When a destination causes my travel eyebrows to raise it's time to get packing.
Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples
One of the most fascinating features of Malta is its history. Predating as far back is 5900 BC. This small wind swept island is home to the oldest free standing structures on earth, outdating Stonehenge and even the Egyptian pyramids by thousands of years. A visit to these prehistoric temples was first on my list. Even if you are not a history buff the sheer age of these 7 megalithic temples are sure to peek your curiosity and spark your imagination. The Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples both recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites are just 25mins from Valetta and is a well-portioned introductory visit to these unique architectural masterpieces.
There is nothing like a spontaneous stop and Malta provides many reasons to go off the well-traveled road and take in a whole lot of wonderous scenes you never knew existed. Case in point: as we drove along the beautiful south-east cliffside road, we stopped to quickly visit one of the popular lookout spots. Below were dramatically shaped limestone arches and stone doorways that led to over a half dozen grottos. Squadrons of little fishing boats filled with tourists darted in and out of the grottos and though it was not part of the plan, immediately we wanted to join them. Luckily, the Wied iż-Żurrieq boat harbour just happened to be down the next turn and once we made our way to the small dock, within minutes we were off. The grotto tour was quick but beautiful. A kaleidoscope of illuminated shades of blue awakened by the light entering the caves triggered many oohs and awes; well worth the diversion.
The final stop on our first day in Malta was at the old city of Mdina or silent city as it is sometimes referred to. Founded around 8th century BC, it was once the capital city of Malta. It is said that the apostle St. John made his home in Mdina after his historic shipwreck on the island. Built centuries ago as a strategic military location, today Mdina’s well-preserved architecture is one of the finest examples of an ancient walled city in Europe. A stroll along the city’s medieval streets is a delight and the way its timelessness seals in the long history of the island is almost breathtaking.
On day two we made a beeline to the sea. They say the best things come in small packages, well this is the case of Malta’s smallest island Comino. Rock size at best, but during its busy summer months, hundreds of visitors flock to this morsel of paradise. Best known for its picture-perfect blue lagoon bay with crystal clear aquamarine blue waters. Comino is the, “it” place. Almost every square foot of rock is blanketed with warming bodies and beach chairs-for rent-which go right up to the water’s edge. It’s a great island vibe, especially if you manage to snag a cocktail filled pineapple, which I took with me into the glassy water.
The Maltese archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Gozo is to Malta what Tobago is to Trinidad as it offers a quieter, slower orientation to the busyness of the mainland. All the same, as a destination Gozo is an interesting stop that is steeped in legend and history, panoramic views and easily accessible dive sites. Despite its diminutive size, the islands’ dramatic landscape has been featured in the popular TV series Game of Thrones, scenes of which were filmed in different parts of both Malta and Gozo.
On the last day, we remained in Valletta which is the smallest city in Europe and our home base during our time here. Founded in the 16th century, built on a peninsula between two natural harbours including the popular Grand Harbour, this old city is known for museums, palaces and grand churches. Baroque architectural masterpieces dispersed along its streets, is another way that the city’s history can be experienced. No surprise then that UNESCO has inscribed the entire city as a World Heritage Site. Whether you enjoy the sites of the city by land or on the water-off course I recommend you do both; Valletta has an old world charm about it, with a really upbeat playful edge.
While Malta continues to build on its significant past; this island still has managed to garner a reputation as a modern, trendy and one of Europe’s most exciting and innovative arts and cultural cities. Worth a visit…YES, get packing!
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