While the physical dimensions of the Maltese islands may be small, they catch more than their fair share of sunshine - and this reflects the sunny disposition which spreads throughout the islands' life.

The waters of the Mediterranean are warm, clear and generally calm, so visitors can join in the many water sports to be enjoyed. The marinas are home to all sorts of pleasure craft as well as the brightly painted little Maltese fishing boat - the "luzzu".

boat A trip around the Grand Harbour and around the island is a must. There are regular sailings and also cruises to Gozo and Comino with its famed Blue Lagoon. If the thought of making a decision on which day to sail sounds too exhausting there is always that quiet sunny spot by the sea to just doze and sunbathe the hours away.

There is more to Malta than just sunbathing, of course, as the islands have many other distractions and attractions. The Maltese have always been sports enthusiasts. As well as soccer and waterpolo there is golf, tennis, sailing, scuba diving, horse riding and more. Join in or watch and enjoy.

Shoppers will be delighted by all that is on display. As well as internationally famous brand names, there are local crafts of wood, glass and fine silver handicrafts, as well as the exquisite Maltese lace. The lacemakers can still be seen, especially on the island of Gozo, working their bobbins as they gossip the hours away.

For the pleasures of its table Malta takes many of its taste traditions from the Mediterranean. There is a passion for pasta, local specialities and the fresh fish is always a mouthwatering treat. One particular Maltese speciality is rabbit stew, a hearty dish made with lashings of red wine. With delicious local bread in abundance, tasty Gozitan cheeses, fresh fruit, local wine and all sorts of rich pastries and sweets, no one has ever come away from a Maltese meal complaining of still being hungry. The smiles that accompany each course are as generous as the helpings themselves.

When the sun goes down, Malta comes to life. Entertainment may be as simple as a promenade along the sea front to meet and greet one's neighbours as the heat of the day dissolves into the evening. Or, it could be a touch more sophisticated at a theatre, restaurant, club or disco. The casino is a place to see and be seen - a fashion show and glittering occasion among the spinning roulette wheels and turning cards. Or, take a cue from the Maltese love of culture, and enjoy grand opera or ballet. The Manoel Theatre in Valletta itself is well worth a visit, simply to be amazed by its classic splendour.