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Located between the North African coast just 93 miles from Sicily, Malta is the largest of an island group in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea composed of Malta, Gozo and tiny Comino. Rich in history dating back to the times of the Phoenicians, Byzantines, Arabians and Romans, Malta inspired the artist Caravaggio in the 16th century. Today, Malta is many things at once -- a peaceful retreat for busy Europeans, home to a unique and ancient culture, plus a sophisticated nightlife and beach culture hotspot catering to hip Europeans. Based on tourism, the island's economy is geared toward providing good times at good prices.

Get acquainted with Malta by visiting the island's website at www.visitmalta.com. With maps, sections on what to do, see, where to go, stay and eat, you can get an overall feel for what to expect with a Maltese holiday. With a focus on ancient Roman ruins, scuba diving, hikes in the hills, rock climbing, island cruises, and just lounging around at an outdoor caf¿ in the harbor people watching, Malta offers a glimpse at European island life.

Academic Tours (tel. 800/875 9171; www.academictours.com), out of Brooklyn New York, has independent tours to Malta that allow you to spend time on your own. A six-night/eight-day trip with airfare to London on Virgin Atlantic and then to Malta on Air Malta and six nights at the Park Hotel in Malta costs $1,189 plus air taxes and security fees in July and August and $987 plus taxes in September and October. The Academic website is being updated to reflect late 2006 trips and prices now, so if you don't see those deals online, just call an Academic representative to lock in the prices. The four-star Park Hotel (tel. 356 2134 3780; www.parkhotel.com.mt/en/default.asp) is six miles from the town of Valletta and near Malta's Grand Harbor. Built in 1990, the hotel has an outdoor pool and is close to some of Malta's famous rocky beaches where you can enjoy off the rock sunbathing and swimming in isolated spots. While summer is high season in Malta, expect airfares and package prices to decrease in the fall months when the weather is still warm and the tourists less prevalent.

Donna Franca Tours (tel. 800/225-6290; www.donnafranca.com/independent/IndependentDetail.asp?ID=10) has a seven-day/five-night independent tour of Malta starting at $1,329 with departures out of Boston, New York, Newark and Washington D.C. Good for travel from now through October 31, 2006, this Maltese vacation includes, airfare through London, all accommodations with upgrades available, airport transfers, daily breakfast and dinner, and the choice of one full day of sightseeing either on the island or around the island on a boat.

Malta Direct (tel. 020 8561 9079; www.maltadirect.com/index.asp), a European travel provider, also offers some low-priced packages to Malta. With most packages departing from London or other British and European cities, Malta Direct can get you to Malta inexpensively after you've gotten yourself to Europe. From London's Gatwick Airport, air/land trips to Malta with seven nights of accommodation start at $340 for mid-June and July departures. Accommodation choices include the Topaz Hotel (tel 356 2157 2416; www.topazhtl.com), a recently refurbished grand European style hotel with a large pool area and sunbathing terrace. The four star hotel is located on St. Paul's Bay. Prices drop as low as $326 for the seven night trip when leaving from the U.K. city of Bristol. The site also has roundtrip airfare to Malta out of London for $101 on Air Malta.

Departing from the United States, Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has several air/land trips to Malta. Good for travel from June 26 to September 3, 2006, the six night trip costing $1,629 includes round-trip air, all accommodations and daily breakfast, airport transfers, hotel taxes and airline fuel taxes. It does not include departure fees and security taxes. Airfare is out of New York with additional charges for leaving out of Boston ($20), Philadelphia ($40) and other U.S. gateways. In the fall, the price of the trip drops to $1,279 in September and $1,249 in October. The purchase deadline for this trip is June 15, 2006.

For insider tips, Maltese natives head over to the island of Gozo and the village of Marsalforn. Most restaurants in the town have outdoor seating with beach views so it's a perfect place to eat, relax, and swim. On Malta, the area known as Paceville (pronounced Pa-ch-a-vil) in the town of St. Julians is also busy with charming little restaurants and shops. Maltese food is close to Italian and Sicilian cooking with pastas, roasted meats, grilled seafood, and delicious pastries. The Maltese like to eat, so expect big portions.

At night, Paceville comes alive with nightclubs and discotheques where young Europeans dance the night away. For some general information, one Maltese Lira equals approximately US$3, and the half hour ferry ride from Malta to Gozo with the Gozo Channel Company Limited (tel. 356 2124 3964; www.gozochannel.com) costs US$6 round-trip. The island of Comino, which has very few vehicles and is relatively empty (which means great hiking), has only one hotel. Helicopter service is also available for island hopping. Of course, aerial views offer amazing vistas of the three islands and the attractive boats and people nesting around and on Malta's shores.

Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers on our Malta Message Boards today.