While the temples of ancient Greece and ancient Egypt may be amongst some of the most famous in the world, the oldest megalithic temples, which are even older than the Pyramids of Egypt, are actually found in Malta, as well as her sister island of Gozo. From Hagar Qim to Ggantija, these are some of the must-see temples for those looking to learn more about Malta’s history.
Ggantija Temples, Gozo
The Ggantija temples on the Maltese island of Gozo are considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, and date back to around 3600 BC. The megaliths used in the creation of this temple are absolutely enormous, with some weighing over fifty tons, which is what led locals to believe that the structure was one created by giants, which led to its name, Ggantija, meaning giant in Maltese. The complex consists of two separate temples, which are surrounded by a huge wall that forms the boundaries of the complex. The entire complex does not take too long to tour, meaning that you can easily squeeze in a visit during your time in Gozo.
Hagar Qim Temples
Constructed from the soft limestone that caps the ridge on which the temple stands, Hagar Qim, which dates back to 3600 BC, has experienced more than its fair share of weathering over the years, with many of its outer walls beginning to flake away. Nevertheless, this temple complex and its prehistoric chambers still provide a one-of-a-kind insight into Malta’s history. The temple was first excavated in 1839, and while many of the temple’s original artefacts have been removed and placed into museum exhibits, they have been replaced with close replicas. For those who want to take a look at the originals, these can be found in Malta’s National Museum of Archaeology.
Unlike Malta’s other megalithic temple complexes, the Tarxien Temples are surrounded on all sides by urban development, but this has not managed to diminish its significance. Just like the two other temple complexes mentioned above, the earliest temple here, which can be found in the north-east of the site, also dates back to 3600 BC, while the others are believed to have been built during the Tarxien phase, which was between 3150 and 2500 BC. Many of the stones and walls here are decorated with intricately carved patterns, with one chamber featuring the image of two bulls and a sow, all of which give you an even deeper insight into life during this time period.
In total, Malta is home to eleven megalithic temples, with seven of them, including the three mentioned above, being listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Dating from 5500 to 2500 BC, these prehistoric temples give you the opportunity to take a walk through Malta’s history, providing an unforgettable experience that is educational yet fascinating at the same time. While each of these temples can be explored in your own time, there are also several guided tours to choose from, which will leave you with an even more immersive experience.