The Republic of Malta is a trio of islands situated in the center of the Mediterranean Sea. Malta is the largest of the three islands, with Gozo being the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago. An island paradise with a rich history spanning over 7 millennia, modern Maltese culture is a unique blend of Mediterranean hospitality and a remarkable living history that exists in its people, places and gastronomic traditions.
Visitors may have difficulty choosing from all that the islands have to offer. From first-class hotels and fine dining, to charming architecture and seasonal festivals, Malta has something for everyone year long. Amongst the most popular attractions, and some of my personal favorites, are these megalithic temples of Malta and Gozo. These impressive and mysterious buildings are testament to Malta’s long and fascinating history.
Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are situated roughly 500 meters apart in the small town of Qrendi. Both temples are World Heritage sites dating back to the Ggantija Phase (3600-3200 B.C.). Little is known of the temples’ constructors. Regardless, they are revered for their construction of the complex, which was completed without the use of metal tools and is comprised of massive limestone slabs. Both temples form the epicenter of a mini-complex with multiple constructions.
The Mnajdra complex features three temples overlooking an oval forecourt, altars, and a temple with stone benches and spiral-carvings. To get to Hagar Qim from Mnajdra, follow the raised boardwalk up. From Hagar Qim you will have stunning views of the small island of Filfla.
The purpose of the temples is highly debated amongst archeologists and anthropologists, and most of these massive structures remain shrouded in mystery. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: these constructions were an engineering feat for their time. (€9 / www.heritagemalta.org)
Going to Malta and missing out on the Hypogeum would be like going to Rome and skipping out on the Coliseum. It was one of the highlights of my Maltese journey. An exquisite example of architecture in the negative, the Hypogeum is a subterranean complex of halls and chambers carved out of coralline limestone.
The complex was deemed an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1902, and some sections date as far back as 3600 B.C. The complex’s three levels have given historians invaluable insight into Maltese Bronze Age society, particularly their religious practices. Since the Hypogeum is underground, it exists in a sensitive microclimate that has to be carefully controlled and monitored. This means that only a small number of visitors are permitted at once, and photography is strictly controlled. So the second that you are sure you are heading to Malta, get your tickets! (€20 adults / €12 children 6-11 / http://booking.heritagemalta.org/)
The Ggantija Temples are the earliest of Malta’s temples, and date back to over 5,500 years ago! Like the other Monolithic Temples, Ggantija faces southeast and is built in a clover-leaf like shape. Naturally, this entire construction was built with the use of bone and wooden tools.
And, like the other sites, the exact purpose of the site is unknown. Excavations found evidence that may indicate it was a site of animal sacrifices, and other evidence suggests the possibility that it was the site of a fertility cult! Whatever it was used for, it remains a fascinating piece of history and the enigmatic past of the Maltese islands.
Did you find the megalithic temples of Malta and Gozo interesting? If you’ve been or are planning to go, leave us a comment below!
Special thanks to Visit Malta for hosting us during our stay in Malta.