From hunting ground to the perfect picnic spot! An insider’s guide to Buskett Gardens
The little-known history of Malta’s only woodland area.
As one of the only woodland areas in Malta, a trip to Buskett Gardens, situated in a valley in the vicinity of Rabat and Dingli, is a nice, peaceful retreat away from the congested roads of the island's busier areas.
And as with most things on the islands, the history of Buskett Gardens is quite intriguing and, well... unexpected. The area was reportedly the location for sexual celebrations carried out in honour of the gods during the Roman period. It later came to be what it is today thanks to the Knights of St John, who planted the trees and other flora so as to create a ground to be used for hunting.
A natural haven
And the Knights did a very good job indeed. Throughout the approx. 45 hectares of land, you will come across numerous trees such as orange trees, cactus, Mediterranean pine trees and cypress trees, bushes, shrubs, eucalyptus, flowers, vineyards, olives and lemon groves. The gardens possess endemic and rare species which are in need of protection.
Authorities have also highlighted species of special importance that are found in Buskett. These include the Narrowed Leaved Ash, Bay Laurel thickets, White Willow and Painted Frog. The gardens have also been recognised by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA), as they are frequented by a large number of birds, especially during migration periods.
On the hilltop overlooking Buskett Gardens is the Renaissance summer residence of the President, Verdala Palace, which was built by Grand Master Hughes de Verdalle in the mid-16th century as a summer residence and hunting lodge. Unfortunately, it is today not open to the public except on special occasions. A chapel, servant quarters and stables are located close to the palace.
© viewingmalta.com / Steve Bonello
Best time to go
Buskett is the most vibrant during springtime, when the weather is perfect for a picnic amongst the trees, and many families take advantage of that. However, many would argue that it is nice to visit all year round, and possesses a magical mood right after winter rainfall. Usually, in June, Buskett holds the Imnarja festival, where crowds gather to eat rabbit stew and enjoy folk music in celebration of traditions belonging to times gone by.