Rediscovering the Garden of Eden: 5 must-see hidden cultural gems in Malta

In Grundy, history, culture and nature meet. This small village in southern Malta is home to Neolithic temples, crystal-clear diving spots in nearby Zurrieq and some of the liveliest festivals on the island. The il-Maqluba sinkhole on the edge of the village is a natural ‘Noah’s Ark’, home to many rare trees and insects found only on the island of Malta.

In addition to watchtowers and churches from the time of the Knights Hospitaller, Grundi is home to two ancient temple complexes, Mnajdra and Ħaġar Qim, which have been around for thousands of years history. The structures are built of huge monoliths, some 7 meters high and 20 tons in weight, suggesting a complex civilization of worship that existed here as early as 3200 BC.

The harbor in Wied iz-Zurrieq is the gateway to Malta’s famous Blue Grotto, a series of sea caves where reflected sunlight turns the water an enchanting blue. Visit here first thing in the morning to soak up the best rays, then reward yourself with a delicious seafood lunch on the harbour.

Grundy is also famous for its festivals; whether you attend the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on the last Sunday in June or the Feast of Santa Maria on August 15th, you’re in for a lively evening of feasting, music and spectacular fireworks.

The harbor town of Għajnsielem occupies a stunning position overlooking the Strait of Gozo. The sharp spire of the church of Lourdes stands out, as does Chambray on the cliffs. The harbor is small but vibrant, and there are quiet corners nearby to watch the sunrise or sunset. A winding road leads to Xatt l-Aħmar Bay, with stunning walks along the cliff tops.

The village also hosts the Bethlehem f’Għajnsielem, a vivid reenactment of the Nativity story, set on 20,000 square meters of once-neglected land. Built and inhabited by locals, it is a wonderful recreation of the birthplace of Christ, complete with a market, tavern, dwellings, workshops and, of course, barns. Every year more than 100,000 tourists come to visit the grotto where Mary holds the baby Jesus, enjoy local food and wine in the tavern, or explore the site at night by oil lamp.

If you visit during Epiphany (the first Sunday after New Year’s Day), you’ll be lucky enough to watch the Adoration of the Magi, when the three wise men and their horses arrive by ferry from Malta and triumphantly enter the village.

People have been visiting the magnificent cliffs for centuries. The highest point in the Maltese archipelago, at 250 meters above sea level, the cliffs offer unobstructed views of the uninhabited islet of Fifra and the open sea beyond. Watching the sunset from the chapel dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene is heart-pounding.

The cliffs extend far beyond the village of Dingli, from Bahrija to the area of ​​Munqar above the Blue Hole. There are plenty of trails to explore and plenty of picnic spots, perfect for enjoying a delicious meal at the market at Trinity Square.

Also keep an eye out for mysterious “ruts,” unexplained parallel tracks carved into the rock near the remains of the megalithic structure.

Perched on a hill overlooking the vistas of the islands of Comino and Gozo, Mellieja is a small village with a rich history. The Feast of the Goddess of Victory is celebrated every September.

Today, Mellieha is even more welcoming to tourists, offering a unique ‘country island’ experience with sunny beaches, country walks and hearty local food. The azure waters and sandy beaches for which Malta is famous are just a short walk away, but equally accessible are country farms, restored farmhouses and restaurants serving fresh, seasonal produce straight from the land.

The area is also rich in historical sites. The magnificent Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha is considered one of Malta’s greatest treasures. You can also explore the maze of bomb shelters built during World War II. Kids will love Popeye Village, where the 1980 movie was filmed and now a colorful theme park where visitors can play villain or hero in daily filming.

The small town of Ta’ Xbiex in central Malta, with its majestic Grand Harbor and spectacular promenade, is something to see. Home to foreign embassies and leading service companies, the atmosphere is relaxed and sophisticated, with a palpable sense of contentment in the bustling bars and restaurants. A stroll along the promenade in the evening is an experience not to be missed.

Ta’ Xbiex’s environment is its blessing. It is named after the local word for sunrise, and watching the dawn break over honey-coloured Valletta from here will be an experience you will never forget.

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