One of the limestone statues found at the Tarxien Temple complex, Malta.

Megalithic Temples of Malta

The popular Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo are well known for their megalithic temples. Dating to the 4th and 3rd millennia, these prehistoric structures are some of humanities oldest free-standing buildings in the world. Although there are similarities among the 30 or so known temple complexes, each has their own unique plan and arrangement. Besides a striking and skilled structure, they also have distinctive decoration.

Eleven Tips for Visiting the Megalithic Temples

Given the number of prehistoric temple sites there are on both Malta and Gozo, anyone planning a visit has a number of questions. From which of the Megalithic Temples not to miss, to what facilities to expect at the sites. From the value of combination tickets to the possibility of guided tours. Here we answer eleven of your questions and needs about visiting the megalithic monuments in Malta and Gozo.

The Ħaġar Qim megalithic temple under a protective awning.

Must See Megalithic Temples in Malta & Gozo

A walkway leads visitors into the Ggantija megalithic temple in Malta.

Walkways allow visitors to access the megalithic temples.

Ggantija Temples

Of the thirty or so temples on the islands of Gozo and Malta, the temple complex at Gganjita could be said to be the most important for a number of reasons. The site is made up of two temples side by side, both surrounded by a single boundary wall. These are the best preserved of all the Maltese temples. Despite being exceptionally well preserved, the older of the two temples here is the oldest of all the megalithic temples. The temples were built between 5,600 and 5,200 years ago.
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A circular chamber in the Ħaġar Qim megalithic temple, Malta.

A circular chamber as part of the larger structure.

Ħaġar Qim Temples

The first temple complex in the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Archaeological Park are the Ħaġar Qim Temples. As with the other Maltese temples, the main entrance to the temple was placed in a concave façade. Unlike the other temples, on the other side of the temple there is a second concave façade with a second entrance flanked by the usual large blocks of limestone. This large, well preserved megalithic structure, built between 5,600 and 5,200 years ago, is flanked by the remains of two other structures.
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A portal in the Mnajdra Temple covered with small pit marks.

At Mnajdra stones were dressed with shallow pit marks.

Mnajdra Temples

Three temples make up this extraordinary temple complex – located not that far from the cliff top. The earliest of the three temples is a relatively simple one, built about 5,600 years ago. The second one, the South Temple constructed about 5,000 years ago, is aligned with the rising sun at the equinoxes and solstices. The last of the temples, the so-called Middle Temple, was built on an artificial platform sandwiched in between the earlier two temples sometime between 5,000 and 4,500 years ago. Given the presence of remains beyond these temples, it is thought they are just a part of a much larger ritual centre.
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The Dolmen Resort Hotel was built around the Buġibba Temple in Malta.

Reconstructed remains of the Buġibba Temple at the Dolmen Hotel Malta.

Buġibba Temple

The ruins of the Buġibba megalithic temple were first recorded and excavated by archaeologists in the 1920s. A small temple to begin with, there was very little left of the prehistoric structure as the area had been heavily developed for agriculture. Since then a hotel, the Dolmen Hotel Malta, has been built around the ruins. During excavations in the 1950s decorated stones were recovered, which are now on display in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Parts of the megalithic temple have been reconstructed.
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Archaeological Museums Worth Visiting

A display about the megalithic temples in the National Archaeology Museum, Valletta.

Decorated stones from various megalithic temples in Malta.

National Museum of Archaeology

In the centre of Valletta is the ‘Auberge de Provence’ – one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture. When built in 1571 for the Knights of the Order of St John, it occupied the entire block and included stables and even a bakery In event of a siege the Knights would be self sufficient. The museum opened in 1958 with permanent displays for the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Phoenician periods, with displays for the Punic, Roman and Byzantine eras being planned.
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The entrance to Gozo Museum of Archaeology.

Entrance to the Gozo Museum of Archaeology. © Google Streetview

Gozo Museum of Archaeology

The island’s archaeology museums is housed in one of the few remaining 17th century townhouses within the medieval Citadel. Although opened in 1960, the first public museum in Gozo, since 1986 it has been entirely dedicated to the prehistoric, classical and medieval periods of Gozo and Comino. With artefacts from a range of sites on both islands, displays focus on such topics as religion and burial, art and technology, and food and daily life over 5,000 years.
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