Malta is often described as an open-air museum.

For throughout history, Malta’s position in the Mediterranean has given it great strategic importance.

It’s meant that over thousands of years a number of powers, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Sicilians, the Knights of St John, French and British, have all ruled its lands.

The legacies they left behind mean the country is saturated with places of interest to entice visitors.

Combine this history with its picturesque scenery, colourful fishing boats, hot, sunny climate, friendly people and quaint traditions and it’s no wonder more people are wanting to enjoy the Malta experience.

We travelled there with Saga Holidays and stayed at the company’s four-star Coastline Hotel, which stands on its own, overlooking Salina Bay, on the northern coast, but close to St. Paul`s Bay and the town of Bugibba, Malta’s leading holiday resort area.

It has 208 rooms, half with sea-views and each with en-suite bathroom and private balcony.

Extensive pool side terraces, overlooking the Mediterranean, offer a relaxing setting, while there’s also an indoor pool and leisure facilities including a gym, sauna, jacuzzi and tennis courts.

Holidaymakers have the services of their own resident Saga representatives, can choose from a variety of daily activities, take a shuttle bus to a choice of hotspots and enjoy free excursions.

One of the first stops on our four-day break was Valletta, an uninhabited peninsular when the Knights of St John arrived on the island in 1530, but which was immediately recognised as a strategic site for a fortified city and from where they defended Christendom against the Turks in the Great Siege of 1565.

The legacy they left behind after more than 200 years, is still very much in evidence, places such as Fort St Angelo and Fort Rinella, home to the world’s largest cannon.

The knights also built an array of churches, but the most impressive is St John’s co cathedral, whose floor is covered by 400 multi-coloured, marble tombstones and which houses several important canvases, including Caravaggio’s Beheading of St Paul.

Further musts on the visitor trail is the inquisitor’s palace and the various medieval auberge, or hostels, of the different speaking knights centred in the three cities of Vittoriosa, as well as the Palace of the Grand Master, which is one of the main buildings of the capital, today housing the Maltese Parliament following its independence from British rule in 1964.

Evidence of British influence abounds throughout Malta, however, with red post boxes and telephone boxes on street corners and traffic driving on the left.

During the Second World War, the British Navy used Valletta’s vast fortifications as a wartime base, but the island was bombed heavily by Italian and German planes and after more than two years of never-ening air raids, the bravery of its people were recognised when King George VI awarded the Maltese people the George Cross.

While the narrow meandering streets of Malta’s towns and villages are crowded with Renaissance cathedrals and baroque palaces, the countryside is dotted with the oldest known human structures in the world.

These are the ancient Megalithic Temples, which have been proclaimed world heritage sites and are the oldest free-standing structures in Europe, pre-dating Stonehenge by 1,000 years.

The Maltese archipelago lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean and consists of Malta, the more rural Gozo and largely uninhabited Comino.

Wherever you go, the Islands' scenery and architecture provide a spectacular backdrop. Buildings of honey-coloured stone stand against the Mediterranean blue, which is particularly spectacular at the Blue Grotto, on the south coast and its neighbouring system of caverns, where light reflects off the brilliant colours of the underwater corals.

Marsaxlokk is the island’s foremost fishing village and one of its most picturesque seaside localities,with bright red, yellow, green and blue fishing craft bobbing in the bay.

Another of Malta’s main attractions is the fortified and ancient capital city of Mdina, with its medieval streets and baroque cathedral and buildings.

In the suburb of Rabat are Roman catacombs, while St Paul’s Grotto is traditionally said to the be place where St Paul was kept during his three-month stay in 60AD.

The varied history of the Maltese islands has led to a varied cuisine although fresh seafood, including tuna and octopus is popular, while rabbit stew is considered a local delicacy.

Maltese bread, spread with olive oil and tomato paste and sprinkled with olives, capers and herbs and washed down with a local wine, is a popular snack, while sweet delicacies, such as nougat and honey rings are plentiful.