Malta-Gozo or the Canaries? Which island to choose? Where to go in 2017 for the best green escape?
A friend recently asked me what I preferred more, Malta & Gozo or the Canary Islands. This question puzzled me a bit since the two island clusters are rather different while retaining certain similarities. It should be noted that with the exponential increase of flights from European destinations to the Canaries and to Malta and with low-cost airlines grabbing the opportunity to offer deals to these places that are close to Europe and praised for their pleasant weather and atypical landscapes, the archipelagos have become very popular for long weekends or short holidays. Flights are relatively similar in terms of price and duration (4h20 direct flight to Canary Islands and 3h30 for Malta) and the climate is lovely in both winter and summer. We went to Malta in July and December, to Tenerife in November and to La Palma in January.
In order to help you make an informed choice, see below a couple of comparison points.
Who is the greenest?
The Canary archipelago has adopted sustainable measures for some years already. In fact, the Canaries have a very rich biodiversity and marine life is at the very core of concerns for Canaries’ inhabitants. A large portion of the Canaries is preserved area. There are national parks and certain areas are even included in the UNESCO world heritage – the Canaries are truly natural jewels. La Palma has one of the “cleanest” skies in the world which makes it a very important astronomical research area. El Hierro has become an ecological model to follow in terms of green energy and la Gomera has one of the last laurel forest in Europe – the Garajonay. All of them are in possession of a truly mind-blowing biodiversity.
Malta, Comino and Gozo do not have exotic vegetation with the exception of the area of the Buskett Gardens in Western Malta and it could be said that the main natural treasure is the marine life. In terms of landscape the 2 archipelagos are quite different. The Maltese islands are relatively flat, with rugged coastlines and several magnificent cliffs, while the Canaries have volcanoes that are more or less active. Maltese hasn’t really included ecology as a part of their development plans and it is only due to the initiative for sustainable development in Gozo that Malta has started looking into preservation methods. Several natural reservations are dedicated to preserving fauna: the natural reservation Ghadira with very rich avifauna close to Mellieha; the island of Filfla; Buskett Gardens, the only significant forest in Malta; Is-Simar (bay of St-Paul). But these initiatives are inconsistent, uneven and certain aspects are rather poor, such as the treatment of waste and wastewater. While in the Canary Islands you will find recycling bins everywhere, it’s a completely different story in Malta.
Where’s the beach please?
I have to say that Malta has a plethora of beaches, definitely a whole lot more than on certain islands in the Canaries, but they are all relatively similar. For the most part it’s black sand beaches. The fact that Malta is positioned in the Mediterranean Sea means that the sea is calmer along the beaches which, in turn, are more accessible to the majority of people.
For beautiful marine landscapes and scuba diving advocates…
Since I’ve just touched upon the topic of beaches, I can’t pass up the opportunity to mention an activity that we adore, diving! We have dived in both archipelagos, but we have done more dives in Malta/Gozo than in the Canaries. Each dive is unique and it’s rather tricky to compare, especially since we haven’t had the chance to dive as much in the Canary Islands. We’ve done one dive in Tenerife and one in La Palma versus 6 in Malta and Gozo. In the Canaries we’ve seen volcanic soil, no coral except for black corals but only starting from 30m deep and impressive underwater cliffs. In Gozo we’ve seen all sorts of small fish, octopuses, rays and jellyfish. In Tenerife and in La Palma we also saw many small fish and turtles. The visibility was better in Malta and certain spots were absolutely breathtaking such as the “Inland Sea” in Gozo.
For us, Malta and Gozo have more to offer for diving fans in terms of marine landscape, diversity and marine life, while the Canaries are not far from them in terms of their offerings either.
Outdoor activities in Malta or in the Canary Islands?
The two archipelagos offer a wide range of outdoor activities. The Canaries are a paradise for hikers and mountain biking. Malta, Gozo and Comino are more known for their seaside activities, fishing, sailing, jet ski, parachuting, diving, tanning…
As far as I am concerned, there are more outdoor activities in the Canaries than in Malta, Gozo and Comino.
“Sorry but I’d rather go to some museums and enjoy a beautiful historical architecture”
It’s very difficult to judge this particular aspect as the Canary archipelago is mostly Spanish while the Maltese archipelago is a real life cultural crossroad. The language itself reflects this cultural complexity with its Arabic, Italian and British influences.Paintings, architecture, archeology – the islands of Malta and Gozo have a historical and cultural richness due to the various influences that they have experienced, influences that render them extremely interesting. It’s not that the Canaries have a less enriching history, it’s just that I felt more disoriented in Malta than in Tenerife. The Spanish influence is very much present in the Canary Islands whereas Malta has maintained its unique identity.
Yummy! It’s so tasty!
I absolutely adore the Canaries’ papas and the seafood cooked on a plancha together with a garlic & peppers sauce called mojo. To round it off, I take a small coffee with liquor and sweetened concentrated milk called baraquito. You will eat very well in the Canary Islands but I don’t understand how it is possible to offer so many types of meat on an island. In any case, the Spanish influences resurface in this domain and there are few vegetarian or vegan options. In Tenerife you will have more choice given that the island is bigger but again you will not be surprised if you are familiar with the Spanish cuisine. In Malta you will find everything due to the various influences, but the local specialty is the rabbit. Whether it is a pastizzi a la ricotta or a lestuffat beef dish, it is challenging to eat vegetarian in Malta. Nonetheless the Maltese cuisine is diverse and rich.
Taking into account the number of options and possibilities, our preferred option is Malta, while I remain extremely fond of the quality of the products in the Canaries.
Ouch, which one will empty your wallet?
Maltese prices are similar to average French prices. A beer will be less pricey in Malta but gasoline will be more expensive. The Canary Islands are in this case more affordable than the Maltese islands. In La Palma a beer costs less than 1 EUR (a small one) versus 2 EUR in Malta. A 4-star hotel will set you back 70 EUR in the Canaries versus 120 EUR in Malta.
In order to travel affordably choose the Canaries especially in the summer, the low season!
Public Transportation on islands, not so smooth!
The two archipelagos have good road networks. But public transport options can give you headaches. The majority of the Canaries’ inhabitants have a car and the mountainous terrain makes bus journeys very long which pushes tourists to rent cars instead of using public services. In Malta it’s possible to travel only by bus without this taking up half of your day! But outside of The Valletta, very few buses and those going outside of the city are not so frequents, just like in the Canaries.
Ex-aequo on this one!
Is it raining or is it sunny? I don’t get it!
In the Canary Islands you can swim whether it’s winter or summer. Temperatures are more or less stable throughout the year. Basically it’s never too cold nor too warm. However, the islands have numerous microclimates. It could very well be raining in one area and sun will be shinning 20km away.
In Malta there is a Mediterranean climate, meaning pleasant winter and hot summer. The temperatures are enjoyable but you most definitely can’t swim in the winter unless you are truly brave! And during the summer it’s hot, hot, hot! No surprises here and few microclimates.
It all depends on what you like in general and the season. It’s a tie on this one!
Night Life : take me ouuuut!
Malta presents a lot of evening party options as opposed to Tenerife or La Palma. In the Canary Islands I was left with the impression that after 9pm there is no real nightlife, except for the tourists finishing up their dinners. In Malta on the other hand there are many young people and therefore a more developed nightlife Most of them are tourists though. There are bars opened till late in Valletta, clubs and animated streets, so choose Malta to have fun till the end of the night! But you would have fun in Canaries too if you end up chatting with a grandpa in a wine bar where you are the only customers. Super cool!
Overall, if you are diving lovers, if you are interested in architecture and history and original, local dishes, if you are a party animal, then you should go to Malta. If you like exotic nature, if you want to enjoy less frequented, wild beaches and if you take joy in outdoor activities such as paragliding or mountain biking, choose the Canary Islands!
Translation & Copy Editing by Liana Marinoiu