Malta Temples

Malta temples are located both on Malta Island and Gozo Island, and are some of the most fascinating and unique structures of their kind in the world. In addition to these temples, the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malta include the entire city of Valletta as well as the Malta Hypogeum, officially called the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.

Hypogeum is the Greek word meaning "underground," and refers to any ancient building or structure that is subterranean. The rooms and chambers beneath the Colosseum in Rome were hypogea, and there is a similar underground structure beneath the Knossos Palace on the island of Crete in Greece. Malta's Hal Salflieni is believed to be the only surviving subterranean temple in the world. Here, in the town of Paola just southwest of Valletta and Vittoriosa, are fabulous rooms, chambers, and sanctuaries carved out of stone. You enter these mesmerizing and enormous chambers through a rather nondescript door on a small street in the town. It's easy to miss, but you can look for signs posted in town or just ask a local. It is not one of the megalithic temples in Malta as it dates to a later period—about 2500 B.C.

Additionally, megaliths are above ground structures constructed with various large stones. Mysterious Stonehenge in England is a megalithic structure, as are the seven Malta temples found on the country's two largest islands. These date to between 3600 B.C. and 2500 B.C. and one of them is the oldest such structure in the world, predating even ancient Stonehenge.

The most famous megalithic temples in Malta will be found on Gozo. These are the two Ggantija Temples, which include the world's oldest structure. They are located near the little town of Xaghra and less than three miles from the port that has ferries to neighboring Comino and to Malta Island. If you are up for a little hiking, these Malta temples can be reached in a fairly easy walk from the port. There is also public bus transportation to the site from the port and other towns on the island, and there is a car park if you have a rental car.

The Ggantija complex was once the only of the World Heritage Sites in Malta relating to the ancient temples, until UNESCO extended the designation to include the others in 1992. The megalithic temples in Malta that are the least well preserved are the Skorba and Ta'Hagrat complexes in the village of Mgarr, about two miles northwest of Mdina and Rabat. The other UNESCO sites are: The Tarxien Temples a little south of the Hypogeum; the Hagar Qin (or Hagar Qim) Temples on the southwest coast of Malta Island and the Mnajdra Temples in the same area. The Mnajdra is one of the best preserved, and is set in a spectacularly picturesque site on the rugged Dingli cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean and the tiny little island of Fifla, which is little more than a green-topped rock jutting up out of the sea.

It is possible to visit all these ancient World Heritage Sites in Malta on the larger island in a single day with a car for transportation or strategic planning with the public bus system. However, the experience is much richer if you spend a bit more time to explore the other attractions and the history that surround each one of them.

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