Last updated on March 29, 2023 by Wandering our World
Choosing between Malta or Sardinia for your next holiday destination is a tough choice, with both boasting captivating landscapes, stunning beaches, and scrumptious cuisine.
However despite the similarities, these destinations provide very different holidays.
Sardinia is around 80x larger than Malta, has many more things to do, and you can still find areas of the island that are peaceful and little changed in generations.
Malta, on the other hand, is very tourist-orientated, but as the island is so small it’s easy to travel around and see many of the highlights on your holiday. English is widely spoken too, which makes it a popular destination for English speakers.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how different Malta and Sardinia are….
That’s where we can help! As we have visited both, we are going to help you decide which one will suit you best.
Spanning natural and historical sights, cuisine, culture and more, we’ve put together our honest guide to choosing between Malta or Sardinia, so you can pick the holiday destination that suits you best.
- Which Has The Best Beaches & Landscape?
- Which Has The Best Cities & Towns?
- How Does The Food Scene Compare?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Which Has The Best Beaches & Landscape?
Both Malta and Sardinia are full of beautiful natural wonders, captivating coastlines, and places to explore.
Malta is smaller and therefore the whole of the island is more accessible so it’s easy to squeeze in more sights. However bigger Sardinia is perfect for leisurely beach holidays, enjoying nature, and mountain hikes.
You may need a rental car to experience the whole island, but if you’re looking for a vacation with many things to do away from the coastline, Sardinia could be the better choice than Malta.
Below we look at both destinations in detail, showing you how the landscapes, coast and beaches compare.
Malta: The Beaches & Landscape
The first thing you’ll notice is a lack of forests and greenery in Malta. Sardinia on the other hand has mountains, forests, hiking trails and much greenery inland. So if you’re looking for hiking and nature, Sardinia will likely be a better choice than Malta.
Still, Malta’s limestone cliffs and red sand beaches are unparalleled in their beauty.
The archipelago is also 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 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.
All in all, Malta’s small size makes it a great pocket destination if you’re looking for a place where you can see all the natural wonders in one holiday. From snorkeling in the sea, to checking out salt pans or hiking the coastal cliffs.
Sardinia: The Beaches & Landscape
Sardinia is more of the classic beach destination than Malta and definitely has the nicer beaches of the two, but it also has a gorgeous mountainous inland well worth exploring.
You’ll find that English isn’t widely spoken in parts of Sardinia though – especially in rural areas – so getting around could be more challenging than in Malta, where around 90% of the population speaks English!
Still potential language issues shouldn’t be a reason not to visit Sardinia and its array of natural sights.
Neptune’s Grotto is one of those must-visit sights. This unique cave in Sardinia has magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formations that are named after the Roman god of the sea. The cave can be accessed by boat from the pretty port of Alghero or on foot.
Visit Bear Rock ‘Capo d’Orso’ for 360-degree views over the archipelago of La Maddalena, Palau, and the old military Forte di Capo d’Orso.
While Sardinia attracts many beach-goers, it also has an adventurous side. And a lot of the island’s rich history can be explored on foot as Sardinia is covered in hundreds of kilometers of picturesque trails. You can see 50 of some of the best walks in this fantastic little book.
One of our favorite walks is a two-hour hike through the ancient Nuragic settlement of Tiscali that will bring you to Su Gorroppu Gorge where it’s reported to have stars at the bottom of the gorge! While that’s unlikely of course, the hike is beautiful and well worth doing.
Inside the island’s largest cave Grotto di Ispinigoli stare into the Abbisso delle Vergini (Abyss of the Virgins) as you are guided through this extensive cave network.
Furthermore, as you’re in Sardinia you must check out some of the most beautiful beaches offering turquoise waters and watersports. Some of our favorites are Spiaggia della Pelosa (Stintino) and La Caletta.
Visit the incredible color changing waters at Is Arutas (Cabras) and Cala Brandinchi (San Teodoro) too, otherwise known as Little Tahiti!
In general if you’re looking for the best beaches, or some fantastic hikes, then Sardinia is going to be a better option than Malta. The only downsides is the island is quite large so getting places can take a while, and English isn’t widely spoken in rural areas.
Which Has The Best Cities & Towns?
Both Malta and Sardinia have long colorful histories, and have played host to different civilizations over many centuries. As a result, both islands have an incredible array of ancient towns, and unique sights to see and visit.
Architecturally beautiful cities like Sardinian’s Cagliari and Malta’s Valetta are bound to impress, but you’ll find history in the rural settings of both islands too.
Below we take a look at the highlights in each destination, so you can see which one you’ll prefer:
Malta: The Cities & Towns
On the island nation of Malta, they are re-energizing their cities with contemporary architecture, but they 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.
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.
Peppering the landscape of Malta 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 of Egypt!
Finally, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is an ancient burial ground in Malta which allows visitors to travel back in time to 4,000 B.C. If you’re looking for a window into the past, then Malta can provide just that.
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.
While on the small island of 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 a friendly ambience.
Sardinia: The Cities & Towns
Archaeologically rich Sardinia contains the Nuraghe – Bronze Age structures in various places across the island, with the best-preserved found in Arzachena in the north near Olbia, as well as Barumini in the south near Cagliari.
The Mamoiada Masks Museum can be found in the small town of Mamoiada – a town famous for these masks and used for the island’s Carnival – the museum is a great window in a slice of Sardinian culture.
For a look into the culture of the past, find textiles, paintings and jewelry in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Cagliari, the capital of the island.
The capital is big, bustling, but beautiful. And has everything you’d want from an Italian city, from great eateries to a top football team to go watch!
In the ancient town of Noro near Cagliari are Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman ruins and if you choose to go diving here, you might discover why this is referred to as the ‘Sunken City’.
This island was once known as Italy’s ‘Wild West’ and in the town of Orgaloso, you’ll find a former bandits’ stronghold which is now famous for the political murals on its walls. This National Geographic map of Sardinia is also incredibly useful, highlighting attractions and walks.
It’s hard to separate Malta and Sardinia when it comes to which destination is best when it comes to cities, culture and historical sights. In both you will be able to walk amongst ruins, and down ancient streets that have been hubs of human life for centuries.
How Does The Food Scene Compare?
Malta: The Food
There’s an emphasis put on local ingredients in Malta 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.
Sardinia: The Food
Sardinian cuisine is a balance of seafood, pasta and meat. Try a Sardinian octopus’ salad and culurgiones – a home-made pasta dumpling filled with creamed mint and potato.
A delicacy called “bottarga,” is a delicious mullet roe and the town of Carloforte is best known for its raw and rare tuna.
Wines are another big deal here. Try dry white Vermentino di Gallura or aromatic Funtanaliras.
For dessert try a seada, a fried dessert pastry stuffed with lemon-scented cheese and choose from either warm honey or sugar on top.
If you fall in love with Sardinian food (and who wouldn’t!) then Letitia Clark’s recipe book, Bitter Honey: Recipes and Stories from the Island of Sardinia will help bring those holiday memories flooding back.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
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!
Budget: Hotel La Bitta sits right beside one of the best white sand beaches in Sardinia, has breathtaking ocean views, a fantastic pool, spa services and even a Turkish bath! It’s perfect for a relaxing stay, and at a very good price point considering the location and what they offer. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Looking for luxury and celebrity treatment? Then La Villa Del Re, a five-star, adults only resort which has its own private beach is well worth looking into. Alongside the stunning ocean views you can enjoy while relaxing in the outdoor pool, this resort also offers plenty of watersports. See photos and rates!