Just off the coast of Bugibba you can see the tiny St Paul’s island, notable for the statue of the great man which stands on its highest point.
Believe it or not, the island was inhabited in the not too distant past, when a farmer lived in what is now a ruined farmhouse right next to the statue. He packed his bags and moved off the island in the 1930’s, and nobody has had the inclination to make it a home since then. Not surprising, as a life being buffeted by wind and the hard-scrabble terrain make it a less than idyllic spot in which to live.
However you can visit the island, and we popped over there with the Seahorse cruise company. They do a boat tour which also goes around the coasts of Xemxija and Selmun, and gives you a different perspective on the familiar (to me at least) sights of St Paul’s and Bugibba. The best views of Malta are generally from the coast looking out to sea, or the other way around, rather than from within the sometimes claustrophobic inland towns.
Just outside Birzebugga you can find the Ghar Dalam cave, Malta’s oldest prehistoric site. Evidence of human habitation dating back more than 7,000 years was found here, as well as the fossilised bones of extinct creatures such as pygmy elephants and hippos.
The museum is basically a large collection of bones and skeletons of deceased animals. For me, one ancient femur starts to look pretty much like another after a while, but the skeletons of baby hippos and elephants are pretty impressive.
As is the cave itself, when you make your way down there from the museum. Only about 50 metres is accessible for visitors, but that is enough to give you a real sense of the place, especially if you are lucky enough – as we were – to have the place to yourself in between coach-tours.
Most things about Malta are amazing, we all know that. However there are some people who just cannot be satisfied, and many of those good folk will go right to Tripadvisor to express their displeasure.
The following comments are all from the “1 Star” category of the Tripadvisor site, and while they don’t necessarily reflect the feelings of the authors, we certainly defend their right to an opinion!:
Blue Lagoon: “Not worth going to”
Travelled to the lagoon on a speed boat ,probably the best part of the trip. The lagoon itself is gorgeous, the colour of the sea is beautiful but it’s just packed with people. Deck chairs and umbrellas have to be hired if you are thinking of staying a while otherwise you would roast under the blazing heat. Nothing really to do there , half an hour is really enough, the area is rocky so you need to be careful where you walk as I did see some one being carried on a stretcher. Wouldn’t really recommend it just google the pictures . <Daksha-parmar (UK)>
At the beginning of the 1600’s, Malta was still ruled by the Knights of the Order of St John. One of these knights, Fra Giorgio Nibbia, had a chapel erected near the Sacra Infermia, the main hospital in Malta which was used to treat Maltese and foreigners, as well as providing a resting place for those on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Built in 1610, this impressive tower occupies a prominent position along the coast of St Paul’s Bay. Despite that, and despite the fact that I’ve lived in the area for a couple of years, we had never ventured inside before now even though we’ve walked past the place countless times.
The tower underwent some refurbishment recently, but now it is open for business, and at only €2 a head it’s well worth popping inside to take a look. When the tower was constructed this would have been regarded as a remote and dangerous posting for any soldiers sent out here to guard against the ever-present threat of raiding pirates.
In order to make this life-threatening post rather more appealing to the average soldier, the fort was kitted out with all the mod-cons that only the wealthiest of early seventeenth century householders could imagine. An indoor latrine! (well, a hole). Indoor cooking facilities! Beds!
Hopefully such swanky accommodation did not turn the guards too soft, as they were still expected to be on guard against those pesky pirates, who had a habit of swooping down to Malta to nab an unsuspecting farmer or two and sell them into slavery. From the roof the soldiers would have had a good view of any advancing corsairs and the cannons would act as something of a deterrent too.
There is a small display on the ground floor featuring an overview of Maltese history, and the gentleman manning the desk really knew his stuff. After a quick look around you then go up a rather tight spiral staircase to the soldiers’ living quarters. Up another flight and you are on the roof, from where you get a very nice view of the surrounding area. Like I said earlier, you can’t go far wrong for €2 in this day and age so take 20 minutes to pop in and have a look.
After years of research the world famous Lonely Travel Guides have released a new book featuring the top 500 places in the world that you must visit before you die.
And despite it’s small size Malta makes the list an amazing three times. So what are the three Maltese destinations that rank among the best in the world?
The famous Blue Lagoon in Comino gets onto the list. Yes it’s super-crowded in summer, but it is an absolutely beautiful spot for swimming and snorkeling, and the water is as blue as the name suggests.
The ancient burial site at the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum almost makes the list of places everybody should visit. We recommend it too; a mysterious and haunting experience.
flickr: Creative Commons, Malcolm Browne
The third entry on the list comes from Gozo, and is the world renowned Blue Hole diving spot near the Azure Window. Malta – and Gozo in particular – is developing quite a reputation as a diving destination, and the Blue Hole is many people’s choice for the top diving spot in the country.
The overall top place on the Lonely Planet list went to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and although Malta didn’t make the top twenty, three spots on a list like this is pretty good going.
- Temples of Angkor – Cambodia
- Great Barrier Reef – Australia
- Machu Picchu – Peru
- Great Wall of China – (Guess)
- Taj Mahal – India
- Grand Canyon – USA
- Colosseum – Italy
- Iguazu Falls – Brazil/Argentina
- Alhambra – Spain
- Aya Sofya – Turkey
Full list here: Daily Mail
Buy the book here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ultimate-travel