Every year, many tourists, especially Australians, flock to Europe to chase the sun. But in recent years there’s been a shift, with more travellers moving away from the regular tourist traps and looking to get off the beaten track. Malta is one of the destinations benefiting, with tourists keen to explore its scenic views and historical sites.
With the increased interest in the destination, Qatar Airways is now flying Aussies direct to Malta, via Doha, to explore the lesser-known island nation.
“The Maltese islands boast one of the world’s highest concentrations of historical and cultural heritage sites per kilometre. Some of the world’s greatest civilisations have passed through or settled on these islands, which has helped shape modern-day Malta into the colourful blend of culture it is today,” said Adam Radwanski, Qatar Airways Senior Manager for Australasia.
With so much to see, Radwanski has shared his top five historical sites to check out in Malta:
The Ggantija Temples sit in the centre of Malta’s northern island, Gozo. The UNESCO World Heritage Listed site is 5,500 years old, making it older than the Pyramids of Giza and the second oldest existing religious structure in the world. The site includes an Interpretation Centre, which is home to a selection of pre-historic artefacts and also offers a unique view of the natural landscape that surrounds the temples.
The Grandmaster of the Order of St. John’s Palace is arguably one of Malta’s most important historical sites. The building has been home to Malta’s leaders since it was built by Catholic Knights in 1571. Over the years, it has been home to Catholic, French and British occupation and currently houses the Office of the President of Malta, making the building a time capsule for Maltese history. The building is filled with brilliant archaic architecture, art and decor, including the Armoury Corridor which is decorated with trompe l’œil paintings of scenes of naval battles and the portraits and escutcheons of various Grand Masters. Travellers can also check out a 5,000 suit collection of 16th to 18th-century armour, boasting pieces that have been worn by Napoléon Bonaparte.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum
Malta’s Hypogeum is one of the world’s best-preserved prehistoric sites. Literally translating to “underground” in Greek, it is a complex of excavated cave chambers which includes a temple, cemetery and funeral hall. The Hypogeum carries the remains of more than 7,000 individuals that are 4,000 years old. Tour guides will take travellers on a journey through the various chambers to see rock art and decoration that predates England’s Stonehenge. One of the most popular chambers is called ‘The Holy of Holies’ and was designed to be illuminated at night by the moon.
Saint John’s Co-Cathedral
Saint John’s Co-Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church built by the Order of Saint John between 1572 and 1577. The church is in the country’s capital city of Valletta and is famous for its Baroque architecture. Not only are the walls and ceilings decorated with 16th and 17th century art, but the floor is covered with memorials for dead knights. The Cathedral is also home to Caravaggio’s 16th-century masterpiece, ‘The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.’
Built in 1878, Fort Rinella was the world’s first mechanical fort and is located on the eastern coast of Malta, Kalkara. The fort is a surviving memory of Malta’s British Colonial past and a testimony to the Victorian Empire’s advanced industrial capabilities. It features a single Armstrong 100-ton gun, which was used to protect the vital trade route to India through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal. A tour of the fort offers visitors reenactments of the different aspects of daily life in the Victorian garrison, a skill-at-arms display, military drill demonstrations, and the firing of a cannon.