Malta's Archaeological Heritage
Malta’s diminutive archipelago is by no means any indication of the vast riches it holds — from the Neolithic to now, they are many and varied, and all out there to be discovered on this very special tour...
Arriving in Malta, with its golden limestone-cliff coasts, lucid seas, beautiful laid-back towns and heart-stirring views, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve already seen all there is to see. But take a peek beneath the surface, and no doubt you’ll be astounded by the wealth of wonders to be found there.
Venture inside the walled citadel of Mdina, explore the warren of narrow tomb-lined passages of St Paul’s Catacombs, and take to the waves for a boat trip around the spectacular cliffs and caverns of the famed Blue Grotto. But most startling of all, perhaps, are the mysterious sites left by civilisations with whom we are just starting to get acquainted — the millennia-old Mnajdra Temples, the megaliths of Ħaġar Qim: these make for a truly unforgettable archaeological expedition.
Your Departure date
Deposit: £250 Single supplement: £195
Day 1 -
We fly from London to Malta and upon arrival we transfer to our hotel.
|Hotel||Dolmen Hotel Malta, St Paul's Bay|
Day 2 -
This morning following breakfast we tour Malta’s capital city of Valletta. The tour will take us through the bustling streets of Valetta allowing us to view the Upper Barakka Gardens that command a breathtaking panorama of the Grand Harbour and then to St. John’s Cathedral, adorned in riches that date back to the Knights of Malta including the world famous Caravaggio painting that is on display in the Oratory. Also included is a visit to the Grand Master’s Palace, which contains an Armoury with around 6000 pieces including weapons and armour, two courtyards, planted with palms, pittosporum and jacaranda, and magnificent State Rooms, decorated with stunning Gobelin tapestries, frescoes and paintings. Later we will visit the Archaeological Museum, the rich repository of Malta’s archaeological treasures. Among the highlights are discoveries from the Hypogeum and the Tarxien Tombs (see Day 6), such as the obese, headless Venus of Malta and the equally plump Sleeping Princess and a wealth of pots and vases ornamented with elaborate motifs. We also have included a visit to the show Valletta Living History which gives a vivid insight into the rich history of the city.
Day 3 -
After breakfast the whole day is spent touring the interior of the island, beginning with a visit to Mosta Church, which boasts Europe’s third-largest free-standing dome, and the walled citadel of Mdina, Malta’s former capital city. Here we will have a short walk in the ‘silent city’, so called because Mdina has a very small population, with little sign of commerce, admiring the imposing bastions that command a magnificent view and give a panorama over most of the island. It is hard to believe that the earthquake of 1693 destroyed the majority of Mdina’s medieval and Sicilian-Norman buildings as, thanks to expert restoration this gem of a city gives every impression of having survived the ravages of time.
Later we will visit Skorba Temples, a typical three-apse temple that marks the site of one of Malta’s very earliest settlements – various types of pottery have been found here and give their name to the Red Skorba phase (4400-4100BC) and the Grey Skorba phase (4500-4400BC). Remains include the stone paving of the entrance passage, the torba floors of the apses, a 3.90 metre high slab of coralline limestone, and steps covered with pitted decoration. We will also see Ta Hagrat Temples, similar to Skorba though not quite as old.
We continue to Rabat, which in comparison to Mdina is a lively, bustling town, although in Roman times the two were one city. It was the Arabs who dug a ditch to protect and isolate Mdina and Rabat became the suburb. Here we will visit the Museum of Roman Antiquities (Roman Villa), a museum housed on the site of a Roman town house whose original mosaic pavements rank amongst the finest and oldest compositions from the western Mediterranean. We will also see St. Paul’s Catacombs, an extraordinary labyrinth of narrow passages lined by rock-cut tombs. Dinner is served in the evening.
Day 4 -
After breakfast we depart on a full day excursion which will take us to some of the notable sites in the south and west of the island, beginning with the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Temples, which date to the Tarxien phases of around 3000 – 2500BC. Ħaġar Qim means ‘standing stones’ and despite some erosion this complex and irregular site still retains megaliths of huge proportions. When the site was excavated in the 19th century it yielded seven statuettes, also with the ample proportions of those found at Tarxien. The Mnadjra Temples are set closer to the sea in an even more splendid position than Ħaġar Qim. The three temples are protected by an outer wall of corraline limestone, harder and therefore better preserved than the globigerina limestone of Ħaġar Qim. The whole façade of the Lower Temple is covered with pitted decoration. Later we will travel through the village of Wied iz-zurrieq on to on to the Blue Grotto, where we take a boat trip round these spectacular limestone cliffs and caves. To reach the Blue Grotto itself boats pass under a monumental arch like a flying buttress and indeed it is as if you are sailing into a vast cathedral of stone. Our final visits today are to the impressive Dingli Cliffs, which drop 250m to the sea, and Limestone Heritage, a modernized quarry that explains Malta’s history of quarrying together with farmhouse building and stone decoration using the local limestone.
Day 5 -
Following breakfast the day is free to spend at leisure. Alternatively, we have an optional excursion to Malta’s neighbouring island of Gozo, 15 minutes away by ferry. Although both islands are similar in history and development, Gozo has a character of its own, noticeably more peaceful and rural with greener landscapes and quiet beaches. Our first visit will be to the Ggantija Temples, prehistoric, free-standing Megalithic temples dating from 3600-3000BC. The setting is spectacular, with a glorious panorama over a wide sweep of Gozo.
We continue to the capital city of Victoria and visit the Citadel, which dominates Gozo from its position on a flat-topped hill. The bastions date from the early 17th century, funded by King Philip II of Spain and the Gozitans by means of a levy on wine, oil and other comestibles. At one time the entire population of Gozo could shelter within its walls.
Later we will explore the coast, visiting the picturesque Bay of Xlendi and the Inland Sea, a pool of aquamarine seawater with its own shingle beach, surrounded by high cliffs.
Also included in our excursion is the Brockdorff Circle a unique underground prehistoric burial site, and the Palazzo Bondi, a museum that showcases archaeological finds from the 11 phases of prehistoric Gozo, as well as the Classical World and the Middle East.
We return by ferry to the main island of Malta and our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
Day 6 -
Enjoy your breakfast. On our final full day of touring we will discover the southern part of Malta, beginning with a visit to the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk, the largest in Malta. Marsaxlokk Bay was the venue in 1989 of the Bush/Gorbachev summit that symbolised the end of the Cold War – for security reasons the venue was transferred from Malta to a warship moored in the bay and the sea was so rough it was nicknamed the ‘seasick summit’!
We continue to the Tarxien Temples, a group of three temples that due to their excellent state of preservation provide plentiful evidence of the skill and artistic abilities of the people that lived here. It dates from 3600 to 2500 BC and is the most complex of all temple sites in Malta, consisting of four megalithic structures. It was the richest repository of prehistoric art on the islands, untouched for thousands of years until a Maltese archaeologist, the splendidly-named Sir Themistocles Zammit, began his excavations in 1915. We also visit Tas Silg, a pair of temples that contain ruins from three different eras, and the cave and museum at Ghar Dalam, the ‘Cave of Darkness’, one of the earliest sites used by Neolithic man in these islands, which gives its name to the first phase of Maltese pre‐history (5000‐4500BC).
Saving perhaps the best till last, we conclude with a visit to the world renowned Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. This truly unique site enjoys an individual listing on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The site was discovered accidentally by a stone mason in 1902 and the subsequent excavations were carried out by the aforementioned Sir Themistocles Zammit. The Hypogeum consists of halls, chambers and passages hewn out of the living rock and covering some 500m². The rock‐cut chambers are of a diverse shapes and sizes and finished to different standards of workmanship. The complex is grouped into three distinct levels ‐ the upper (3600‐3300 BC), the middle (3300‐3000 BC), and the lower (3150 ‐2500 BC). The precise purpose of the Hypogeum remains a mystery though it is generally thought to have been for burial purposes and as a sanctuary.
Day 7 -
This morning after breakfast we will check out of the hotel and transfer to the airport in time for our return flight to London, where on arrival the group will disperse or make onward connections.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Meals - as per the itinerary
- Comfortable coach travel throughout
- All visits as outlined in the itinerary
- Services of a professional tour manager & local guides
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single supplement||Availability|
|7 March 2023||BMAL230307||7 March 2023 (Tuesday)||13 March 2023 (Monday)||£1,395
|£250||£195||Book your trip|
|2 May 2023||BMAL230502||2 May 2023 (Tuesday)||8 May 2023 (Monday)||£1,595
|£250||£195||Book your trip|
|7 November 2023||BMAL231107||7 November 2023 (Tuesday)||13 November 2023 (Monday)||£1,365
|£250||£195||Book your trip|