Are you fascinated by caves? The Maltese Islands are cave country, with some truly remarkable caves to explore. Here's a list of our top 10.
If you're anything like me, you'll want to explore every hole in every cliff face. How deep is it? Does it lead anywhere? Are there any interesting features inside? Did people once live here?
From the prehistoric cave of Ghar Dalam to the modern troglodyte cave known as L-Ghar u Casa, the cave secrets of the Maltese Islands are many. The soft limestone is weathered, beaten and moulded by the natural history of the islands, and many caves offer insight to the islands before and after human occupation. There are also several subterranean caves in Malta. It is impossible to mention them all and some are not easy to find, so here are my top 10 favourite caves to visit when I'm thirsting for adventure and mystery.
1. Ghar Dalam, Birzebbugia
One of the oldest caves in Malta, access to this one requires a ticket and there is also a museum. What makes Ghar Dalam significant is what was found inside it. Formed during the ice-age by gushing torrential waters, life above ground was washed down to be stored below the surface in fossilised layers. See dwarf elephants and hippopotami dating back some 500,000 years! The cave also contains the remains of the first settlers around 7,400 years ago.
2. Ghar Hasan, Birzebbuga
Another impressive cave in the vicinity of Ghar Dalam, Ghar Hasan includes a man-made access point on the cliff face but is free to enter. Access is restricted to the first part of the cave, with a few paths that lead to other chambers, one of which also offers an opening onto the cliff. Beyond the gate, a series of pathways fork away several times and one could easily get lost. When caving, exercise maximum care at all times; never do any caving without multiple torches with full batteries and a system to mark your way - your life might depend on this.
3. Blue Grotto, Zurrieq
Take a boat at Wied iz-Zurrieq in the morning to admire the clear sparkling water take on many different shades of blue. Meanwhile, the reflections of underwater flora hit the cave walls. This is a truly spectacular cave yet only one of many caves in the area.
4. L-Ghar il-Kbir, Siggiewi
A troglodyte settlement until fairly recently, this cave complex still bears rubble boundary walls that separated the quarters of various families. One cave is enormous with an opening in the roof, perfect as a communal gathering space. The cave walls are sometimes carved and cut out for practical useage, such as placing candles or making cooking fires. A beautiful place for a day trip, just past Buskett and nearby the extraordinary Clapham Junction cart ruts.
5. L-Ghar u Casa, Mellieha
A little better equipped, these troglodytes applied modern technology to include a built facade on their cave-home! The site can be seen from Mellieha church and is easily accessible. Now tell me you're not curious!
6. Coral Lagoon, Mellieha
Another great place for a walk is the Marfa Ridge, then continue around the headland to the furthest north-easterly point of Malta, facing Comino. Just there, a big hole in the ground gives way to the beautiful sea below. The cave's roof gave way countless years ago.
7. Il-Hofra, Mellieha
Another big hole in the ground, this time leading to a massive underground cave far bigger than the hole itself. It is possible to access the cave along one side of the hole, but it is less easy to actually find the hole. The cave is not on any maps but it is located somewhere in the bare countryside leading to Paradise Bay from the Red Tower. The tricky part is that you only see it when you're just upon it. This one is for when you feel like going on a hunt!
8. Tal-Mixta, Gozo
This huge cave is a wonderful gathering space with a perfect view of Ramla Bay, from which it can be accessed up the cliff on the far right of the bay. Experience a storm's aliveness across the water from the shelter of this cave to really experience the enormous energy of nature.
9. Ninu's Cave, Xaghra, Gozo
Pay a small fee for a ticket to a cave located behind an unassuming little house in Xaghra, take the tour by the family and see an impressive display of stalactites and stalagmites as well as some other interesting geological features.
10. Xerri's Grotto, Xaghra, Gozo
Nearby, while digging a well in his Xaghra house, now a wonderful stairwell, Xerri stumbled upon a similar cave full of stalactites and stalagmites. Much of the excavations took place during World War II, when the cave was used as an air raid shelter. Today, the family charges a small ticket for entrance to their home and down the stairwell, an intriguing feature in itself.
There are many other remarkable caves to see, including the remarkable Santa Marija Caves in Comino with their indoor sea-pool and more still. Each cave is unique and some a well-kept secret even with locals - see if you can discover some on your own!
While Maltesers cannot currently travel to Gozo due to COVID restrictions, we can still dream about it and plan a trip when we can travel to our sister isle again. But hey, if you're lucky enough to live in Gozo, visit the caves for us, will ya?