Malta, formally known as the Republic of Malta, is a Mediterranean island nation in Southern Europe consisting of an archipelago. It is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Italy, 284 kilometers (176 kilometers) east of Tunisia, and 333 kilometers (207 kilometers) north of Libya. With a land area of little more than 316 km2 (122 sq mi) and a population of slightly less than 450,000, the nation is one of the world’s smallest and most densely inhabited. Valletta, Malta’s capital, is the smallest national capital in the European Union, at 0.8 km2. Maltese and English are the official languages of Malta.
Malta’s strategic position has historically made it an important naval base, and the islands have been controlled by a series of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French, and British.
Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George VI of the United Kingdom in 1942 for its valor during World War II. Malta’s national flag continues to bear the George Cross. Malta achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 as an independent sovereign Commonwealth country, formally known as the State of Malta from 1964 to 1974, with Elizabeth II as its head of state. The nation became a republic in 1974 and, although it is no longer a Commonwealth kingdom, it is nevertheless a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta joined the United Nations in 1964 and the European Union in 2004; it joined the Eurozone in 2008.
Malta has a lengthy Christian history, and its Archdiocese of Malta claims to be an apostolic see because, according to tradition going back to the 12th century, the Acts of the Apostles is understood by the faithful as describing St Paul being shipwrecked on Malta. Malta’s official religion is Catholicism.
Malta is a popular tourist destination due to its pleasant climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, which include three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the al Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven Megalithic Temples, which are among the world’s oldest free-standing structures.