Backpacking in The Sovereign Military Order of Malta: How to Visit the Only UN Recognised Country Without Any Land! Yes, it seems like I have written a lot about this cool country already and this post should get you to understand how to actually visit it and arrange a guided tour of the only UN recognised country with no land!
Country counters, history buffs and travel freaks are intrigued by this place. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta! Is it even a place?
Is it a country?
Is it an order?
Can we visit?
What exactly is it?
I had to find out…
…and I had to backpack it…
…and indeed write a detailed Top 22 sights in the Upper Part and Private Residential Area of Fort St. Angelo. But before I backpacked the country, I had to do my research and it was a good few days of reading, researching and understand. It’s a real travel enigma and yes it is definitely a real country!! I included this country at the end of my Europe Tour, leaving it to be one of the last countries in my European map jigsaw, along with the likes of Romkerhall and Croatia. I have also covered my trip to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta on Culture Trip. So let’s learn all about it and how you can visit this country.
Researching the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
I started by researching The Sovereign Military Order of Malta. I used Wikipedia and the official homepage of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. If they have their own website, Wikipedia page, UN recognition, currency, stamps, flag then surely it’s a real country and of course included in my ultimate list of countries. But then why don’t they have any land?
So the United Nations claim there are 193 recognised countries (South Sudan was the newest one), it also has two “observer states”, they are two countries I have also backpacked – Palestine and The Vatican City. But when I researched further, we weren’t talking Gibraltar, Kosovo or Nagorno Karabakh – this place came up next – if you are a country counter, then you need to have visited this place if you are to claim to have visited every country in the world. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta also holds observer status within the UN. So while it is an officially recognised country, at first it would appear to have no land. It maintains diplomatic relations with 107 countries, so is more recognised than Taiwan or Northern Ireland! This was brilliant and I felt like tweeting Timmy Mallet just to shout Wacaday in his ear!
What exactly is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta?
I’ve gone through this before but a quick recap. The official name of the country is a long one – The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta! These days it is also known as the Order of Malta and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. But apart from having a residence in the Upper Fort in the Republic of Malta, do not confuse them with Malta!! The country’s official language is Italian, their currency is the (now defunct elsewhere) Maltese Scudo and the national religion is Roman Catholic. The country was founded way back in 1099 in Jerusalem, during the era of Crusaders, it was formed by the Blessed Gerard. All this means that officially, it is the world’s oldest surviving chivalric order.
But the Sovereign Military Order of Malta has had land of course, and in many different locations. Through the years, the Order has owned land and resided in modern day Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta has its own government, laws, passport, and population – basically two knights and thousands of members including some in Northern Ireland (my country). The Sovereign Military Order of Malta has its own flag – a white cross on a red background (but not to be confused with Switzerland or Denmark!!) and they also have their own coat of arms. You will actually see the flag flying in a lot of places around the world, mostly in Malta though.
To Visit it you Have Three Options
So now you know all about it – let’s backpack it! OK, for all you budding crackpackers, whackpackers, backpackers, travel freaks and tourists, you really want to visit it and become a real tourist, so you have three main options to say you have backpacked to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. While it doesn’t have any land per say, it does have rent and leases on this hat-trick…two of which are in Italy.
1. Palazzo Malta (Rome, Italy)
Start with the “capital city” eh? Eh what? It has a capital? Well not exactly but with the headquarters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta being located at the Palazzo Malta in Rome, Italy, then this is as near a visit to the country’s capital as you can get. In the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, this is the most important building and it is located near the Spanish steps at Via dei Condotti 68. The Order flag flies from the building’s exterior.
2. Villa Malta (Rome, Italy)
After backpacking through the capital, stay in Rome and head to the Villa Malta which is a building on top of a hill which is home to the Grand Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The Villa Malta and the Palazzo Malta sit within the borders of Italy, so adding these to San Marino, Seborga and The Vatican City would mean that Italy contains a mammoth four other countries within its borders!! As far as official status is concerned, both these venues owned by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta have been granted extraterritorial status of Italy – therefore they are separate – they are NOT part of Italy. And this is your loophole to backpack them and prove it and add another country to your list of Counting Countries. Italy is one of those aforementioned 107 countries that recognises the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and therefore they also recognise this place as part of that country. Villa Malta also contains the embassy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to Italy, the irony on that is not lost either.
3. Fort St. Angelo (Vittoriosa, Malta)
The third option and the coolest one for me is to visit their largest leased premises. People get confused by the title of the country and often mix it up with Malta and the Republic of Malta. That gets even more confusing when you learn that on the island of Malta (that’s the Republic of Malta) you can visit both countries:
1.Malta or the Republic of Malta
2.The Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Here is how to visit the Sovereign Military Order of Malta on the island of Malta
Head to the city of Vittoriosa (also called Birgu) in Malta and walk to the huge fort there – Fort St. Angelo. The Fort is on the island of Malta of course, but the Upper Part of the Fort is currently on a 99 year lease (and has been since 1998). Once you arrive at reception, you will find that there are two types of ticket. One is the normal entry ticket for 5 Euros. The second is a special guided tour ticket to the Upper Part of the Fort! This is the one you want and this is your dramatic entrance into the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which was country 156 on my wacaday journey!
So naturally I booked the guided tour. The tours are held ONCE a day only and between Monday and Friday only. This information was true as of October 2017. I had 6 days in Malta in 2017 and pencilled this one in for day two. I told them a day in advance that I would be backpacking it – and yes backpacks are permitted and of course I wore mine. In fact, Senegal and the Gambia are the only two countries of the 160 that I haven’t actually backpacked in – I was there on a no luggage challenge and simply toured them with no bags.
So get the guided tour booked and turn up ready to explore behind the scenes into the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It feels like I have written a lot on this subject already, so I’ll finish off with the link to complete your jigsaw now you have your ticket and tour booked – Crossing the Border from the Republic of Malta to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
9 thoughts on “How to Visit The Only Country in the World Without Land: Arranging a Tour of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta”
Hi Jonny, Good stuff. You did a great job visiting Malta. How about Gozo, did you miss a visit altogether? Many visitors who come to Gozo (Malta’s smaller sister island) end up saying that they wish they could have stayed for some more days.
Hi Joseph, thanks for the comment. Yes I backpacked Malta, Gozo and Comino. I simply don’t have time to cover every location on this blog as I have backpacked 900 settlements. However there is some on Gozo and Comino here:
https://dontstopliving.net/backpacking-in-gozo-staying-in-the-downtown-hotel-the-best-hotel-in-victoria-rabat/ https://dontstopliving.net/backpacking-in-gozo-staying-in-the-downtown-hotel-the-best-hotel-in-victoria-rabat/ Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Jonny,great blog really enjoying reading it.too add this to my country count in your opinion would I need to visit both the Italian locations and the fort.off topic did you ever visit seborga in the end?
Hi Gareth, thanks for the comment. Despite having backpacked in Rome, I only visited the Spanish steps there and not the actual inside of their 2 buildings, but for me a visit to the country is just to visit ONE of the three locations. I also haven’t been to Hawaii or Alaska, but I still class myself as having visited United States as I have been to the mainland 4 times. It’s a really cool place to visit! Safe travels. Jonny
So interesting. Thanks for opening my eyes to these little quirks. Now I’m wondering if some maps have holes in their countries because of these countries seemingly within countries.
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Hi Jonny! I really wonder if they stamped your passport as you basically travelled with two different states?
Hi Kaan, Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay – I have been in depression a lot of the last 4 years and not been checking messages or emails. I personally recognise Malta and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta as separate but sadly when I backpacked it there was no passport stamps. I have heard that you can get one at the post office in their embassy in Rome, the only city in the world with three UN recognised countries in it! Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Kevin, Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay – I have been in depression a lot of the last 4 years and not been checking messages or emails. I appreciate you taking time to read my stories. I love these wacaday mini countries and I include them in my maps, even if they don’t appear on other maps! Stay safe. Jonny