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Tour Review: A visit to the Prehistoric Temples of Malta

Friday, January 8, 2016

Prehistoric Megalithic Temples of Malta tour : Mnajdra

Constructed during the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, the Megalithic Temples of Malta rank amongst the earliest free-standing stone buildings in the world; with many dating back earlier than the ancient Egyptian pyramids! Across the islands of Malta and Gozo, there are 23 known places which once had Megalithic buildings, with 7 Megalithic temple complexes today open to the public. Each complex is a unique architectural masterpiece and a portal to an exceptional prehistoric culture. The 5-hour morning Prehistorical Temples of Malta tour offered by Hello Malta tours allows you an opportunity to travel back in time and witness this prehistoric period with your own eyes. Although the tour typically visits 3 of the 7 temple complexes, due to preservation work at the Tarxien temple during my visit we were only able to visit Hagar Qim & Mnajdra temples. In exchange for not being able to visit the Taxien temple we were allowed stops at the much-admired Blue Grotto and Ghar Dalam (a 145-metre cave where the most ancient Maltese fossils were located to date providing evidence that Malta was once linked to Sicily and to mainland Europe by a land bridge).

The first temple complex we set our feet in was the fragile temples of Hagar Qim. Standing on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Fifla, this temple complex is one of the most well preserved despite dating back to the Neolithic era (i.e. 3600 – 3200 BC). Excavations of the temple has yielded numerous important artefacts including a decorated pillar altar, a pair of table altars and a number of statues of seated and standing figures which you can now see on display in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

Just a straight but panoramic 500 metre downhill walk from the Hagar Qim temples sits my personal favourite, the Mnajdra temples. Although it may not look like much today, this temple complex displays engineering knowledge far beyond its time. As you study the main doorway of the South Temple with your eyes, you may soon learn that here lies possibly the oldest calendar in human history. How does it work? During the spring and autumn equinoxes (March 20-21 and September 21-22, respectively) the sun rises in line with the main doorway of the South Temple, passing through the central corridor to the innermost apse. On the other hand, during the summer and winter solstices (June 21 and December 21, respectively), a narrow beam of light just makes its way through the main doorway at sunrise signaling the annual astronomical events.

For more information on the Prehistoric Temples of Malta tour, click here.

xx L

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