The Ancient and Evocative Megalithic Temples of Malta

Exploring Earth’s Earliest Temples, Continued

Until only a few years ago, the Neolithic temples of Malta were considered the oldest human-made structures on Earth.  I’ve already written about Gobekli Tepe that has now time-dwarfed these Maltese ancient wonders, but that doesn’t diminish the importance or mystique that surrounds the temples on Malta and Gozo.

According to the Bradshaw Foundation, the oldest temple, Zebbug, is about 6,000 years old and the newest ones are the Tarxien temples which are about 5,000 years old, showing different eras spanning about 1500 years.

This was our second trip to Malta, and we had visited some of the Neolithic temples before, but we wanted to see them again.  We started out at Hagar Qim and its sister temple Mnajdra beautifully situated right near the water.  You can see why it was chosen as a Holy Place.

Megalithic Temples Malta

Not much is known about the people who built these unique and intricate temples.  Many mother and phallic figurines have been found, but there was no writing.  Other than being an agricultural society talented in building complex temples, there is not much known about these people.  It is commonly thought that they came from Sicily, but no one knows why they dissappeared.

Mnajdra is known for a few things separate from Hagar Qim.  The construction of the roof includes evidence of “corbelling” which is a method of narrowing the top of a structure to hold up a roof of pelts.  Pretty advanced stuff!  But that’s not all, scientists believe that this temple has some type of astrological alignment with the sunrise of the equinox.  I love this stuff!  Can’t you just imagine some old guy in long white robes, rubbing his plump mother figure, chanting prayers, and lining up the beams of the sunrise?

Megalithic Temples Malta

Even the construction of the temples mirror the differences in female and male.  There are columns and doors, as well as altars that all signify reproduction.  As you look through the photos, you can pick up the tall phallic structures often times located near an arch.

Megalithic Temples MaltaInscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, many of the temples have the iconic white tented covering to protect the rocks from the elements.  More ropes and restrictions have been put into place from the first time we visited.

Megalithic Temples Malta

Many of the mother statuettes, the phalluses, and other antiquities discovered at the various sites have been collected, and are housed in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta.

Megalithic Temples Malta

About seven kilometers from Valletta, we visited the Tarxien Temples.  Uncovered right in the middle of the town, walkways have been built to give visitors an opportunity to easily view the layout of the temples.

Megalithic Temples Malta

Megalithic Temples Malta

A unique site, there were some finds that helped the archaeologists determine how the huge stones were transported.  It’s believed that these “marbles” rolled the stones into place.  We understand this is similar technology that might have been used to build the pyramids in Egypt.

Megalithic Temples Malta

On Gozo, the most famous and first to be inscribed temples are found.  Legend tells that the Ggantija temples were built by giants because of the enormity of the stones.

Megalithic Temples Malta


Megalithic Temples Malta

As you can tell Jim and I love playing amateur explorer and archaeologist.  We love looking at old ruins and imagining living in the age of giants, or at least some amazing builders with a penchant for both women’s and men’s reproductive organs!

Megalithic Temples Malta


Practical Information:

The temples are spread out over both Malta and Gozo.  Each one has a nominal entrance fee.  There are also some combination tickets that might work for you.  Here is a full set of prices to the heritage sites on both Malta and Gozo.  The ones we mention here all have visitor’s centers, some interpretive placards, and movies.  You can easily take public buses to get to them, but renting a motorbike or car would be your best bet. For Ggantija, you have to drive to the Gozo ferry and cross over (free).  This will take the majority of one full day, so plan accordingly.

If you are thinking of going to Malta, you might want to read: Is Malta Expensive? Your Guide For Cheap Holidays To Malta

 Have you been to Malta?  Have you explored these awesome temples?



28 thoughts on “The Ancient and Evocative Megalithic Temples of Malta”

  1. I love exploring old ruins and trying to recreate the past. This sounds right up my alley. For some strange reason, I’ve been getting a really strong pull to go visit Malta lately and this has really perked up my interest. I’m glad to hear that UNESCO is taking more and more steps to help preserve the site. We need this in the future. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I had no ideas that these existed in Malta, how incredible. Malta is on my bucket list because it is so close to Italy and easy to get to, but I didn’t really think about what a cultural experience it could be. I’m glad that they set up the tents and restrictions, all too often these archeological treasures can get so damaged with tourism, especially when not protected.

    Thank you for your beautiful photos and for this discovery!

    Angie from reasons to dress, fashion, real mom street style & life as a North American mom in Italy.

    1. Angie, It is really worthwhile what UNESCO does to protect these sites. And the tents don’t interfere with the light too much, which I like. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  3. We’ve spent time in Valletta (as daytrippers while on a cruise), but we haven’t visited these temples. Malta and Gozo would definitely be worth spending more time in, it seems :-). Thanks for educating us about these ruins.

  4. This is what I like reading travel blogs, I learn things I didn’t or haven’t learned from school. I believe there are ancient histories that are very interesting and worth learning. It’s great that Malta has preserved this place. I haven’t been there but it looks a must land to travel. I enjoyed reading the history behind those stones and temples.

    1. Marlene, It never ceases to amaze me at how many places I “discover” only when I’m in a country or reading a blog that I had never heard of before!

  5. Fascinating, I would love to visit Malta. Makes sense to use those rounded rocks to transport along with I’m sure the many slaves available to move them around. What a site!

  6. Very intriguing how they built it!! My brother and wife have spent a vacation in Malta, Cypress, as well Egypt, and keep telling me “You would really like it.” But there are some more place I want to visit first:)

    1. Jennette, I understand. The nice thing about Malta is you can easily connect it with another trip, because it’s rather small in size and easy to do everything. I do think you would love it!

  7. We too love to visit ruins and imagine what the life looked like back in the age of giants :). It’s impressive what people were able to build with bare hands, and practical thinking. Enjoy your trip!

  8. I haven’t been to Malta and to be honest, I knew nothing about it before this post. I love old, ancient structures and then male – female references always brings a smile to my face and usually a little giggle.

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