The Maltese Islands, floating in the deep sapphire waters of the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily, are a treasure-trove of history. Over the 3 islands—Malta, Gozo, and Comino—lies a wealth of prehistoric ruins, cathedrals, palaces, catacombs, ancient temples and more to make the history buff squeal with delight. The capital of Valletta is in of itself an exquisite seaport—and much more lies beyond!
WIT Travel Agent Pam traveled to Malta last year and absolutely loved it. Did you catch her feedback? We created a report of her trip so you could get a firsthand taste of Malta. And don’t forget to check out her photos in the Gallery!
1. Ħaġar Qim
This prehistoric megalithic site dates back to around 3600 b.c.e.! Declared a UNESCO site, with 7-meter megaliths weighing around 20 tons each, the ancient site was obscured until its discovery in 1839. Here a number of feminine idols were found, including a nude Venus of Malta.
A short 500 meters from Hagar Qim, Mnajdra is another megalithic site with different temples that date back to 3600-2200 b.c.e. Visitors to the site can witness firsthand developing architecture during the Ggantija Phase, the Maltese Bronze Age. The chief attraction of the Mnajdra temples is the Solstices and Equinoxes doorway, which marks the first day of each season.
3. Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum
The Hypogeum is a multi-level underground crypt that dates to around 4000 b.c.e. A UNESCO archaeology site, it’s a complex series of catacombs and. Connected chambers. At the center is the chamber of Holy of Holies, and is an amazing state of preservation, with beautiful carvings and paintings in red ochre. Open to the public, but tickets must be reserved well in advance as there’s a limit of 10 visitors every hour. Artifacts from the site can be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.
4. Tarxien Temples
The ruins of four temples, recounting the story of a once-glorious civilization among the dilapidated columns, statues, altars and reliefs. The site expands over 5400 square meters and is an impressed display of Late Neolithic art from the time period between 3600-2500 b.c.e. The Tarxien Temples archaeology site within easy walking distance of Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.
5. St. Paul’s Catacombs
This ancient Roman underground cemetery complex is a delight to behold. Dating back to the 4th-century c.e., it is comprised of labyrinthine passages and tombs over an area of 2000 square meters. When the Saracens took over in the 9th century, the site was abandoned and made inaccessible until its excavation in 1894.
6. Fort St. Angelo
This medieval fort is a marvelous bastioned fort and castle built during the medieval ages. As it stretches out over the peninsula, it’s an ideal location for panoramic views of the harbor and surrounding seas.
7. Saint John’s Co-Cathedral
This elegant cathedral was built by the Order of St. John in the 16th-century. Dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, it’s truly a gem of Baroque architecture. The Knights of St. John wanted to rival the great churches of Rome and commissioned art and decorations from grand masters from France, Spain and Italy.
8. Casa Rocca Piccola
This gorgeous 16th-c baroque palace was once home to a noble Maltese family. Another relic from the Knights of St. John, the palace boasts over 50 rooms, Malta’s the largest private collection of antique costumes, two libraries, a chapel and stables. It was called La casa con giardino, the house with a garden, as typically Valletta houses were not allowed.
9. Rotunda of Mosta
The 17th-century Catholic Church is a marvel of neoclassical architecture, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. Designed to rival the Pantheon in Rome, with Ionic columns, two bell towers and an ornamental circular dome. In 1942, a German aerial bomb fell on the church during mass but didn’t explode—a true miracle to the onlookers. A replica of the bomb is on display to visitors.
10. Inquisitor’s Palace
Colloquially known as tal-Inkisitur, the palace was the seat of the Maltese Inquisition from 1574 to 1798. Originally intended to be a courthouse, it was renovated over the centuries to become the elegant and stunning architectural gem of today. It is the only palace of its kind in the world that’s open to the general public.
Thinking of Malta? Why not book a Mediterranean Cruise? Ask our Willamette Intl Travel agents to curate a trip that’s perfectly tailored to you and your family’s needs and budget.