The cultural heritage in Malta is one of the oldest and richest ones worldwide. Undoubtedly, the most important heritage sites are the Megalithic Temples, so much so that UNESCO included them on its World Heritage List.
Even though UNESCO grouped all the temples together, there are various archaeological sites all over the country.
These sites are Ġgantija, Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, Skorba, Ta’ Ħaġrat, and Tarxien.
If you have already planned to come to the Maltese Islands, then you need to visit these historical places to experience their significance within the local context.
Structure of the Megalithic Temples
Built during the 4th millennium B.C., the Megalithic Temples of Malta are the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
The entrance of these temples is generally at the centre of the façade. Inside there are circular chambers which have some artistic decorations. These design patterns consist mainly of spiral motifs, trees, plants, and animals.
The architectural design and layout of the temples suggest that they used to represent an important focus within an ancient but well-organised social community. The temples also differ from one another in terms of structure, construction techniques, and decorations.
Ġgantija is located in Xagħra, on the island of Gozo, and has two temples. Its name derives from ġgant, the Maltese word for giant because people used to associate these temples with a race of giants.
The reasons why you must visit Ġgantiija:
- It is one of the best-preserved prehistoric temples which date back to around 3600/3200 B.C.
- This site is one of the oldest upstanding monuments all over the world, predating even Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.
- It is a symbol of an exceptional development in the prehistoric time as regards culture, art, and construction abilities.
- Some of its megaliths are just unique, as higher than five metres and exceeding fifty tonnes of weight.
- It is the most important archaeological site in Gozo.
Ħaġar Qim & Mnajdra
Ħaġar Qim is on the top of a hill, near Qrendi. Its location is also very characteristic as it overlooks the small and uninhabited island of Filfla.
Very close to Ħaġar Qim, you can find the Mnajdra complex which is another remarkable temples site. Due to their closeness, people usually go and visit them together.
The reason why you must visit Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra:
- The visitors centre provides a huge amount of information about the sites in a very attractive and educative manner.
- In one of the chambers at Ħaġar Qim, you can find an elliptical hole which is perfectly aligned according to the sunrise of the summer solstice. In this way, during the sunrise of the first day of summer, the sunlight passes exactly through this hole. It represents one of the most ancient forms of sundials.
This site is located in Żebbiegħ, near Mġarr, and overlooks the nearby valley where the idyllic sight will definitely catch you.
The reasons why you must visit Skorba:
- Parts of the temples are built in coralline limestone whereas others are made of globigerina limestone. You do not need to be an expert to realise that this variation is an interesting indicator of the various stages of its construction.
- Its rural location provides the visitor with beautiful views. In this way, you can just look around and let the surrounding environment take you back to the prehistoric time of the site.
This complex is situated in Mġarr. Even though it is smaller than others, Ta’ Ħaġrat consists of two structures which are in a good state of conservation.
The reasons why you must visit Ta’ Ħaġrat:
- Its characteristic façade and its stepped doorway are exceptional examples of the greatness of the constructions process of that time.
- It is the only temple which is constructed completely in local coralline limestone.
- Its location offers a unique view of the rural environment, making the visitor experience more special.
Located in the centre of the village, this complex consists of four megalithic structures.
The reasons why you must visit Tarxien:
- It is one of the largest and most complex archaeological sites in Malta.
- It is characterised by beautiful prehistoric decorations such as the reliefs.
- Thanks to walkways, the site is accessible to everyone.
Preservation & Enjoyment of the Temples
As you will see by yourself, all the properties that form part of the Megalithic Temples of Malta are in good conditions. Yet, protection and conservation are necessary in order to preserve them from deterioration. Therefore, implementing preservation strategies are fundamental in order to assure the conservation of the sites.
The Megalithic Temples of Malta have a huge significance not only in terms of authenticity, complexity and grandiosity but even as recognition of the technical skills that were required for their construction. When considering the scarcity of resources available at that time, you can better appreciate them as truly architectural masterpieces.
Finally, a proper interpretation of these sites is necessary for their real enjoyment. The knowledge and expertise of the locals on these unique locations will definitely make your experience a memorable one.