece is also a great hiking destination, with countless multi-day hiking routes that take you back in time and make you feel like you’re back in Ancient Greece.
Malta has many upsides too. For one, it tends to be a much cheaper destination than most of the Greek islands 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 Greece, 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.
Greece or Malta: Alluring natural wonders
Both Malta and Greece have some of Europe’s best beaches, but these nations also have much more to offer than just sun, sea, and sand.
With so many islands, it will come as no surprise to hear that Greece is packed with natural wonders.
The Ionian archipelago is a popular destination for tourists, and one of the best places to see nature’s best work. Visit the Melissani Lake Cave on Kefalonia for an other-worldly experience. Situated 20 meters underground, you can explore this magical cave by rowing boat.
The island of Zakynthos has some of Greece’s best beaches, and is a popular destination because of that. Also named Zante, this island has a lively nightlife scene so is perfect for tourists who want to sunbathe and swim in the day, but dance and drink at night. Zante is also home to the Blue Caves, a series of underground waterways that wind their way into the coastline.
Of course Greece is packed with many stunning islands, and one of the best things about this country is the ability to island hop and discover your own favourite. One of ours is Milos, which is where the Venus de Milo was found! This gorgeous little volcanic island has dozens of beaches, breathtaking turquoise waters, and a friendly local population.
Mainland Greece also has some spectacular scenery that has to be explored. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora in central Greece is well worth visiting. The atmospheric huge rock formations jut out of the ancient landscape, and on top are centuries-old monasteries. They used to be reached by ladders, but can now be reached by foot via stairs. It’s a place which transports you back in time.
In fact mainland Greece is full of fantastic hiking trails – many long distance – that take you between ancient villages that have existed for centuries. One of our favourites is the Menalon Trail, a 45 mile hike in south Greece that takes you between the picturesque mountain villages of Stemnitsa and Lagkadia.
Malta is tiny compared to Greece, 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.
Greece vs Malta: Fascinating cities and towns
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Greece and Malta will give you a richer, cultural experience.
Greece excels when it comes to towns and cities with the ‘wow’ factor.
One of the islands which has that in abundance is Santorini. The two biggest towns here, Fira and Oia, hang on to the cliff-face of this volcanic island, and the buildings within them – whitewashed and often with blue-domed roofs – stand strikingly against the backdrop. It’s a must-visit place in Greece, but also one of the most popular places throughout the country being visited by around two million tourists per year!
The historic and ancient capital of Athens is well worth a night or two, and is home to iconic buildings such as the 5th century BC Acropolis and Parthenon. The museum at the Acropolis is full of artefacts from Ancient Greece and a must for any history buff.
Situated beside the Acropolis is our favorite area of Athens – Plaka. The quaint streets in this neighborhood wind their way up hilly slopes and are adorned with flower pots and tiny independent shops selling jewellery and clothes. With family-run taverns and boutique coffee shops, this is one of the best places in Athens – and Greece – to grab a bite to eat and watch the world go by.
The title of Greece’s most picturesque town could go to Agios Nikolaos – a little port settlement on the island of Crete. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, this town has several waterfronts which have a great selection of shopping and dining opportunities. The infamous ‘leper island’ of Spinalonga – which was in use up to 1957 as a quarantine center – is close by and can be visited from the town.
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.
Malta or Greece: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of Malta and Greece is a Mediterranean cocktail of the various civilizations that have inhabited these nations.
Like many Mediterranean cuisines, Greek food involves a lot of fresh vegetables, olive oil, grains, and a good dose of wine!
One of the most famous food exports from Greece is moussaka. This mincemeat and potato or eggplant dish is served everywhere in the country. It’s almost always guaranteed to be excellent in any family-run taverna.
Greece is famous for its dips, such as tzatziki – which is made up of garlic, yoghurt and cucumber – and fava, which is made from split peas.
To wash everything down, you must try Greece’s national drink, Ouzo. This strong liquor is made from aniseed, and is usually served with cold water which turns the clear drink a cloudy white.
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.
Greece or Malta: Which one should you choose?
Greece 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 Greece is the better choice. With over 6000 islands, Greece is an adventure lovers paradise, and each island has its own unique feel. It’s 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 cheaper destination in general than Greece, Malta is certainly worth visiting.
Whichever nation you decide on, you will be guaranteed a Mediterranean climate, handsome coastlines, delicious food, and unique culture.