Med for it music fans give a vibrant young look to holiday favourite young look to holiday favourite, writes DOMINIK LEMANSKI
THE Maltese might have thought they had seen the last of invading powers - well, that was until MTV turned up.
Luckily this was an invasion of a different kind.
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I had flown to Malta along with 50,000 music fans for the Isle of MTV Music Week at the start of the summer.
The already bustling tourist destination looked as if it was under siege as a small army of pop fans poured on to the island from across the world to take part in a musical extravaganza.
As the main gig kicked off I found myself at the front of the stage sipping on a glass of the local Cisk lager.
But in the distance, over the heads of thousands of screaming music fans, I could see the exquisitely beautiful St Publius Church in Fosos Square lit up against the night sky. It was no wonder all those invading powers - such as the Phoenicians and Romans - felt so at home once they set foot on the strategicallyplaced Mediterranean island.
The place also has strong links to Britain.
Malta was a British colony between 1800 and 1964 and endured a traumatic six-week period in the early part of the Second World War when an astonishing 6,700 tons of enemy bombs fell.
Since independence it has forged a reputation for attracting British pensioners interested in its historical delights.
But in recent years Malta has been pulling in a new generation of visitors.
Hence the arrival of swathes of young music fans, myself included, looking to pay homage to the stars.
Bopping along with the crowd to US rapper will.i.am's This Is Love, the vibe was like a night at a big Ibiza club.
Earlier in the evening an A-list line-up including Nelly Furtado, Flo Rida and Eva Simons had performed to a capacity crowd.
And, not to be outdone by the stars, a selection of DJs played a series of gigs at local venues including La Grotta, famed for being one of the most beautiful open-air clubs in the Med, and Club Numero Uno.
Following a heavy dose of partying you might well be in need of a rest.
First stop for me was the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk.
After a fish lunch I hopped on board one of the town's traditional fishing boats, called "luzzus", for a ride back to the Grand Excelsior Hotel in Valletta, the island's capital.
For dinner I headed to the open air Villa Brasserie situated in an old villa at the Le Meridien hotel looking out to beautiful St Julian's Bay.
Ideal for romancing or socialising, the Villa Brasserie serves up a mix of Mediterranean cuisine including dishes with Italian, Greek, Spanish, Moroccan and Maltese ingredients.
And despite downing copious amounts of local wine I still headed out for a nightcap in the nearby party district of Paceville. Here bars and clubs heaved to the sound of dance and techno and I ended up sinking a few cocktails at the hip Shadow Lounge.
For seriously sophisticated clubbing, head to Gianpula in Rabat. Situated in an old farmhouse, it has grounds of more than 30 acres, gardens, a pool and seven bars.
Malta offers lots of outdoor pursuits to work off that hangover. There is hiking across beautiful coastal paths, jet ski rides and scuba diving.
The Mediterraneo Marine Park even offers the opportunity to swim with dolphins. But if, like me, you prefer to stay in the boat, you can visit the beautiful Blue Grotto and its system of caverns.
The location of the cave combined with the sunlight causes the water to mirror the brilliant phosphorescent colours of the underwater flora.
Following a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel next morning, I headed out to explore the Upper Barakka Gardens — a shaded oasis on the edge of Valletta with panoramic views of the Grand Harbour.
Early evening is the ideal time to take a stroll through the city's back streets packed full of limestone buildings, timber balconies and churches.
You can also catch theatre performances in English and concerts by leading opera singers.
Last year, Malta attracted 1.5 million holidaymakers, with a further 400,000 stepping onshore via cruise ships.
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With so much to offer, the invasion of tourists to this fun and fascinating island is only set to continue.
FLIGHTS with Air Malta start from £69 each way, including taxes, departing from Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Gatwick, Heathrow, Newcastle, Norwich and Manchester. To book call 0906 103 0012 or visit airmalta.com.
Rooms at the five-star Grand Hotel Excelsior, below, in Valletta, start from £60pp, per night. Price is based on two sharing a standard room and includes breakfast. See excelsior.com.mt.
For more information on Malta see visitmalta.com. For further details on the Isle of MTV visit isleofmtv.com and malta musicweek.com.