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Ghar Dalam Cave and Museum

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.

ghar dalam

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.

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Terrible Tripadvisor Reviews of Malta

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)>

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Wignacourt Tower, St Paul’s Bay

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.

 

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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!

 

 

wignacourt tower st pauls bay

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.

 

wignacourt tower malta

 

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.

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Malta Scores 3 Places on Lonely Planet Ultimate Travelist

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?

blue lagoon malta

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.

 

 

 

hypogeum malta

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.

 

 

blue hole gozo

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.

Top Ten:

  1. Temples of Angkor – Cambodia
  2. Great Barrier Reef – Australia
  3. Machu Picchu – Peru
  4. Great Wall of China – (Guess)
  5. Taj Mahal – India
  6. Grand Canyon – USA
  7. Colosseum – Italy
  8. Iguazu Falls – Brazil/Argentina
  9. Alhambra – Spain
  10. Aya Sofya – Turkey

 

Full list here: Daily Mail

Buy the book here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ultimate-travel

 

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Tourist Traps! Things to Avoid in Malta

Sure, Malta is a beautiful little island, crammed with history, owning a unique cultural identity and boasting more sunshine that anywhere else on the continent.

That goes without saying.

But nowhere is perfect, and there are some things that visitors to the island would be well-advised to avoid.  Here are a few of those tourist traps in Malta that you don’t want to have to deal with:

comino malta crowded

Comino:

Let’s start with a controversial one, as Comino is widely regarded as one of the jewels in the Maltese crown.  It is a tiny (virtually) uninhabited island featuring the enticeingly named ‘Blue Lagoon’ – so what’s the problem?  Well friend, the problem is that in the peak summer months you and about 5,000 other people think that this will be the perfect spot to visit for the day.  The place gets absolutely rammed with people; there is no beach to speak of so you are perched on whatever piece of scrub-land you can get to before those noisy Italian teenagers set up camp; there is no shade (unless you pay for it) and the only food on offer is greasy fried food out of burger vans.  Yes it’s a nice place to visit, but maybe wait until the summer silly season is over.

 

bus accident malta

Buses:

Hard to avoid, even harder to love.  The antiquated yellow bus fleet has long since been replaced by a more modern and air conditioned variety.  While this certainly makes travel more comfortable than in the past, you lose something in the novelty value of the old buses.  And however modern the bus, they cannot solve the problem of the horrendous traffic snarl-ups which strangle the life out of the island.  So prepare to stand for an hour or more in swelteringly crowded buses for journeys of distances which would take about 10 minutes to cover in your home country.

 

flickr: city sightseeing gozo

Hop On, Hop Off Buses:

While we’re on the subject…  Yes I know that these open top tourist buses are usually a great way to see a new city, and to get your bearings.  I’ve taken them myself in lots of different places.  But here in Malta they fall victim to the same traffic gridlocks which confound every other road user.  More than that, the routes are too long anyway, and generally incorporate a lot of serious underwhelming inland scenery.   My suggestion?  Go on a water cruise instead, the views are better and it’s a lot more enjoyable.

 

flickr: Adam Polak

flickr: Adam Polak

Popeye Village:

Hey, would you like to visit the set of a flop musical from 1980 based on an antiquated pre-war cartoon?

No!?  Me neither!

Let’s not go together!

Where’s me Spinach!  Ag-ugugugugug! (et cetera)

 

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“Italian who went to Malta” tea-towels:

Yep, so Italians who speak English sometimes elongate the wrong vowels and pronounce certain words in an unusual manner.  Still not humorous enough to justify the frankly incredible quantity of these things which have been produced, (you can include teashirts, aprons and coasters into the mix as well).  And although I’m not Italian myself, I am guessing that the visitors from one of Malta’s largest tourist markets are not hugely entertained by these particular souvenirs either.

 

 

Timeshare sellers:

Particularly prevalent in Bugibba, as this is where a lot of British ladies and gentleman of a certain age choose to base themselves while in Malta.  These teeth-baring salespeople are masters of the easy banter, picking out prey instinctively (I may as well be invisible when I walk past, not being of the target demographic) and charming the unsuspecting into parting with hard-earned savings for 2 weeks in Msida once a year every February.  It’s pretty simple: if time-shares were really that great they would not require fast-talking, pushy salespeople to sell the things.

 

flickr: Spacing Magazine - Shawn Micallef

flickr: Spacing Magazine – Shawn Micallef

Paceville:

Okay if you’re aged from about fifteen to twenty-five ignore this warning and go out and have fun.  For everybody else, there are better places you can be.  Paceville is where sleaze lives in Malta, among the vomit puddles and the alcoves on the streets which always smell of urine.   Cheap watered-down shots in nightclubs, expensive watered-down beer in strip-clubs, fights and stolen mobiles.  Not my idea of a good night out, but then I’m pretty past it so you don’t have to pay any attention to me.

 

honey rings malta

Honey Rings:

I imagine that if I had a Maltese grandmother, these are the kind of desserts she would serve.  And the imaginary Maltese kid version of me would always be disappointed that we couldn’t just get chocolate or ice-cream or something good instead.  Variations of these are known as either ‘cordina‘ or (unpronounceably) ‘Qaghaq ta’ l-Ghasel‘, and are made of marmalade and orange peel and honey and treacle and all sorts of other stodgily sweet gunk, and I wouldn’t bother with them if I were you.

 

Don’t agree with the list?  Let us know what should be added or subtracted by commenting below.