Megalithic Malta: Temples, fortifications and archaeology
6 days for £2,190 17 May and 1 November 2021
Malta and Gozo are small islands that conceal a long and fascinating history including several exceptional archaeological sites. From the ancient and mysterious temples believed to be some of the world’s oldest structures, to the fortifications of the Knights of St John which withstood unprecedented bombardment in WWII. Visiting three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you will discover 7000 years of history including unexplained carved-stone landscapes, and prehistoric death cults, as well as beautiful coastlines, attractive fishing villages and fine Baroque architecture.
The tour will feature talks and walking seminars from the New Scientist editorial team (Graham Lawton in May and Alsion George in November) and will be led by award-winning journalist Juliet Rix . The tour is limited to just 22 guests.
DAY 1: ARRIVE INTO MALTA
Fly to Malta, where you will stay for the duration of the tour at the recently reopened 5-star Phoenicia. This famous hotel stands at the gateway to Valletta and has a majestic setting overlooking Marsamxetto Harbour. In the evening meet the tour leader, journalist and broadcaster Juliet Rix, who will introduce you to the tour ahead. You will then enjoy dinner with Juliet a local restaurant in Valetta.
DAY 2: EXPLORE VALLETTA
Today will be spent exploring Valletta which has recently undergone a series of major restorations including the impressive ramparts and Renzo Piano’s new Parliament building. You will visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral with Caravaggio’s masterpiece ‘The Beheading of St. John’, the Grand Master’s Palace and the beautiful jewel-like Teatru Manoel, one of the best surviving Baroque theatres in Europe. During the afternoon marvel at the Auberge de Provence, the Baroque residence of the Knights of Malta from the Provence region of France. This now houses the Archaeological Museum, including some of the most exquisite finds from Malta & Gozo’s prehistoric sites dating back up to 5,000 years.
Your day ends with a visit to Fort St. Elmo. The fort was built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1552 to guard the harbours on either side of the Sceberras Peninsula. After restoration, it reopened in 2015, and now contains the National War Museum, which covers Malta’s wartime history including the Great Siege and the country’s ordeal during WWII.
In the evening, you will be joined by New Scientist’s Graham Lawton (in May) or Alison George (in November) who will give the first of two talks setting the context for the next two days exploration of megalithic sites. After the talk, they will join you for dinner at the hotel’s excellent Phoenix restaurant. They will also accompany you over the next two days of exploration.
DAY 3: MEGALITHIC SITES
Today is devoted to prehistory. Starting the day with the recently reopened Hypogeum Saflieni, a remarkable Neolithic subterranean necropolis, buried beneath the streets of Valletta. You will travel on to the temples of Tarxien, Hagar Qim and Mnajdra which enable you to trace the development of temple building on Malta from around 3600BC.
There will be time to explore the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk, before visiting the fascinating cave Għar Dalam, where finds include remains of long-extinct species dating back 10,000 years. The earliest evidence of human settlement, 7,400 years ago was also found here.
In the evening Graham or Alison will give the second of their talks and will be happy to carry on the conversation and answer all your questions about the sites, pre-history and life at New Scientist.
DAY 4: SAIL TO GOZO FOR THE GGANTIJA TEMPLES
Sail across the narrow strait to Gozo, a verdant island of fertile farmland, picturesque villages and monumental Baroque churches.
The highlight of today is exploring the prehistoric temples at Ggantija, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1000 years older than the Egyptian pyramids and the second oldest stone structure in the world. The earliest of the Maltese ceremonial sites and one that might have been used for fertility rites and animal sacrifice.
Afterwards, explore the fortified capital Victoria (Ir-Rabat). A hill settled since Neolithic times with a citadel that is visible across most of Gozo. After lunch, follow a scenic route to the charming fishing village of Xlendi. Where you will discover the enigmatic ‘cart ruts’ which criss-cross rocky sites on both islands but have remained unexplained by archaeologists and historians.
DAY 5: FORTIFICATIONS: VALLETTA AND MDINA
Today you will take a harbour cruise onboard a traditional Maltese ‘Luzzu’ from the Grand Harbour, allowing you to fully appreciate the remarkable fortifications of Valletta. Then enjoy a walking tour of Malta’s first capital Mdina (The Silent City). A fortified city of just 300 inhabitants. Best known today for its starring-role in the ‘Game of Thrones’ TV series – with its mix of Norman and Baroque architecture including palaces and a cathedral. You will enjoy lunch next to the 5-star Xara Palace Hotel, a stunning 17th century palazzo and the only hotel within the walls of the city.
DAY 6: MORNING AT LEISURE THEN DEPART
The morning is free for you to relax and explore at your own pace before driving to the airport for the flight back to the UK.
If you would like to stay for additional days, our partner Kirker Holidays can arrange that for you.