Blog on Life Travel Malta Natural sites in Malta Gozo and Comino

The Maltese Islands: Natural sites in Malta & Gozo

Natural sites in Malta and Gozo mostly consist of concentrated, deep and rich colours of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises you can witness. If you really want to get most of the sunrises and sunsets, then it is suggested to take the time and enjoy them in an area with unobstructed views of the horizon and the sea.

All photography in this article belongs to Alex Turnbull.

Nature in the Maltese Islands

Buskett Gardens

Malta was once rich in greenery and woodland, until the era of the Spanish galleons when trees were chopped down for shipbuilding. Since new trees weren’t planted to replace those taken down, over time without plant life having roots grip onto the soil, the soil got washed away and today the soil is also not in the same condition for plantation as it was back in the time of flourishing greenery. There used to also be streams and rivers, which were essential for inhabitants, as they live on an island which gets very hot and is surrounded by seawater. These streams eventually also dried out and today you can view some of what remained of the streams and rivers without the water.

The lack of greenery is unfortunately one aspect that is highly noticeable even as the plane approaches the island. Over the recent years, the remaining greenery has also been chopped down for further development of roads and buildings. However, in Gozo, a sister island that is much smaller, you can notice that it is much greener. From the moment you get off the ferry, you will notice new as well as older plants, palm trees, flowers, and brushes across the island.

Buskett Gardens dates back to the post-Roman Republic when the area was used for celebrations to honour the gods. Later, when Christianity flourished on the island, this area was used for Christian celebrations of St. Peter and St. Paul. After the Spanish galleons had chopped down the trees for shipbuilding material, the Knights Hospitaller planted trees at Buskett Gardens and used the area as a hunting reserve. Today, Buskett Gardens, located close to Siggiewi and Dingli, is a large area of greenery (473,694.5 sq. meters). It is also where the Verdala Palace is located, the official residence of the President of Malta.

Salt pans

Salt Pans in Malta and Gozo

There are Salt Pans found in both Malta and Gozo. In Malta, the Salt Pans are located at Zonqor Point in Iz-Zonqor, close to Marsascala. In Gozo, just off Xwejni bay (which is also a popular dive site) closely located to Qbajjar bay in the area of Zebbug you can visit these 350-year-old salt pans.

Blog on Life Travel Malta Gozo Qbajjar salt pans
Salt pans in Qbajjar, Gozo

Filfla

Filfla is an uninhabited islet found 5 km off the coast of Malta. Today, it is not allowed for anyone to go to Filfla as it is a bird reserve since 1980. The only people which may be granted access to the islet are those with an educational or scientific purpose and must get permission from the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. Fishing closer than 1.9 km to the islet is not allowed due to the possibility of encountering unexploded ordnance which may have been left behind by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force who used the islet for target practice back in 1971. These restrictions were set in 1988 in the Filfla Natural Reserve Act.

Blog on Life Travel Malta Filfla view ph Alex Turnbull

Filfla

Ghar Lapsi & Blue Grotto

Closely located is the beautiful Ghar Lapsi, which is a popular dive site, and the Blue Grotto which is another stunning natural site to visit. You can get a boat ride to experience the Blue Grotto and the incredible shades of the sea with light reflections inside the cave systems.

Blog on Life Travel Malta Blue Grotto ph Alex Turnbull

Blue Grotto

Adjacent to the Blue Grotto is the Wied Iz-Zurrieq or the Zurrieq Valley. The easiest way to enter is with the use of a small boat. The water is quite deep and during the summer season this area can get quite busy with several boats docked. Wied Iz-Zurrieq is another popular place as a dive site as there is the Um El Faroud wreck as well as it is an incredibly beautiful spot for those who enjoy underwater photography.

Caves and Grottos

Ghar Hasan cave

There are several different cliffs that you can also visit across Malta and Gozo, which will give you stunning views of the open sea such as the Qammieh cliffs. Some of the cliffs also have caves, such as that of Ghar Hasan, which also comes with a legend. There are several versions of the legend, but they all circle around the Saracen whose name is Hasan. A Saracen was a term used mainly by Christian writers in the Middle Ages to describe a person or persons who live in the region of Arabia Petraea and who were distinguished from the other Arabs.

The legend mentions Hasan, who abducted a beautiful Maltese farm girl and kept her in this cave. When the locals found out, they arranged an attack on the cave and Hasan threw the girl into the sea and jumped right after, killing himself.

Blog on Life Travel Malta cliff side Dingli

Calypso cave

Calypso cave got its name as tradition states that it is this exact cave which Homer refers to in The Odyssey, where Calypso, a nymph lived in this cave and where she entertained Ulysses for seven years before he continued his journey. Some say that the Calypso cave may be a series of caves that lead down to the sea. The Mixta cave, or L-Ghar tal-Mixta, is looking across from Calypso cave and many are not as familiar with it. It is located on a plateau which is found on the side of an ancient village called Nadur. For those who like a little adventure, you would find this area with a valley, beach, and two caves, pretty adventurous.

Blog on Life Travel Malta Gozo Mixta cave ph Alex Turnbull

Il-Hofra L-Kbira, Il-Hofra Z-Zghira and Il-Kalanka cave

Il-Hofra L-Kbira and Il-Hofra Z-Zghira are rocky beaches that are secluded. Both are closely located in the region of Delimara, Malta close to St. Peter’s Pool. Getting there isn’t an easy task. To get to Il-Hofra L-Kbira you should take the road called Triq Xrobb L-Ghagin, in the direction towards the Nature Park and Centre for Sustainable Development. To get to Il-Hofra Z-Zghira, you need to take the road that is taken towards St. Peter’s Pool, Triq Delimara, turn left, and at the end of that road is the beach. St. Peter’s Pool is a further drive, with that road going on the right. There is a sea cave called Il-Kalanka cave located Il-Hofra L-Kbira which is perfect for those who like a little adventure.

Ghar Lapsi & Blue Grotto

Closely located is the beautiful Ghar Lapsi, which is a popular dive site, and the Blue Grotto which is another stunning natural site to visit. You can get a boat ride to experience the Blue Grotto and the incredible shades of the sea with light reflections inside the cave systems.

Blog on Life Travel Malta Blue Grotto ph Alex Turnbull

Blue Grotto

Xerri’s grotto and Ninu’s cave

Xerri’s grotto is a cave located in Xaghra, Gozo. It was discovered between 1923 – 1924 by a local resident, Anthony Xerri while constructing a well under the house. It is closely located to another cave called Ninu’s cave which was discovered in 1888 by another local resident, Joseph Rapa, while also digging a well for a house. Both caves are open to the public all year round.

Xerri’s grotto is larger and contains calcified formations such as stalagmites and stalactites. Some resemble a vulture, a tortoise, giraffes and an elephant’s ear. Some of the other formations are a result of tree roots, which can also be seen. There is a 10-metre spiral staircase upon entry and the cave was extended during World War 2 when it was used as an air-raid shelter.

Ninu’s cave is formed in upper coralline limestone and also has natural stalagmites and stalactites, as well as a few helictites. Some of the formations are dry with the colour the same as the rock and a few are semi-transparent. There is a 4-metre descent down a staircase upon entering the cave, which will bring you to a large chamber, approximately 20 metres by 8 metres.

Cliffs

Dingli cliffs

A must-see is also the area of Dingli cliffs, which is the highest point in Malta and all the Maltese islands (253 meters above sea). From Dingli cliffs, you can get a very clear view of Filfla.

Blog on Life Travel Malta Dingli cliff edge ph Alex Turnbull
View from Dingli cliffs

Ta’ Cenc cliffs

The highest cliffs (120 meters above sea) are the Ta’ Cenc cliffs, which are found on the coastline in Sannat. The Ta’ Cenc cliffs are identified as an IBA (Important Bird Area) by BirdLife International as they support 800 – 1000 breeding pairs of Cory’s shearwaters and 150 – 300 pairs of Yelkouan shearwaters.

Blog on Life Travel Gozo Ta Cenc cliffs closeup ph Alex Turnbull
Ta' Cenc cliffs

Archaeological remains have also been found in the surrounding area leading to the cliffs. Some of such remains are the Borg L-Imramma (remains from a megalithic temple) and two dolmens (dating to Bronze Age). For those who would like to admire a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the Ta’ Cenc cliffs would definitely be a perfect location.

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