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Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

  • June 22, 2017
  • By 50 Shades
  • 24 Comments
Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Sailing into the port of Valletta in Malta, the largest of three Maltese Islands, was one of those magical moments where words can’t describe the ethereal feeling you get when you glimpse this fortified ancient city. The Maltese Islands of myths and megaliths, have the most incredible ancient structures that date back 9,000 years ago to the Stone Age. With a Mediterranean climate, jewel seas, quaint little fishing villages and attractive beaches I can understand why this island was fought over for centuries.

After departing Sicily it was only a short sail of 93 kms south to the Maltese archipelago that lies virtually at the centre of the Mediterranean, and 288 km north of Africa. The archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino with a relatively small total population of over 400,000 inhabitants occupying an area of 316 square kilometres.

Valletta, Malta

We arrived at the Grand Harbour in Valletta, the capital of Malta, a fortified peninsula overlooking two harbours on either side. As well as forts absolutely everywhere, Valletta is adorned with beautiful baroque buildings and churches.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

St Elmo Fort in Valletta

A highlight of Valletta was catching the lift from the waterfront to Upper Barrakka, the beautiful public gardens that afford amazing 360 degree views of the Grand Harbour and the city. The gardens comprise of a paved arcade on two sides that were originally roofed in 1661 and host a collection of famous bronze statues and memorial tablets. A saluting battery with ten cannons is found in the gardens directly beneath the top tier of the main garden.

Maltese islands: Myths and Megaliths

The lift up to Upper Barrakka Gardens

Malta has often been called the ‘Fortress Island’ due to the great mass of military architecture that can be seen everywhere. The fortifications that can be seen today come from two distinct periods: those of the Knights and those of the British era.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Grand Harbour in Valletta

From many strategic positions and lookouts around Valletta you can’t help but marvel at the feat of military engineering, but also because they are reminiscent of the era of chivalry, crusading, heroism and legendary battles. These forts simply blow your mind!

Maltese Island History

Due to the island’s great strategic importance as a naval base, it has an illustrious history with a succession of different powers. These have included the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Order of St. John, French and British, all having ruled these islands at some point in time. Malta became an independent state in 1964, and a republic in 1974.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Grand Master Jean de Vallette, founder of Valletta

The Knights  of the Order of St. John came to Malta in 1530, having been ejected from their earlier home on Rhodes by the Turks in 1522. The Knights stayed for 268 years, transforming what they called ‘merely a rock of soft sandstone’ into a flourishing island with mighty defences and a capital city coveted by the great powers of Europe.

But even more impressive is that Malta has a rich prehistoric past. Dating of bones and pottery from all around the island has shown that it was first populated in at least 5,500 BC. Malta’s megalithic temples are claimed to be older than Stonehenge and older than the Pyramids of Egypt. There are literally dozens of ancient sites, eleven megalithic temples, with seven of them being UNESCO World Heritage Listed.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Hagar Qim Megalithic Temple in Malta

Maltese Myths

One of the biggest Maltese myths is that Malta was part of a great civilization of the past, possibly Atlantis. It is speculated that Malta is in fact the only remaining remnant of a much older civilisation. Legend says that when the city of Atlantis was destroyed due to its own evolved experimentations with the natural forces of the earth, the landmass which comprised Atlantis was split asunder and sunk into the sea, apart from a small fragment, which drifted on the earth’s crust until a huge tsunami blew it from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Interesting stuff!

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Yachts and boats in Grand Harbour in Valletta

Malta Tours

We had pre-booked a cruise excursion titled “Treasures of Malta” and very excitedly jumped aboard our mini-bus to set off to explore this Maltese Island. We headed for the town of Mosta where we visited the Mosta Dome Cathedral which is very famous for its Rotunda, that is the third largest in the world.

Maltese Islands:Myths and Megaliths

The interior of Mosta Dome in Malta

Our guide explained the history of Malta as we travelled further inland into the island. The countryside is dotted with medieval towers, wayside chapels and the oldest known human structures in the world. No wonder the islands have rightly been described as an open-air museum.

Mdina

We stopped briefly for a photo opportunity to capture the medieval fortress city of Mdina from a distance, that was formerly the capital of Malta. The old city is perched atop the highest hill of the island and gives panoramic views of Malta’s north and eastern landscape.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Ancient Citadel of Mdina in Malta

Mdina Cathedral dominates the town with its unique skyline and it is scattered with many historical buildings. We climbed the hill to Rabat, the historical suburban town of Mdina and marvelled at the narrow cobbled streets still existing and many ancient churches, catacombs and convents dotted throughout. At times it seemed impossible that our bus would even fit through some of the narrow streets of the town.

Dingli Cliffs

Our bus tour travelled to the western coast of Malta and the highest area of the island to a place known as Dingli Cliffs. The views were breathtaking, overlooking the small terraced fields below, the moonscape terrain, the open sea, and Filfla, the small uninhabited island off the coastline.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

The landscapes of Dingli Cliffs

The beguiling sight of a tiny chapel, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene is perched on the edge of the cliffs, marking the highest point on the Maltese Islands. It was here that we discovered the locals trying to make a buck out of the tourists by attempting to sell bottled water at the hefty price of 5 euros!

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

St Mary Magdalene Chappel at Dingli Cliffs

Malta’s Blue Grotto

Still on the western side of the island where there are steep cliff faces looming over the Mediterranean Sea, we came to Malta’s Blue Grotto. The site got its name from a British soldier who thought that since the area looked similar to the Grotta Azzurra in Capri, it deserved the same name.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Blue Grotto caves of Malta

It is a sight to behold. There is a massive arch (over 30m) and a system of six caves that were created by centuries of persistent action of the waves and the elements. The sky reflects the white sandy seabed, giving off a bright cobalt colour while the caves mirror the orange, purple and green off the minerals in the rocks.

Marsaxlokk Fishing Village

Towards the end of our tour and possibly my favourite part of the island, was a visit to the quaint fishing village of Marsaxlokk. It had all the ingredients of a cute little fishing village with picturesque scenery of brightly coloured boats (luzzus), waterfront markets in full swing, a town square with a pretty church and many seafood restaurants lining the harbour.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Marsaxlokk Fishing Village in Malta

Gozo

Day two of our exploration of the Maltese Islands took us into the second largest island, Gozo. Our ship arrived in the early hours of the morning and we were tendered into the port of Mgarr amid very choppy seas. We hadn’t pre-booked a tour so we decided to try the hop on hop off bus that would take us around the small 67 km² island.

The younger sister to Malta is more greener, more rural and laid-back, but still comes complete with historical sites, forts and amazing panoramas, as well the well-preserved prehistoric temples of Ġgantija.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Mgarr Harbour in Gozo.

Gozo Attractions

We rambled around the island on the double decker bus with the crisp air giving us a blow dry. The journey took us through rich and fertile valleys with farms dotted everywhere growing fresh produce such as tomatoes and grapes. Our first stop was at Ramla Bay, Gozo’s most popular beach and referred to locally as “Ramla il-Ħamra” – the Red Sandy Beach!

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

The windy road down to the Gozo coastline

Back on the bus we continued through farmland, past the Savina Creativity Centre at Xewkija, the prehistoric temples of Ġgantija, Calypso Cave, and then downhill to the seaside village of Marsalforn Bay.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

The countryside of Gozo Island

Marsalforn

The Summer resort town of Marsalforn boasts a small picturesque bay with turquoise waters and a tiny sandy beach. The main promenade runs right round the head of the bay, providing a pleasant place to stroll and a gathering place at one of the waterfront restaurants for local families and visitors alike.

Marsalforn is a popular base for diving enthusiasts, who can choose from a variety of diving schools and dive sites. The village is is also well served with restaurants, bars, self catering apartments and hotels.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

The Waterfront of Marsalforn Bay

There are also several good boat trips on offer including a cruise around Gozo (with swimming and snorkelling stops) and a trip over to Comino and the legendary Blue Lagoon.

Victoria/Rabat

Gozo’s commercial and cultural capital is recognizable by its strategic position with the Citadel perched on the uppermost part. This enclosed fortified part of town has a Cathedral, the Gozo Law Courts, the old Bishop’s Palace and a few museums.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Rambling through the town of Victoria/Rabat on the double decker bus

The centre of Rabat(Victoria) is Pjazza Indipendenza (Independence Square), known as it-Tokk. The square is dominated by the Banca Giuratale, built between 1733 and 1738, formerly the seat of the municipal government of Gozo. In the mornings, there is an open market that shares the square with several open air cafes.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

The Ancient Citadel of Victoria

A little further from it-Tokk is Villa Rundle Public Gardens, laid out by the British in 1910 and recently refurbished. With a variety of local and imported trees and a cooling fountain, the gardens are an oasis of peace.

Other Points of Interest in Gozo

As we wound around the narrow roads of Gozo we climbed to the Ta’ Pinu Basilica just outside Gharb. This impressive neo-romanesque church is a popular place of pilgrimage.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Ta’ Pinu Cathedral

In the actual village of Gharb there is the Gharb Folklore Museum and the Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Centre.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Gozo Craft Village in Gharb

Next we came to the curious coastal landscape of Dwerja Bay with a few interesting geological features. Here lies an Inland Sea enclosed by cliffs and connecting to the sea via a fissure. There is also the Azure Window, carved out of the cliffs by waves, and jutting out from the sea is the Fungus Rock formation.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

Fungus Rock in Dwerja Bay

Our last stop was at Xlendi Bay, a tiny fishing hamlet that is now a popular seaside resort. The bay is flanked by an impressive cliff on one side and there is a small sandy beach leading into shallow waters.  For the more adventurous it is delightful to swim and snorkel in deeper water off the long stretch of rocks bordering the beach.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

The beautiful Xlendi Bay in Gozo

Mgarr Harbour

This very scenic harbour is dominated by Fort Chambray, commissioned by Jacques François de Chambray of the Order of St John in 1749. Although it was never fully completed it still stands proud overlooking the harbour. It’s an extremely busy harbour with a ferry terminal and ferries going between the three Maltese Islands, brightly coloured fishing boats and a yacht marina.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

A colourful fishing boat in Mgarr Harbour

Overlooking the harbour is the neo-Gothic Lourdes Chapel, Velsons Winery and the Żewwieqa waterfront with the Gleneagles Bar and a few restaurants including the kitsch verandah of the Seaview Restaurant.

Maltese Islands: Myths and Megaliths

The Seaview Restaurant with views over Mgarr harbour

There is no doubt that the Maltese Islands really are the Mediterranean’s best kept secret. Can you imagine islands steeped in 7,000 years of rich history and culture? Boasting year round sunshine, clear azure Mediterranean waters, world-class diving sites, stunning natural attractions and authentic off-the-beaten track locations. I could easily lose myself completely in these incredible trio of islands!

This post is part of the Lovin’ Life Linky with a Lovin’ Life Team of the “ageing positively” kind who are as keen as I am to promote the Lovin’ Life mindset. The Lovin’ Life Team includes:

Johanna from Lifestyle Fifty
Min from Write of the Middle.
Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit
Jo from And Anyways
and of course me, Kathy from 50 Shades of Age


By 50 Shades, June 22, 2017 Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
  • 24

50 Shades

Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 4 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now 60. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland. She enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, movies, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.

24 Comments
  • Ingrid @ Fabulous and Fun Life
    June 22, 2017

    Your photos look amazing! What a scenic location to visit!

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      It was an amazing place to visit. I enjoyed these two Maltese Islands immensely! :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Katherine
    June 22, 2017

    This post brings back so many memories! Although Hagar Qim didn’t have that cover the last time I visited. I lived in Malta with my family for a year when I was a kid. My dad was born in Mosta (just up the street from the church actually) and lived there till he immigrated to Australia for work when he was 19. Malta’s got such a long and interesting history, there’s so much to see. I love your photos, you’ve done a great job of capturing it all.

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      That is so coincidental that we visited a church in your father’s hometown. We loved this town and the church was gorgeous. The history of Malta was extraordinary and the dramatic landscapes were breathtaking. Yes Hagar Qim now has a shelter built over it – I imagine to protect it from the elements. Thanks for reading and I’m glad I did this beautiful Mediterranean Island justice. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond
    June 22, 2017

    Hi Kathy! We are visiting Malta during a cruise in October and have never visited before. This post has certainly made me very excited about visiting and also give me some great information. I loved the photos – the only down side is that you have made me impatient to go! LOL:) Have a great week!

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      Oh I’m so glad you are visiting Malta. It was magical! October will be here before you know it! :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Jo tracey
    June 22, 2017

    Fabulous pics. Yours is the third post I’ve read on Malta this week, so I suspect that there’s a message in that somewhere! #TeamLovinLife

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      Thanks Jo. My daughter visited this island in 2007 when she was on Gap Year so after seeing her photos I always wanted to see this Mediterranean jewel. Malta lived up to my expectations and I found the history intriguing. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • jodie
    June 22, 2017

    Kathy—I’m entirely jealous of what an amazing trip you had. I remember hearing about Malta in a House Hunter’s episode and thinking that I could live there because they speak English!
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      The stops on our Mediterranean Cruise were outstanding and Malta was a highlight. You must do this cruise – it was magical! :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Deborah
    June 22, 2017

    Stunning photographs. I’ve not really been to Europe at all (6wks in Portugal to learn Portuguese before going to Africa) but a friend of mine has a Maltese mother and so they’ve been twice to visit family and I know she loves it.

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      Oh I would love to visit Portugal and Spain. Maybe on our next trip in a few years time after we’ve recovered from this one. Malta was extraordinary and I can recommend it highly. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Lyndall @ SeizeThe Day Project
    June 22, 2017

    I love your photos of these beautiful islands Kathy. Thank you for showing us that these destinations have so many amazing buildings and sites to discover and explore… :) #TeamLovinLife

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      Thanks Lyndall. We loved exploring these two islands with so much history and beautiful coastline. I could easily return here for another holiday! :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    June 22, 2017

    So much history and beauty.

    Thank you for sharing, Kathy.

    SSG xxx

    • Kathy
      June 22, 2017

      The Maltese Islands were definitely one of the highlights of our Mediterranean Cruise. I always find the history interesting. :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Agness of aTukTuk
    June 23, 2017

    Wow! I’ve learned so much about this spectacular place, Kathy!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    June 23, 2017

    So much to see!!!! Such amazing photos. That bay towards the end looks like a mammoth swimming pool. Thanks for bring Malta to life for me! Another destination to add to my ever growing list …
    #teamlovinlife

    • Kathy
      June 23, 2017

      Ha ha! Yes my list grows by the day too. I wonder whether I will have enough years and $$ to see all the places I want to see? :) #TeamLovinLife

  • Janet
    June 27, 2017

    Ah memories … some trivia for you, the hubster’s great grandparents used to worship at the Mosta dome church and lived just around the corner (so of course we had to see it when we were there). Also, I love the pronunciation of MARSAXLOKK – Marshaschlock!

    • Kathy
      June 28, 2017

      How coincidental is that? The church was beautiful and those coloured fishing boats at Marsaxlokk were incredible. Thanks for the pronunciation lesson – who would have thought? :)

  • Life Images by Jill
    June 28, 2017

    thank you for this tour of Malta Kathy. My friend lives in Mosta – I am yearning to visit her, and now even more! Happy travels Kathy.

    • Kathy
      June 28, 2017

      Malta was a fascinating island. The harbour area at Valletta with all the fortresses is spectacular and once you drive deeper into the island it gets even more interesting. It was a big highlight of our trip. :)

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