Malta & Sicily - Mediterranean Islands small group tour
For centuries Malta & Sicily, held the key to the Mediterranean. Unlike other European tour companies, Odyssey provides a tour leader and local guides to share detailed itineraries about the destinations on these small group journeys. For mature couples and solo travellers. A reasonable single supplement is charged.
- 1. In Sicily, see the mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale, the magnificent Baroque town of Noto, and Arab/Norman Palermo
- 2. Enjoy wonderful scenery and local food and wine throughout all the islands
- 3. Explore the UNESCO world heritage town of Noto, the finest Baroque town in Sicily
- 4. Take a ferry to Mozia. island and visit its main archaeological sites
|22 April 2024 |
Ends 03 May 2024 • 12 days
|05 September 2024 |
Ends 16 September 2024 • 12 days
|21 April 2025 |
Ends 02 May 2025 • 12 days
|04 September 2025 |
Ends 15 September 2025 • 12 days
Mediterranean Islands small group tour to Malta and Sicily
Odyssey's Mediterranean islands small group tour of Malta & Sicily is the short tour of this longer program. Our guides lead you on a ten day tour through the region's culture and history. This fully escorted tour for seniors takes you on a fabulous journey around the Western Mediterranean.
The History of Sicily and Malta
These two unique islands have long held the keys to the Mediterranean. Over centuries, the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French imprinted their distinct history and architecture on the landscape of the islands, making the islands a perfect mix of cultures. From 1530 to 1798, Malta was ruled as a vassal state of Sicily by the Knights of St John. In the 19th century, Malta secured the Mediterranean for Britain and helped make it the world's major maritime power. Possession of Sicily brought similar benefits to Rome, as did Corsica for France.
Today, Sicily is an autonomous region of Italy, while Malta is one of the more recent independent members of the European Union. Today, however, their inhabitants still retain their own distinctive characteristics and ways of life. Each island visited has its own character, shaped by its history. Odyssey's small group educational tour compares and contrasts the culture, history, geography and peoples of these two unique islands.
Discover more about the islands of the Mediterranean with our blog post.
Malta & Sicily Small group tour itinerary
Throughout our guided tour you'll experience a number of cultural and historical highlights, from archaeological sites to idyllic resort towns. Odyssey's small group tour of these Western Mediterranean islands is a magnificent holiday for those who wish to learn. Odyssey caters to mature travelers, whether couples or those journeying solo. The tour is fully escorted by an Odyssey Program Leader and a local guide who shares their expert knowledge of the history and culture of these wonderful islands.
On Malta, we make a walking tour of Malta's medieval history on a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage listed capital city, Valletta, where we visit the Grandmaster's Palace and St. John's Cathedral. We also visit the city of Rabat, where we visit the grotto of St. Paul. According to Christian tradition, St. Paul lived and preached in these catacombs during three months in Malta in 60 AD. Following Rabat, we head to the walled city of Mdina. Our trip to Malta also includes an excursion to Gozo, the second largest of the islands of Malta, where we visit the megalithic temples of Xaghra, an important prehistoric heritage site. We also make the time to take in Malta's beautiful sandy beaches, including a number of walks along the shore.
We then get the ferry to Sicily.
Our tour of Sicily begins with a walking tour of Noto, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its grand baroque architecture. We then explore Siracusa (Syracuse), home to ancient Greek ruins and a well-preserved Roman amphitheater. For more ancient archaeological ruins, we then visit Agrigento, home to Greek temples. We also visit the Sicilian capital, Palermo, where we make a stop at the Arab-Norman Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel), before making a daytrip to the famous cathedral of Monreale. Finally, we travel to Trapani, where we stay in a hotel for two nights. The streets of this medieval town by the sea remain largely untouched from the period of Arab and Norman rule. From Trapani, we make a day trip to the island of Mozia for an archaeological tour, and then head to Marsala for a wine tasting of its famous drop.
Our tours aim to immerse you in local culture. Sicily and Malta are home to one of the world's richest food cultures, with subtle differences between the two cuisines. In order to experience the cuisine of both places, we always enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at a local restaurant.
You can learn about Malta and Sicily (Italy) with our country profiles. For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.
Articles about Malta and Sicily published by Odyssey Traveller:
- Malta: Megalithic temples, ‘fat ladies’, and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.
- About Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.
- Mediterranean Islands: Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.
- The Sicilians and their Kings
- Early History of Sicily: From the Phoenicians to the Arab Conquest (800 BC to the 10th Century)
- Empires Crossing the Mediterranean: 1130-1300
- Life of Caravaggio.
- Caravaggio: Ten Books to Read
- Learning about Caravaggio’s Paintings
- as well as more articles on Italy here
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Malta and Sicily
- Discover Italy – Sicily
- Sicily’s best beaches: warm waters and stunning scenery
- 48 Hours in Sicily
- Why Noto, Sicily is our Italy destination of the summer
- A Local’s Guide to Palermo
- Lonely Planet: Malta
- The Guardian: Valetta on View – the Maltese capital shows off its cultural side
- History of the Knights of St. John
- Megalithic Temples of Malta
Group size is limited to a maximum of 18 participants.
Day 1: Malta
Accommodation: La Falconeria or similar
We will host a welcome drinks in the hotel, where the tour leader will introduce the group and take any questions. After the meeting we will take a short evening walk to a local restaurant for dinner. (D)
Day 2: Malta
Accommodation: Waterfront Hotel or similar
In the morning we set off for a tour of the main sites around our hotel, commencing at Paola, home of the enigmatic Tarxien Temples. We will also visit Birzebugga, to visit the prehistoric Ghar Dalam cave. Next we will move on to the picturesque Marsaxlokk, famous for its market, to Marsakala where we stop to have lunch.
In the afternoon we transfer to Three Cities, where we have some free time to explore or perhaps take a cruise along the shore (not included, paid locally, approx. EUR 20 per person). We will transfer back to the hotel in the later afternoon. (B,L)
Day 3: Malta
Accommodation: Waterfront Hotel or similar
Today’s activities centre around Valletta, the capital of Malta. We visit the Upper Barakka Gardens, the Grandmaster’s Palace, St. John’s Co-Cathedral, and the Museum of Archaeology. In the late afternoon we take in the ‘Malta Experience’, an audio-visual attraction set in a purpose-built auditorium overlooking Valletta’s magnificent Grand Harbour.
We return to our hotel for a short rest and later take an evening walk to a local restaurant for dinner. (B,D)
Day 4: Malta
Accommodation: Waterfront Hotel or similar
This morning we begin our tour of Malta with a talk on its various islands and their history. We’ll learn about Malta’s natural and cultural heritage, strategic Mediterranean importance, centuries-old fortifications, settlements, and religious sites. Typical of the islands of the Mediterranean, Malta has played host to waves of several great civilisations including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, and the Spanish. The Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights of St John, were Malta’s Masters from 1530 to 1798, when Napoleon’s French forces invaded. Then, in 1800, the British assumed control until Malta was granted independence in 1964. The island and its people were awarded the George Cross for their bravery during World War II.
We then enjoy a full-day tour of local sites, starting with the ancient fortified city of Mdina where we enjoy a walking tour and stop to viire the Cathedral. We than continue to Ta’Qali craft village with some free time to shop for souvenirs. We visit Mosta to see the Mosta Rotunda, then travel to Rabat for lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon we explore St. Paul’s Church and Grotto, and St. Paul’s Catacombs, then make our way back to our hotel and the remainder of the day is at leisure. (B,L)
Day 5: Malta
Accommodation: Waterfront Hotel or similar
This morning we’ll take a morning ferry ride across to Gozo, Malta’s second largest island, where we have a full day island tour. We visit the citadel at Victoria and the coastal village of Xlendi, which is still guarded over by a 17th century tower built by the Knights of St John. Following lunch, we will travel up the western coast of Gozo to visit Dwejra. Here we will take a boat ride to Fungus Rock, then on to the Ta Pinu basilica in Gharb, followed by a tour of the megalithic Ggantija Temples in Xaghra. In the evening we’ll return via ferry and coach to our hotel. We have dinner at our hotel this evening. (B,L,D)
Day 6: Syracuse, Sicily
Accommodation: Hotel Mercure Siracusa Prometeo or similar
This morning begins with an early morning ferry across to Pozzallo in Sicily. Here we join our coach and continue to the UNESCO world heritage town of Noto, the finest Baroque town in Sicily, home to sights like the San Francesco Church, Monastery of Santa Chiara and Palazzo Ducezio. We have free time for lunch, and continue on to Syracuse.
The remainder of the day in Syracuse is free to relax or explore on your own until we meet as a group again for dinner at the hotel. (B,D)
Day 7: Syracuse, Sicily
Accommodation: Hotel Mercure Siracusa Prometeo or similar
Today we enjoy a half day tour of Syracuse, where a visit to the Neapolis Archaeological Park will be followed by a trip to Ara di Ierone, the Great Altar of Syracuse, a monumental grand altar in the ancient quarter of Neapolis.
There will be some free time in the afternoon before we meet a local expert for a talk on the History and Culture of Sicily.
In the evening we attend a traditional “puppet theatre” (Opera dei Pupi – Sicilian marionette show) and then return to our hotel. (B)
Day 8: Agrigento, Sicily
Accommodation: Overnight at the Colloverde Park Hotel or similar
Today we depart to to Agrigento with a stop in Caltagirone along the way.
We spend some time exploring Caltagirone with our local guide where we view the Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte and visit the Museum of Ceramics. We will enjoy some free time for lunch and then we stop for a visit to Piazza Armerina and see its famous mosaics during our guided tour of the Villa Romana del Casale.
Later we transfer to our hotel and the evening is free to explore the town on your own. (B)
Day 9: Trapani, Sicily
Accommodation: Hotel Room of Andrea or similar
In the morning we tour Agrigento and visit the Valley of the Temples, one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture.
We then depart towards Trapani, with a stop in Segesta, an archaeological site outside Palermo, where we’ll take a guided tour to see the Doric Temple and ancient theatre.
We arrive in Trapani later in the afternoon and the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant. (B,D)
Day 10: Trapani, Sicily
Accommodation: Hotel Room of Andrea or similar
This morning we’ll enjoy a walking tour of Trapani to view its main attractions, we’ll then transfer to San Leonardo for a ferry trip across to the island of Mozia. We’ll visit the main archaeological sites here, including the Whitaker Museum. We then return to San Leonardo for lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon we visit Marsala, home of the fortified wine that bears the town’s name, followed by a stop at Erice to take the funicular to the medieval eyrie of Erice, to enjoy its sweeping views of the valley and sea.
We then transfer back to our hotel for the evening. (B,L)
Day 11: Palermo, Sicily
Accommodation: Overnight at Hotel Frederico II or similar
This morning we transfer to Monreale, to visit its cloistered Cathedral followed by Palermo, Sicily’s capital where we overnight.
In Palermo we visit Quattro Canti, the “Theatre of the Sun”, and La Martorana, the city’s most famous medieval church, visit Palazzo dei Normanni and Cappella Palatina and then take a guided tour of Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s magnificent Opera House.
Dinner this evening is at our hotel. (B,D)
Day 12: Palermo, Sicily
The tour concludes this morning after breakfast. (B)
- Group size is limited to a maximum of 18 participants.
Includes / Excludes
What’s included in our Tour
- 11 nights accommodation.
- 11 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 6 dinners.
- Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
- Transport and field trips as indicated.
- Touring by comfortable and modern coach.
- Ferry services.
- Service charges and gratuities.
- Detailed tour information booklet.
- Services of an Odyssey tour leader.
What’s not included in our Tour
- Return international airfare and departure taxes.
- Comprehensive international travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature, such as telephone calls and laundry.
- Meals not specified in the itinerary.
Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, be in good health, mobile and able to participate in 3-5 hours of physical activity per day, the equivalent of walking / hiking up to 8 kilometers per day on uneven ground.
Make it a private tour
Easing your journey
Crossing international borders with restrictions
The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:
For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.
Book With Confidence
If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.
See Terms and conditions for details.
Peace of Mind Travel
The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.
See Peace of Mind Travel for details.
The tour was extremely informative and educational. Those 4 islands are uniquely different and we would not want to have missed any of them. The quality of your transportation and accommodations was exceptional as well. Larry S. Sep ’19
This tour started out very well in Malta, with lots to see and do, and just kept getting better as we progressed through the other islands. It is a beautiful part of the world, with wonderful history and scenery. Pat C. March ’19
Sunshine, blue seas and mountains were the backdrop to discovering so much of the history of these islands with a friendly group of fellow travellers. Suzanne W. Sep ’18
The trip was well organised and communication was also good. Busy tour giving full educational history. The Odyssey Program leader was absolutely wonderful, I felt very safe particularly as she had both French and Italian and if we were without the guide in the evenings, she was able to communicate with the other person. We had particularly good guides all along the way, but perhaps Maria in Malta was very, very good as it was apparent she really loved showing her country and its history to us. Participant Sep ’18
Reading List Download PDF
The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean
Connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millennia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. In this brilliant and expansive book, David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characters-sailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrims-who have crossed and re-crossed it.
Ranging from prehistory to the 21st century, The Great Sea is above all a history of human interaction. Interweaving major political and naval developments with the ebb and flow of trade, Abulafia explores how commercial competition in the Mediterranean created both rivalries and partnerships, with merchants acting as intermediaries between cultures, trading goods that were as exotic on one side of the sea as they were commonplace on the other. He stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilising ideal of convivencia, "living together."
Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580
In 1521, Suleiman the Magnificent, Muslim ruler of the Ottoman Empire, dispatched an invasion fleet to the Christian island of Rhodes. This would prove to be the opening shot in an epic clash between rival empires and faiths for control of the Mediterranean and the center of the world. In Empires of the Sea, acclaimed historian Roger Crowley has written a thrilling account of this brutal decades-long battle between Christendom and Islam for the soul of Europe, a fast-paced tale of spiraling intensity that ranges from Istanbul to the Gates of Gibraltar. Crowley conjures up a wild cast of pirates, crusaders, and religious warriors struggling for supremacy and survival in a tale of slavery and galley warfare, desperate bravery and utter brutality. Empires of the Sea is a story of extraordinary color and incident, and provides a crucial context for our own clash of civilisations.
The Great Siege: Malta 1565
Suleiman the Magnificent, the most powerful ruler in the world, was determined to conquer Europe. Only one thing stood in his way: a dot of an island in the Mediterranean called Malta, occupied by the Knights of St. John, the cream of the warriors of the Holy Roman Empire. A clash of civilizations the likes of which had not been seen since Persia invaded Greece was shaping up. Determined to capture Malta and use its port to launch operations against Europe, Suleiman sent an armada and an overwhelming army. A few thousand defenders in Fort St. Elmo fought to the last man, enduring cruel hardships. When they captured the fort, the Turks took no prisoners and mutilated the defenders’ bodies. Grand Master La Vallette of the Knights reciprocated by decapitating his Turkish prisoners and using their heads to cannonade the enemy. Then the battle for Malta began in earnest: no quarter asked, none given.
The Knights of Malta
This is the most complete history in any language of the Order of St John, or Knights Hospitaller, successively known as the Knights of Rhodes and of Malta. Founded in eleventh-century Jerusalem, the Order has played an important military, religious and political role over succeeding centuries. H.J.A. Sire not only provides a full narrative account, but describes and illustrates the architectural and artistic legacy of the Knights, from Crusader castles in the Holy Land, to the medieval city of Rhodes, the Maltese capital of Valletta, and manors, churches and fortified villages throughout Europe. These, as well as religious art, portraiture and illuminated manuscripts are copiously illustrated, revealing the wealth, culture and longevity of the Order. This is moreover the first general work to do full justice to the Order's international character by including a detailed account of its European Priories and the role played by the Knights in the history of their respective countries. It includes chapters on Crac des Chevaliers and other Hospitaller castles of the crusading period, on the career of Grand Master Heredia as a statesman and patron of medieval learning, and on the caring traditions of the Order. The chapter on the Navy of the Knights offers the first rigorous study of the Order's strategic naval role in the Mediterranean. The final section describes the resurgence of the Order since Napoleon's conquest of Malta in 1798, and its efforts over two centuries to recover an effective role. It considers the attempt in the 1950s to subject the Order to Vatican control, and its position today, under the first English Grand Master in its history. With its traditional rights of sovereignty widely recognised, and diplomatic relations established with an increasing number of countries, a modernised Order of over ten thousand Knights continues nine centuries of hospitaller work throughout the world.
A Brief History of the Knights Templar
Much has been written about the Knights Templar in recent years, most of it highly speculative and with no historical foundation. Helen Nicholson is a leading specialist in the history of this legendary medieval order and offers here a full account of the knights of the order of the Temple of Solomon, bringing the latest findings to a general audience.
Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History
Tourists, armchair travelers, and historians will all delight in this fluid narrative that can be read straight through, dipped into over time, or used as a reference guide to each period in Sicily’s fascinating tale. Emigration of people from Sicily often overshadows the importance of the people who immigrated to the island through the centuries. These have included several who became Sicily’s rulers, along with Jews, Ligurians, and Albanians. Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Goths, Byzantines, Muslims, Normans, Hohenstaufens, Spaniards, Bourbons, the Savoy Kingdom of Italy and the modern era have all held sway, and left lasting influences on the island’s culture and architecture. Sicily’s character has also been determined by what passed it by: events that affected Europe generally, namely the Crusades and Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, remarkably had little influence on Italy’s most famous island. Maps, biographical notes, suggestions for further reading, a glossary, pronunciation keys, and much more make this unique book as essential as it is enjoyable.
Sicily: A Short History from the Greeks to Cosa Nostra
John Julius Norwich
Critically acclaimed author John Julius Norwich weaves the turbulent story of Sicily into a spellbinding narrative that places the island at the crossroads of world history.
"Sicily," said Goethe, "is the key to everything." It is the largest island in the Mediterranean, the stepping-stone between Europe and Africa, the link between the Latin West and the Greek East. Sicily’s strategic location has tempted Roman emperors, French princes, and Spanish kings. The subsequent struggles to conquer and keep it have played crucial roles in the rise and fall of the world’s most powerful dynasties.
Yet Sicily has often been little more than a footnote in books about other empires. John Julius Norwich’s engrossing narrative is the first to knit together all of the colourful strands of Sicilian history into a single comprehensive study. Here is a vivid, erudite, page-turning chronicle of an island and the remarkable kings, queens, and tyrants who fought to rule it. From its beginnings as a Greek city-state to its emergence as a multicultural trading hub during the Crusades, from the rebellion against Italian unification to the rise of the Mafia, the story of Sicily is rich with extraordinary moments and dramatic characters. Writing with his customary deftness and humour, Norwich outlines the surprising influence Sicily has had on world history—the Romans’ fascination with Greek civilization dates back to their sack of Sicily—and tells the story of one of the world’s most kaleidoscopic cultures in a galvanizing, contemporary way.
Sicily: A Short History, from the Greeks to Cosa Nostra
John Julius Norwich
Sicily is the key to everything' Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The author of the classic book on Venice turns his sights to Sicily in this beautiful book full of maps and colour photographs.
'I discovered Sicily almost by mistake . . .We drove as far as Naples, then put the car on the night ferry to Palermo. There was a degree of excitement in the early hours when we passed Stromboli, emitting a rich glow every half-minute or so like an ogre puffing on an immense cigar; and a few hours later, in the early morning sunshine, we sailed into the Conca d'Oro, the Golden Shell, in which the city lies. Apart from the beauty of the setting, I remember being instantly struck by a change in atmosphere. The Strait of Messina is only a couple of miles across and the island is politically part of Italy; yet somehow one feels that one has entered a different world . . . This book is, among other things, an attempt to analyse why this should be.'
The stepping stone between Europe and Africa, the gateway between the East and the West, at once a stronghold, clearing-house and observation post, Sicily has been invaded and fought over by Phoenicians and Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans, Goths and Byzantines, Arabs and Normans, Germans, Spaniards and the French for thousands of years. It has belonged to them all - and yet has properly been part of none.
John Julius Norwich was inspired to become a writer by his first visit in 1961 and this book is the result of a fascination that has lasted over half a century. In tracing its dark story, he attempts to explain the enigma that lies at the heart of the Mediterranean's largest island.
This vivid short history covers everything from erupting volcanoes to the assassination of Byzantine emperors, from Nelson's affair with Emma Hamilton to Garibaldi and the rise of the Mafia. Taking in the key buildings and towns, and packed with fascinating stories and unforgettable characters, Sicily is the book he was born to write.
Midnight in Sicily
A journey into the heart of Sicily, using art, food, history and literature to shed light on southern Italy's legacy of political corruption and violent crime. The book takes as its starting point the ongoing trial of seven-times Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.
Mediterranean Islands: Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica
Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica: An Educational Journey through Western Mediterranean This article takes you on a journey through the beautiful islands of the western Mediterranean – Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica – by tracing…
Early History of Sicily: From the Phoenicians to the Arab Conquest
Early History of Sicily: From the Phoenicians to the Arab Conquest (800 BC to the 10th Century) Sicily in Southern Italy is the largest island in the Mediterranean, separated from the mainland by the Strait…