Perambulate Through Prehistory

Discover a few of Malta’s most impressive prehistoric sites & why there are no more Maltese falcons on Malta

One of my more recent obsessions is European neolithic and Bronze Age sites, and Malta has some of the greatest concentrations of these, particularly impressive given that the island’s fairly pint-sized. Malta’s prehistoric sites are justifiably accorded UNESCO World Heritage status. Even if you’re not that interested in prehistory, the level of artistry in the architecture and stone carvings is astounding even by modern standards.

First, to get some context for Malta’s prehistoric sites, visit Valletta’s National Museum of Archaeology, itself housed in a

National Archaeology Museum, Malta
A chubby prehistoric statue

historic building, former HQ for the Knights of Provence. There, you’ll learn theories about how the various sites were constructed. You can also see many of the treasures that have been brought in from the actual temple sites for preservation. The statues and tiny figurines of the “fat ladies” (who may actually not always be women) are astonishing, in that they look like something the modern sculptor, Fernando Botero, may have created, with a little dash of the simple lines of Henry Moore thrown in. When you consider that someone created these thousands of years ago, you have to marvel at our ancestors’ creative genius.

Once you’ve gotten the context, visiting the actual sites is all the more interesting. The Tarxien temples are easy to get to by city bus from Valletta, and fascinating in their own right, but particularly because you’re left to consider them in a seemingly incongruous setting: smack dab in the middle of a busy, modern Valletta suburb. (Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to the nearby Hypogeum because you have to book well in advance. Some tickets are available for next day viewings at the Archaeology Museum or the Fine Arts Museum in Valletta, however, but these are on a very limited first come, first-served basis.)

Temple Guardian Statue, Malta
Ancient statuary – front & rear view

To see temples in a more dramatic coastal setting away from an urban environment, the twin megalithic sites at Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are breathtaking. The visitor center has a cool, informative, very short introductory film replete with smell-o-vision and 4D effects; afterwards, you can walk among the stones, unlike more well-known sites like Stonehenge.

After taking in the temples, the fabulous walking trails here help you discover Maltese flora and fauna. There are lovely vistas of the sea, and the surrounding hills are dotted with ancient-looking stone huts, once commonly used for bird catching.

Though this practice isn’t completely in the past. As you stroll the walking trails here, you’ll probably meet some friendly Maltese men with super cute dogs. Though they’re not supposed to because of EU conservation directives, the men may be scoping out birds to hunt. In fact, an overenthusiastic passion for bird hunting is why you won’t see any Maltese Falcons on Malta. They’re now extinct. Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are still lovely for both nature and prehistory, however, just don’t expect to see a lot of birds.

An Island Time Machine: Malta

With one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals, World Heritage neolithic sites, Knight life galore, and an amazing Carnival, the island of Malta is definitely a European must-see

When I was a kid, like a lot of kids, I went through a knights and castles phase. In one of the more exciting books I read, there were stories of the Knights of St. John, and their island redoubt: Malta. This inspired a life’s dream of visiting one day.

Grand Master's Palace, Valletta
Grand Master’s Palace Corridor

I got to tick this particular life’s dream box when my husband and I were chasing the sun in the midst of the typical grey British winter this year.

The island did not disappoint.

Malta’s fascinating, rich history is readily on display. Like many Mediterranean islands, neolithic tribes, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, crusading knights, and more modern empire builders have all made the island home, each leaving their influences along the way.

Malta’s also a relaxing place to visit, since the people are so chilled out and friendly and because everyone speaks English. The nice thing, however, is that it still feels foreign, since the Maltese speak Malti to one another. A Semitic language, it sounds like Arabic, but is written in Latin script (the only Semitic language that this is true of.) So what seems familiar can suddenly seem, at least to my American ears, very exotic.

Logistically and price point speaking, Malta’s also got quite a few pluses: hassle-free public transit for a car-free holiday, and, because it’s on the package break circuit, air and hotel packages that didn’t break the bank. (You can easily avoid the boozy Brits who just come to party here, however.) Not that you’d totally want to avoid an occasional night out: prices are super reasonable for drinks and generally, dining out, so it’s a good place to have a holiday if you’re on a budget.

Costumed reveler in Valletta's Carnival celebration
Carnival reveler, Valletta

Here are a few of the things you shouldn’t miss if you’re planning your own trip to Malta:

A few planning resources>>

Here are a few of the useful sites I used to plan our trip to Malta.

About Malta: Malta’s very informative official tourist info site is here –

Buses: Our week-long bus past cost only 7 Euros! You can buy that on arrival at the airport or board a bus. More info on the efficient and affordable bus network can be found here –

Air & Hotel Package Deals: BA has a few, but I found the best deal on EasyJet. There are a variety of hotels for a range of budgets, and they also let you know whether a hotel is kid-friendly, etc. You don’t need to buy the add-on airport transfer. You can either take the bus to and from the airport, or a taxi, which is generally only 20 Euros anywhere you go on Malta from the airport.