Blue Grotto, Mnajdra and Hagar Qim (Malta)

We began one of our days with the Blue Grotto which was located on the opposite side of the island from where we were staying, Bormla! Relying on public transport (more details below), we had to switch buses at Airport which was located in the centre of the island. The bus ride was a long one for 1 hr from Birgu.



The temperature was fine but the wind blew at a crazy 45kmph that day and the boats didn't go into the sea!!!!! The best part of Blue Grotto is the boating that takes you to the grotto i.e caves, in the sea where the water shows a millions hues and looks paradise-like. We were really looking forward for this, but sadly, very sadly, we couldn't go! However the saving grace was, we could walk along the coastal path, a small cemented walk-way just beside the sea. 
Our next stop was Mnajdra and Hagar Qim megalithic temples. There are several megalithic temples in Malta and 6 of those are Ggantija, Tarxian, Ta'Hagrat, Skorba and these 2. Ggantija is located in Gozo island. Unfortunately we had to skip Gozo because we relied on public transport (more details below), so we did not see Ggantija and we couldn't fit in rest 3 into our schedule as well.

From Blue Grotto we chose to walk the distance to Hagar Qim. It was an impeccable, scenic, route with hills and seas on either sides. It wasn't easy to have a baby in babywearing and walk the distance of 1.4km that has an upward slope, but the effort was worth it.

The 2 are located inside the same complex and the same visitors centre. Like Hal Safleni Hypogeum there's a 4D video experience here as well, but unfortunately it wasn't working when we went, so we headed directly to Hagar Qim. Today to protect the site from natural elements, the whole place is covered, in a style similar to London's O2.
Its almost impossible to wrap the mind around the ground plan unless you see the aeriel view. A miniature reconstruction of it is in the Archaeological Museum in Valletta. 

As soon as you enter what you see are the stone slab with spiral engraving and the altar with pitted decoration. At this point, you're standing in centre of one of the 6 ovals that form the temple structure. On the wall is a huge window! Next oval is all the more fascinating with a similar window, but it has a recess on all 4 sides So there must have been a screen or door that fitted into this recess!!! Now - the holes in the walls are monoliths, meaning the wall is a single stone in which the whole is sculpted out - and this was done with flints and similar instruments in 3600-3200 BCE, that's 5500yrs old!!!!
Another important thing in Valletta museum is the actual sculptures and reliefs that were found here. The most important would be the humongous sculptures of women, possibly Mother Goddess! 

Beyond this, another oval, has a bit of the corbelled roof still surviving that gives an approximate idea of how the complete structure would have been with the roofs. When the site was discovered, only these 4 stones were standing intact, visible over the ground. 
As I walked around I saw this monumental stone, that formed a part of the wall. I mean, at 6.4m length and 5.4m width, and 20 tonnes weight, I can't imagine how our ancestors, 5000yrs ago, managed to lift this with crude instruments & sheer human strength and place it in its location!!!! (For comparison, England's Stone Henge stones weigh 25 tonnes and are 5000yrs old as well)
From Hagar Qim, Mnajdra is half a km and are connected by a openair cemented walkway. There is a shelter halfway through just in case it starts raining or just to take rest or refresh. We did stop here and ate our packed food. It was a special feeling indeed to be surrounded by 5500yr old monuments, with sea breeze blowing on your hair and have your own home cooked meal!!!!! Anyways, there is a small battery operated shuttle for €1 between the 2 sites which is perfect if you have mobility issues or for senior citizens.
Mnajdra feels more splendid than Hagar Qim at the fact that its just beside the sea! The architecture & use of this temple has more clarity than Hagar Qim. This was used for Sun Worship and on Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice and Equinox the sun's first rays aligns with the main entrance of the temple (again, similar to Stone Henge). Infact a piece of stone with a circular engraving and axis and markings were found here and its called the Solar Wheel, which is also currently in Archaeological Museum, Valletta. 



Here, the plan is in 2 wings which have 2 ovals each. Much larger stones are covered with the pitted decoration. Behind this, through a hole in the wall, a two storey structure is visible - the Holy of Holies, reminding me much of Hal Safleni Hypogeum. The eastern wing has a graffiti of a temple facade.

Another section has 4 upright stones, that have dots on them that don't really follow any understandable order. Its assumed to be used to keep some count of the rising & setting of stars and constellations kind of a calender!

A short walk from here is the Congreve Memorial of Sir Walter Norris Congreve, a WWI general & governor of Malta, who was buried in sea, at the midpoint between here and the little island of Filfla. Don't miss the Durdle door / Azure Window like structure which is visible from the Congreve Memorial. However to reach the structure itself might require excellent hiking skills and probably some permission from authorities as well. 

Here's a tip:
Local Travel: While you can buy a ticket with cash (upto €5) from the driver, the easier option is €15 Tallinja Card (like London Oyster) with which 12 journeys can be taken. 2 or more people can also share the same card, by tapping it multiple times.
Malta has only buses & ferries for public transport. Then there are taxis. So if you're on budget for taxis and relying only on buses, be informed that it isn't fast. If you're used to quick travels in other European countries, this would be very different! Though the distances are very less, since there is no metro or trains, the time taken is too much! To give an idea, in Malta a 25km distance (Valletta to Mellieha) takes 1:15 hrs by bus, while in Belgium, the same distance (Brussels to Leuven) can be covered in 18 mins by train!!!! 
If possible, if you have a International Driver Permit, choose to hire a car & drive. Malta, being a commonwealth country, like India, driving is on the left side. If not, choose an accommodation in the north of Malta. That ways you're about 1hr in all directions. Since we stayed in Birgu, for us reaching Gozo was 2 hrs travel and going to Ggantija was 3 hrs away!!!!!!
Also, another major factor is buses are not really on time. 5-10 minutes delay is normal in cities and if you're in outskirts have a very good cushioning, esp., if you have a flight to catch. When we were waiting for bus in Mnajdra, the bus was more than 30mins late!!!!!

To Get There:
On Google Maps: Blue Grotto, Hagar Qim Mnajdra Visitors' Centre

Entry Tickets & Timings 
Boating at Blue Grotto begins at 9:00AM.
Hagar Qim & Mnajdra: €10; 9:00AM to 5:00/6:00PM (in Winter/Summer respectively) 

My entire Malta Travelogue: Hal Safleni Hypogeum, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra megalithic temples, Blue Grotto, Valletta, Three Cities, M'dina, Rabat

P.S: I was invited to the Megalithic Temples by Malta Tourism to experience the sites for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

21 comments:

  1. Amazing place.
    So beautiful pics.

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  2. While the monuments and temples look intriguing, my number one choice would be the Blue Grotto. It's beauty stunned me. I love nature in general and the area around Malta seems to be an exquisite example.

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  3. The Blue Grotto looks so amazing in the photos. It looks so clean and serene. I hope I can visit here and do some meditation. Maybe I can do some yoga and exercises too in the beach!

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  4. Absolutely loved our time in Malta. The Blue Grotto was a highlight for us, so hopefully you can go next time. The sea round here is crazy though when the winds pick up, so I can understand why they cancelled the boat.

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  5. My brother and I made a very unexpected visit to Malta few years back, and we were both surprised by what the country has to offer ! The waters are beautiful, food is amazing, people are friendly ! I didn't get to visit Hagar Qim, my brother did. But, I spent 2 days diving, my most memorable dive being the Blue hole, just underneath the late Azure window ! Will definitely return again ! =)

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  7. India has so many old world places like this one, but the sun temple at Mnajdra sounds simply amazing. We have Jantar Mantar where sun dials show the time of the day. I have never bothered to read about Malta much but now am going to find out more. And by the way, late buses concept matches India too!

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  8. I have visited some great megalithic temples in India. But the ones in Malta are also amazing. It reminds me of the chausat yogini temple in Khajuraho. I can't fathom the architecture of these places. Reading that they are about 5500 years old I am intrigued. Malta is definitely on my list now.

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  9. The water there is so blue and beautiful! Thanks for the tips about public transport that is really good to know. I think I would want to stay in the north part of the island to be close enough to the sites. The archaeological museum and temples look amazing!

    -Summer
    travelingsummer.com

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  10. Wow! What an interesting tour! I love the bright blue sea of the Blue Grotto. Hagar Qim and Mnajdra - both are extremely fascinating. The spiral engravings, the pitted decorations, the huge stones and the windows of the temples are quite intriguing - what a great insight into a 5000 years old history! Malta is definitely added to my bucket list now.

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  11. The Blue Grotto looks so amazing in the photos. It looks so clean and serene. I hope I can visit here and do some meditation. Maybe I can do some yoga and exercises too in the beach! I'm also interested in the stone slabs. It looks very historic and I have to read more about this.

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  12. I've heard a lot about the famous Blue Grotto and it seems like its reputation is well-deserved. It's undoubtedly the highlight of the trip (at least from what I've heard). I would love to visit someday.

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  13. It's amazing how much history is located in Malta for such a small country. There number of preserved Roman ruins is just staggering, such a beautiful place to visit as well. We didn't make it to the Blue Grotto when we were there but I wish we had of reading your posts. Sounds like a beautiful spot to visit. Hopefully you can go back and make the boat ride.

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  14. I find this place very rich in learnings. Imagine that the early people manage to built their residence and life from these huge stones. And we are so lucky enough that we have witness it now after thousands of years ago. Very precious.

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  15. What a lovely place to visit! I love all of the stone formations and such. It's always fun wondering who was there in past times!

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  16. Sadly I missed visiting this place while in Malta. It was quite pricy for me. But the heritage of this little country is surprisingly rich. Plus the stunning nature of course. Loved it!

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  17. Beautiful scenery and pieces of history make it a very good place for a short trip. To be honest, the most ancient I have been are ruins in Athens... Not sure they go 5000 years as things here.

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  18. Oh how bluetiful Blue Grotto is! Malta is high up on my list so thanks so much about the tip on where to stay as I'm from Canada and will most likely not be comfortable driving on the left side. The walk (or hike) defs sounds a little challenging with the incline, but the views are well worth it I'm sure!

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  19. I have never been to Malta, but I have read that public transport works very well there. It's nice that you can see so many places on the island without having to rent a car. It is a pity that your plans for Blue Grotto have failed, but it's always an excuse to visit Malta again. Thanks for the tips and writing about the Tallinn Card. 15 euros for 12 trips is a fairly reasonable price. However, it surprised me that traveling by bus takes so much time. 25 km in over 1 hour! Are the roads there so bad? And how about transporting to Gozo? I wondered if I would spend a few nights there when I visit Malta. Is there good access from the airport?

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    1. Access from Airport is not a problem. Roads aren't too bad, just that the buses drive slow and have several stops! Ferry is available connecting Malta to Gozo and Comino. If you take taxis, its all fast!

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  20. The Blue Grotto looks absolutely surreal in your picture. It looks like one of the GOT's locations. Is Malta safe for solo traveling?

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