25 days
Duration
Europe
Destination
Level 2 - Moderate
Activity

Mediterranean Islands small group tour.

Odyssey's Mediterranean islands small group tour of Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica guides you through the region's culture and history. This fully escorted, 26 day, small group tour for seniors takes you on a fabulous journey around the Western Mediterranean. Beginning in Malta, our escorted tours head to Sicily, Sardinia, before finishing in Corsica, offering extraordinary insights into the history and culture of these Western Mediterranean Islands.

Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica:

For centuries these four unique islands held the keys to the Mediterranean. Over centuries, the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French imprinted their distinct culture and architecture on the landscape of the islands. 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 and Sardinia are both very different autonomous regions of Italy. Corsica is a rather reluctant part of France, and 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.

Itinerary of our Small Group Tours Malta Sicily Sardinia Corsica:

Each of the four islands 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 four unique islands. Throughout the tour you'll experience a number of cultural and historical highlights, from prehistoric settlements to idyllic resort towns.

Malta

Our tour spends five days in Malta and Gozo. Here we visit the city of Rabat, where we explore 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. More recently, Malta was ruled by the Knights of St John as a vassal of Sicily. The capital city, Valletta is UNESCO World Heritage listed as a testament to their influence. On a walking tour, we see the Grandmaster's Palace and the Cathedral of St. John. On our last day in Malta, we take a ferry trip to Gozo, the largest of the islands of Malta. Gozo is home to the megalithic Ggantija temples of Xaghra, which are an important prehistoric heritage site.

Sicily

We then depart for 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 Syracuse, home to ancient Greek ruins and a well-preserved Roman ruins. For more archaeological sites, 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, before making a daytrip to the famous cathedral of Monreale. Finally, we travel to Trapani, where we stay for two nights in a hotel. 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.

Sardinia

Following this, we fly to Cagliari in Sardinia. Sardinia is famous for its beautiful scenery: rocky cliffs, pristine beaches, and a rugged interior. Highlights of our tour of Sardinia include a visit to an nuragic archaeological site in Barumini (Su Nuraxi Di Barumini), the remains of an ancient civilisation that inhabited the island between 1800 and 500 BCE. We also take a walking tour of the medieval town of Alghero and make a trip to Olbia, strikingly located on the Sardinian coast. We also make a boat tour of Maddalena Island. This archipelago is famous for its white sandy beaches, emerald sea, and deserted lagoons.

Corsica

Finally, we get the ferry to Corsica. Though famous as the home of Napoleon Bonaparte, Corsica remains one of the least explored islands of the Mediterranean Sea. Our trip to this beautiful island begins on the east coast, in the charming coastal town of Porto Vecchio. From here we travel to the capital of Corsica, Ajaccio, which we use as a base to visit the Golfe de Porto, one of the most stunning pieces of coast in the entire Mediterranean.

Our destinations are home to some of the world's great cuisines. From the English-inflected cuisine of Malta, through the 'Italian with a twist' found in Sardinia and Sicily, to the unique cuisine of Corsica, we make sure that you are able to experience the local food culture. Each day, we eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a local restaurant. We also give you the opportunity to sample local wine and other delicacies.

Frequently Asked Questions about our Western Mediterranean Tour:

  • How long does the ferry take to go from Malta to Sicily?

The boat trip from Malta to Sicily (Valletta to Pozzallo) takes only 1 hr and 45 minutes.

  • How big is Sicily?

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, with 25,711 square kilometres of land. For comparison, that makes it slightly bigger than Wales (20,780 square kilometres) and slightly smaller than Massachusetts (27,340 square kilometres). It takes about 2.5 hours to get from one side of Sicily to another, but Odyssey Traveller tours choose to stay in several locations, so that you can see all the major (and less-known) sites without wasting too much time in the tour bus.

  • How many participants are there in each group?

Our tours really are 'small group tours' - we generally take between 6-12 people, and never more than 18. There are many advantages to small group travel, including a close-knit group, a personal relationship with your guide, and more flexibility so that you can have an authentic experience of your destination. Read our information page for more information about what we offer, and take a look at our definitive guide to small group tours.

  • When is the best time to visit?

While the Mediterranean islands are blessed with relatively mild weather year round, the best time to visit is in the spring and autumn. Summers can get unpleasantly hot and crowded, while winter winds can be disruptive. Reflecting this, our tours of the Western Mediterranean leave in September and March, so that you can enjoy warm and sunny days without the crowds.

Odyssey's guided tour of these Western Mediterranean islands is a magnificent holiday for those who wish to learn. Odyssey caters to mature travellers, whether couples or those journeying solo. The tour is fully escorted by an Odyssey Program Leader and professional English speaking local guides who share their expert knowledge of the history and culture of these wonderful islands. A short tour of just Malta & Sicily is also offered, click through to read about this program.

If your interest is in the Amalfi Coast, the cities of Northern Italy, or the spectacular Alps, don't click away! This tour is just one of many Italia tours operated by Odyssey each year.

To discover more about Islands of the Mediterranean, check out our blog post here!

Tour Notes
  • Group size is limited to a maximum of 18 participants.
  • There is a short tour option; Malta & Sicily

PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

Overview: 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. Our hotel is located in St. Julian’s, just north of Sliema.

(D)

Accommodation: 5 nights at Hotel Waterfront or similar.

Overview: 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 the Hypogeum, for an audio-visual exhibit, and 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). We will transfer back to the hotel in the later afternoon.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel Waterfront or similar.

Overview: 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 in St Julian’s and take an evening walk to a local restaurant for dinner.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Waterfront or similar.

Overview: 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, including Ta’Qali craft village with some free time to shop for souvenirs. We visit Mosta to see the Mosta Rotunda, then continue 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 through the ancient fortified city of Mdina on a walking tour. After returning to St Julian’s the evening is at leisure.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel Waterfront or similar.

Overview: 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 a local restaurant.

(B,L,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Waterfront or similar.

Overview: This morning begins with an early morning ferry across to Pozzallo in Sicily. Here we join our coach and continue 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 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. Later we attend a traditional “puppet theatre” (Opera dei Pupi – Sicilian marionette show) before dinner at a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 2 nights at Hotel Posta or similar.

Overview: Today we have a full day tour exploring Caltagirone and Piazza Armerina. In Caltagirone we view the Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte and visit the Museum of Ceramics. After some free time for lunch we continue to Piazza Armerina Armerina to see its famous mosaics during our guided tour of the Villa Romana del Casale. We return to Syracuse and the remainder of the day is at leisure.

(B)

Accommodation: Hotel Posta or similar.

Overview: This morning we’ll learn more about the history and culture of Sicily, before travelling on to Agrigento with a stop for lunch in Enna. We’ll visit the Valley of the Temples, one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture. Later we transfer to our hotel and the evening is free to explore the town on your own.

(B)

Accommodation: Overnight at the Colloverde Park Hotel or similar.

Overview: This morning we leave for Sicily’s capital, Palermo. We visit Quattro Canti, the “Theatre of the Sun”, and La Martorana, the city’s most famous medieval church and a guided tour of Teatro Massimo, Palermo’s magnificent Opera House. Dinner this evening is at our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Overnight at Ibis Palermo or similar

Overview: This morning we continue our sightseeing of Palermo, visiting Palazzo de Normanni (Palace of the Normans), and the extraordinary mosaics in the 12th century Capella Palatina. We continue to Monreale to visit its cloistered Cathedral followed by Trapani, where the Spanish occupation of Sicily began in the 13th century. Dinner will be at the hotel this evening.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 2 nights at the Hotel Crystal or similar.

Overview: 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, then back to our hotel in Trapani.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel Crystal or similar.

Overview: This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Segesta, an archaeological site outside Palermo, where we’ll see the Doric Temple and ancient theatre. We return to Trapani to take the funicular to the medieval eyrie of Erice, to enjoy its sweeping views of the valley and sea. We have lunch at a local restaurant then transfer to the airport for our flight to Cagliari in Sardinia and make our way to Assemini, one of Cagliari’s communes and check-in our hotel.

The island of Sardinia is the second largest island of the Mediterranean but remains surprising unexplored. It has rugged mountainous interiors with stunning coastal scenery as well as quaint hilltop towns and pretty fishing ports. Sardinia has a rich Neolithic history and the island still boasts over 7,000 “nuraghi” fortified tower houses from a civilisation which lasted from 1800 to 500BC. Later the island was settled by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Vandals, the Byzantines, and the Saracens. In the Middle Ages, the island was fought over by the Pisans and Genoese before falling to the Spanish in 1295. It briefly fell to the Austrians in 1713 before the Kingdom of Sardinia was created by Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy in 1718. Sardinia finally became part of the unified Italy in 1861. Many say that Sardinia offers an almost primeval landscape of rocks sculpted by the wind and sea. D.H Lawrence noted that the island was “left outside time and history.”

(B,L)

Accommodation: 3 nights at the Hotel Grillo or similar.

Overview: This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Cagliari’s main sights, including the National Archaeological Museum. Lunch is at our leisure, along with free time to explore the city. In the afternoon we return to our hotel for a talk on Sardinian history and culture, followed by dinner at our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Grillo or similar.

Overview: Today we explore the archaeological treasures at Nora, Sardinia’s best preserved Roman city. Following lunch at our leisure, we continue on to Capo Spartivento via the scenic coastal road. Dinner tonight is at our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Grillo or similar.

Overview: This morning we travel to Barumini and take a guided tour of Su Nuraxi, the UNESCO world heritage site of the nuraghe towers, and the Casa Zapata Museum. We have some free time for lunch then continue on to Fonni for the night. Dinner is at our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Overnight at the Hotel Cualbu or similar.

Overview: This morning we have a little free time to rest or explore Fonni before we depart to Olbia. En route we stop at Nuoro, at the foot of Monte Ortobene. Here we visit the Ethnographic Museum and have lunch at our leisure. On arrival in Olbia we’ll view the main sights of the city followed by dinner at our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at Hotel Panorama or similar.

Overview: This morning we have a boat tour of the Maddalena Archipelago (subject to weather conditions). Lunch will be served on board. We then travel back to our hotel in Olbia for free time to explore, and make our own arrangements for dinner.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel Panorama or similar.

Overview: Today we enjoy a full day touring northwest Sardinia. From Olbia we head firstly to Sassari, site of Sardinia’s first university and still a vibrant uni city. Here we have lunch individually, then continue on to Alghero, still protected by its medieval walls and towers. After a walking tour here we have free time in the afternoon and evening, and will make our own arrangements for dinner.

(B)

Accommodation: Hotel Panorama or similar.

Overview: This we transfer to the resort town of Santa Teresa di Gallura. Where catch the ferry across to the port of Bonifacio inCorsica. Following our arrival at the beautiful harbour town of Bonifacio we’ll enjoy a guided tour. In the afternoon we catch the scenic train to Porto Vecchio, a historic resort with remains of Genoese fortifications. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.

The island of Corsica is the fourth largest island of the Mediterranean and combines a stunning juxtaposition of mountain and coastal scenery. In the Middle Ages, Corsica was a colony of Pisa and later of Genoa but enjoyed a brief period of independence in the 18th century under the revered leadership of Pasquale Paoli. Therefore, the “sale” of the island by the Genoese to Louis XV of France for 40 million francs in 1769 has been a source of resentment for the islanders ever since. Ironically, the island was the birthplace of perhaps history’s most famous Frenchman, Napoleon Bonaparte, and French and other visitors outnumber the locals approximately 6 to 1 in the busy periods of July and August. For all of this, Corsica remains one of the last unspoiled corners of the Mediterranean: poor, depopulated, beautiful, old-fashioned, and aloof. Despite its history of conflict with France it has now come to an agreement with its dominant, continental neighbour, although there is still some talk of independence from France among the Corsicans.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Overnight at BW San Damianu or similar.

Overview: Today we visit the towns of Sartene and Propriano, where we have some time to have lunch individually. Afterwards, en route to Ajaccio, we stop to visit Filitosa’s 4,000 year old, life-size stone warriors. We continue on to Ajaccio and a guided tour including the Palais Fesch Musee des Beaux Arts, then transfer to our hotel. Tonight we make our own arrangements for dinner.

(B)

Accommodation: 2 nights at the Hotel San Carlu Citadelle or similar.

Overview: Today we visit the UNESCO listed Golfe de Porto, considered as one of the most beautiful bays in the Mediterranean. We’ll have free time to explore and make our own arrangements for lunch, then return to Ajaccio in the late afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

(B)

Accommodation: Hotel San Carlu Citadelle or similar.

Overview: We have a little free time this morning before we taking the train to Corte, where we visit the Museum of Corsican Life. We make our own lunch arrangements, then travel on to the spectacular mountainside city of Calvi where we explore the city on a guided tour.

(B)

Accommodation: Overnight at the Mariana Hotel or similar.

Overview: Today we drive to Saint-Florent, stopping along the way in Cape Corse and explore the pretty villages there. In Saint-Florent we enjoy a guided tour of this lovely port town, we then continue on to Bastia.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 2 nights at Best Western Hotel Corsica Bastia Centre or similar

Overview: This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Bastia for a guided tour of the town. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the city at your own pace. In the evening we get together for our farewell dinner.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Best Western Hotel Corsica Bastia Centre or similar

Overview: The tour concludes today after breakfast.

(B)

1
Visit UNESCO World Heritage sites on Malta: Valletta, built by the Knights of St John Hospitaller; and the megalithic temples
2
In Sicily, see the mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale, the magnificent Baroque town of Noto, and Arab/Norman Palermo
3
Sardinia’s highlights include the ancient fortified towers of Su Nuraxi, the Maddalena Archipelago and Nora, Sardinia’s best preserved Roman city
4
In Corsica, see the stunning UNESCO nature reserve of the Golfe de Porto and the Palais Fesch Musee des Beaux Art, home to an important collection of Napoleonic art
5
Enjoy wonderful scenery and local food and wine throughout all the islands

What’s included in our Tour

  • 24 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 13 dinners.
  • 24 nights of hotel accommodation in en-suited share twin rooms.
  • 1 internal flights and taxes (economy class)
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
  • Transport and field trips as indicated.
  • Touring by comfortable and modern coach.
  • Services of a tour leader.
  • Ferry services as indicated.
  • Service charges and gratuities.
  • Detailed tour information booklet.

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.

Map Malta Sardinia Corsica

Island of Sicily
skyline of Corsica, France
Grape Harvest Italy Western Mediterranean
Tours to Malta
Corsica
Acropolis Hill, Parthenon, Athens, Greece
Azure Window in Gozo - Malta Island
Boats and yachts in Malta
Old ritual site in Corsica
Fountain of Shame in Palermo - Sicily
Spargi Plage in Sardinia
Agrigento, Sicily

Tour Reviews

October 19, 2018

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

October 28, 2018

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

May 2, 2019

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

October 11, 2019

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

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