Malta is a small and densely populated island nation consisting of an archipelago of seven islands in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Malta lies directly south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya. The strategically located islands constituting the Maltese nation have been ruled by various powers and fought over for centuries. It is currently the smallest European Union country in population.
The first civilisation to leave any significant remains flourished in the third millennium BC, building many megalithic temples. Later the island was occupied by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians and the Romans.
Independence from Britain was achieved in 1964, and forty years on Malta was the smallest of the 10 countries to join the EU in May 2004.
Each year, the population of Malta is tripled by an influx of tourists - the nation's main source of income.
The Maltese islands offer the attraction of clear blue waters, secluded bays and sandy beaches while, in the towns, medieval walled citadels and splendid baroque churches and palaces reflect the rich history of the islands.