Malta is a southern European country in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km south of Sicily, 284 km east of Tunisia and 333 km north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2, making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which is also the smallest capital in the EU at 0.8 km2. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta’s location as a naval base has given it great strategic importance throughout history, and a succession of powers including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moorish, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British have ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the eurozone.
Malta has a long Christian legacy and is an Apostolic see. According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul was shipwrecked on Malta.Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.
Malta is a favoured tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta and seven Megalithic Temples which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean (in its eastern basin), some 80 km south of the Italian island of Sicily across the Malta Channel. Only the three largest islands – Malta (Malta), Gozo(Għawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna) – are inhabited. The smaller islands (see below) are uninhabited. The islands of the archipelago lie on the Malta plateau, a shallow shelf formed from the high points of a land bridge between Sicily and North Africa that became isolated as sea levels rose after the last Ice Age. The archipelago is therefore situated in the zone between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates.
Numerous bays along the indented coastline of the islands provide good harbours. The landscape consists of low hills with terraced fields. The highest point in Malta is Ta’ Dmejrek, at 253 m (830 ft), near Dingli. Although there are some small rivers at times of high rainfall, there are no permanent rivers or lakes on Malta. However, some watercourses have fresh water running all year round at Baħrija near Ras ir-Raħeb, at l-Imtaħleb and San Martin, and at Lunzjata Valley in Gozo.
Malta is a popular tourist destination, with 1.2 million tourists per year. Three times more tourists visit than there are residents. Tourism infrastructure has increased dramatically over the years and a number of good-quality hotels are present on the island, although overdevelopment and the destruction of traditional housing is of growing concern. An increasing number of Maltese now travel abroad on holiday.
In recent years, Malta has advertised itself as a medical tourism destination, and a number of health tourism providers are developing the industry. However, no Maltese hospital has undergone independent international healthcare accreditation. Malta is popular with British medical tourists,pointing Maltese hospitals towards seeking UK-sourced accreditation, such as with the Trent Accreditation Scheme. Dual accreditation with the American-oriented Joint Commission is necessary if hospitals in Malta wish to compete with the Far East and Latin America for medical tourists from the United States.