With their distinctive brightly painted blue balconies, the cobbled streets of Maltese capital Valletta look dashing at any time of year. But few sensations beat traipsing round its unusual historic centre in high summer, traditional lemon and almond ice cream in hand.
Sound pretty far-fetched? Well, if you’re from Europe or a dozen or so other ‘safe’ countries outside the continent, it turns out you could actually be jetting off to the Mediterranean island this summer – or even earlier.
As of July last year, the country has reopened its borders to visitors, and it is constantly reassessing its list of ‘safe’ countries tourists can travel from.
Currently, residents and citizens of EU and Schengen-travel-zone countries are allowed in for tourism purposes. The country is also welcoming visitors from a handful of nations outside Europe including Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Rwanda, Thailand and Tunisia.
Travellers from the UK, South Africa and Brazil are currently banned altogether due to concerns over new variants. Those who are able to travel must submit a negative test result from within the past 72 hours, and they will also be subject to random swab tests on arrival.
As the country gears up to welcome tourists again this summer, it has even announced a financial incentive for those who make the trip. Last week the Malta Tourism Authority said it would pay visitors who book three-night stays in three-, four- and five-star hotels.
Those who stay in three-star hotels will be paid €50 (£43, $60) for each stay, those in four-star hotels €75 (£65, $89), and those in five-star hotels €100 (£87, $119). These sums will then be matched by the hotel itself – so you could end up being paid as much as €200 for your stay.
How will we decide where to bliss out by the beach – and neck the ice creams – this summer?
Remember, many countries are still warning against all non-essential travel and some are quarantining all overseas arrivals, including their own returning citizens. Check all the relevant restrictions before you think about travelling.