FANTASTIC GEOGRAPHY AND CAPTIVATING HISTORY: MALTA

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE A FANTASTIC VACATION IN MALTA TO SEE THE MEGALITHIC TEMPLES AND UNDERGROUND TOMBS?

There are many reasons to love Malta, the land of the islands. The most significant reason is its unimaginable diversity; although, it is a small country. Prehistoric temples, hills where fossils are found, hidden caves, exciting diving spots, and its dense history are among the things that make the destination attractive. Let’s not forget the deep blue sea! As the bays that are sheltered by the limestone hills hide among the coves along the coast on one side, the crimson gold beaches stretch accompanied by the clear waters on the other. The numerous marinas of the island are always filled with boats and yachts. Diving and snorkeling enthusiasts explore the underwater for caves, sunken treasures, and slopes.

Mixture of flavors and cultures
The Maltese Archipelago, which is significant with its proximity to Sicily and North Africa, consists of three islands, namely Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Malta, the largest member of the archipelago, covers a surface of 237 square kilometers, as Gozo covers 68 and Comino covers 2 square kilometers of surface area. Malta is also tempting as a ‘Mediterranean Cocktail.’ Despite the fact that Maltese people are Roman Catholics, an amazing mix of culture living in harmony had been existed here for generations. A traditional Maltese dish combines Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavors, but doesn’t let local flavors slide such as honey and rabbit meat. Maltese people are very hospitable and friendly. They will not leave your side until they deliver you to your destination, if you lose your way. You can see the modern effects of the 21st century everywhere. Especially in small and quite villages such as Gozo, buildings like giant church spires might take you to the past.

History standing out against time
Malta has always been a tempting territory to capture because of its geographical position at the center of the Mediterranean. Many of the islands are equipped with underground and overland defense systems. The Knights of St. John had established the capital Valletta. Watchtowers of the Mdina and Victoria, walled cities settled over the hill, take place along the coast. Even the fishing boats of Malta reflect the past with the eyes on the front of them just as their ancestors Phoenicians’ boats. The prehistoric towns of Gozo and Malta have incredible details. Seeing the temples and towers from different eras, and ‘Fat Lady’ and many other figurines at the museum is still possible today.

European Capital of Culture in 2018
Valletta is Malta’s miniaturized capital city. The Knights of St. John established the city on a peninsula. Its founders had dreamed of an aristocratic city here, with the elegance of the 16th century. UNESCO referred the city as ‘one of the places where the history of the world is seen the most intense’ when included Valletta in its World Heritage List. As the newly designed City Gate Renzo Piano, the Building of the Parliament and Opera House change the urban landscape, representation of Valletta as the European Capital of Culture in 2018 with restored honey-colored city walls, new museums, hotels, cafes and restaurants converted from 16th-century manor houses supported the city’s rebirth with a new face. Outside the city is also worth seeing. It is possible to take a pleasant boat ride to the Three Cities and the prehistoric Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.

The mysterious world of underground
The most extraordinary structure of Malta is the five thousand year old underground necropolis Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. You feel like you step into a silent and mysterious world at Hypogeum (means underground in Greek) that was discovered during a construction work in 1902. Dated to 3600-3000 BC with halls, chambers, and passages masterfully carved in stone, the cemetery, where about seven thousand bodies are buried, spreads over 500 square meters of land. The stone workers of the time had worked by examining the strengths and weaknesses of the stones according to their types in order to achieve a secure underground structure while digging the chambers. The place had been closed for ten years in the 2000s, since the carbon dioxide produced by the visitors’ breathing was causing damage to the limestone walls of the burial chambers. The cemetery had been restored with the financial support of UNESCO and today its microclimate is controlled substantially. Now the number of visitors is limited to 10 people per tour. Therefore, making a reservation two months before your visit would be a good idea.

Megalithic temples
Malta’s best-preserved prehistoric structures, also the most impressive, are megalithic temples. In addition, Hagar Qim (Sharp Stones) and Mnajdra with their impressive positions in the hills above the sea are monumental structures that are worth seeing. Probably, the temples were originally covered with stone arches, but they have been in ruins for a long time. Hagar Qim’s three-column entrance is restored and gives a sense of the original. As you stand at the corner, look to your right before entering to see the largest monumental stone that weighs 20 tons. Temple consists of irregular oval intertwined chambers, deferring from the ordinary temples of Malta in this aspect. The Fat Lady and the Maltese Venus figurines that were discovered in here are exhibited at the Museum of Archeology in Valletta today. Mnajdra is more ornate. Here, each with three sectional plans, there are three adjoining temples. All belong to BC 3600 – BC 3000. Guided tours that are organized during summer (June) and winter (December) solstices create an opportunity to better experience the light rays of the temple. Walking trails are marked around the temples, offering exceptional sea views.

Nobel city
Mdina is an Arab city, which is distinct from the modern Malta in a world surrounded by honey-colored walls. Despite daily visitors filling the main streets, the city impresses with hidden alleys and subtle architectural details. Walls had surrounded Mdina in the 1000s BC for protection by the Phoenicians and the city had been named ‘Malet,’ meaning ‘the place for protection.’ The Romans had established a large city here and called it Melita. The incoming Arabs gave its current name during the 9th century. It means ‘walled city’ in Arabic. Mdina’s medieval name means ‘noble town.’ This place had been the favorite place of the Maltese aristocrats and the residence of the administrative council. Due to their connection with the sea, the Knights of St. John had made Valletta and Grand Harbor their operations centers and Mdina had lost its popularity over time.

Fantastic geography
The most striking coastal views of Gozo are significant in Dwejra where the sea cooperates with its geological structure. The current place of Dwejra Bay and the Inner Sea is where the underground caverns became a landslip. This scene is inviting. The Maltese temptations are not to be underestimated because of its size. Take a walk around the Connonera Harbour or Vittoriosa’s streets ornate with flowers; swim in the Blue Lagoon that is located between Comino’s westernmost point and Cominotto islet where no one lives. It is a sheltered cove with a white sandy beach and clear waters. See the treasure of the most impressive church of Malta, St. John’s Co-Cathedral: Caravaggio’s gigantic painting of The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. Chill yourself in the Pool of St. John, which is a fantastic natural outdoor swimming location located among the rocks in Marsaxlokk. Malta opens the door not only to a spellbinding history with its megalithic temples, underwater and underground treasures, picturesque landscapes, and underground tombs but also to a fantastic geography.

LOCAL SPOT
Swim with the locals away from tourists at Ghar Lapsi.

LOCAL FLAVOR
Malta has an eclectic cuisine, which carries marks of the Mediterranean kitchen. Leave aside the fancy dishes of the menu at the famous chef Aaron’s restaurant that is called Aaron’s Kitchen, located in Valletta, and take a look at what they have to offer from the Maltese cuisine.