Today we took a Hop On Hop Off bus again. [Actually on Malta was the first time ever I’ve used it, but I have taken it many times since as it turned out to be quite a decent way to see all the important sights. I know, duh! :)]
Our goal for the day was to see Blue Grotto, Ħaġar Qim temples, and Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni. For the Hypogeum you need to book tickets well in advance because they only have 8 tours per day with only 10 people allowed per tour. Luckily you can buy tickets easily on their website, but this is something that you need to do preferably weeks in advance.
So we started again on the bus and drove past some nice views until we reached the stop Blue Grotto.
When we got out, there are clear signs pointing towards the boats. You need to get a ticket for the boat, but it cost just 5€ if I remember correctly and then you get in line for the boat. Luckily for us there was barely a line as one boat was just about to leave and we got right onto the next one with some German senior citizens. Then it’s off to the Blue Grotto, which is a number of sea caverns. The boat set off and we got to enjoy a really nice sunny day with gentle wind and beautiful coast. You also could see that the water appears to be several different shades of blue. According to Wikipedia the different colors can be observed every day from sunrise until about 1 pm, so once again we just got crazy lucky that we decided to stop here in the morning. Usually I do much more research before traveling anywhere, but it’s nice to see that even without it, we can manage just fine. 🙂
The entire stop at Blue Grotto took us about half an hour, but this stop probably takes more time in the summer when the lines are longer. We had some time to get ice cream and then took the next Hop On Hop Off bus to our next stop, which was the Ħaġar Qim temples. Malta has some of the oldest known constructions and Ħaġar Qim is estimated to have been constructed between 3600 – 3200 BC. It is amazing that the temple remains in this good shape!
As with Stonehenge there is some mystery in how the people managed to get these stones here and arrange them. For example the stone in the picture below is 6.4m long, 3m high and weights approx. 20 tonnes.
At Ħaġar Qim many things were unearthed, notably stone and clay statuettes of figures which can now be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. But it feels unbelievable that these temples have been here for millennia.
We had our scheduled slot at Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum at 2 p.m. and it looked like we wouldn’t be there in time if we wait for the bus, so we decided to take a taxi. Luckily there was one taxi driver around and after some price negotiations he agreed to take us to the Hypogeum. We ended up being almost 40 min early for our tour [Malta isn’t that big after all], but better late than miss this site and it would’ve been impossible to reschedule it.
The Hypogeum is an underground prehistoric burial site and it was discovered in 1902 during building construction works. So this is why it is located right in the middle of a regular-looking quarter in a very average-looking building. I’m not sure if we would’ve found the site this easily if the taxi driver hasn’t dropped us right in front of it.
The Hypogeum’s earliest chambers date back to approx. 4000BC and the site was used for centuries, but lost or abandoned around 2500BC. The site has a delicate microclimate, which was affected by visitors and this is why it was closed for 10 years and re-opened with a strict limits on visitation and an artificial climate control system.
You are not allowed to take pictures inside and you are given an audioguide, which tells you about the site and the human guide, who guides you to different chambers and watches that you don’t do anything stupid. 😉 The Hypogeum was immensely interesting and surprisingly big considering its location underground.
After Hypogeum We wanted to visit the Tarxien temples located nearby, but while we waited for our Hypogeum tour, we noticed a note on the wall, which said that the Tarxien Temples were closed due to maintenance works for a month or so. We headed to the bus stop instead and managed to find a local bus, which was actually stopping near our hotel.
We decided to get dinner at a hamburger joint called New York Best. And those were really good hamburgers! We also got milk shakes, which were also very good. Paceville is known for being the party area, but we also found that we don’t need to go very far to get good food, which was very handy as we wanted to have as lazy a holiday as possible. 🙂