Exploring Hagar Qim and Mnajdra – the oldest man made structures in the world

My wife spent her teens growing up in Malta and her Father, Vince still lives in Mellieha so we decided to have our second wedding there in 2015. During the 5 or so weeks we were in Malta, we were able to catch up with some of Sarah’s High School friends including Fabrizia, who is now a tour guide.  She kindly offered to show us, our family and friends from NZ and the UK around Malta’s sights as part of our wedding present.  One such day trip was out to Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, temples in Malta that are said to be some of the oldest man made structures in the world (around 5000 years old!).

Hagar Qim is a megalithic temple complex from the Neolithic era around. 3600 – 3200 BC and the most well known of the many temple complexes that are located on Malta and Gozo (such as Tarxien and Skorba on Malta, and Ggantija and Xewkija on Gozo). The temple complex was first excavated in 1839, though with the tops of the stones protruding out of the ground before then, it can be assumed that the locals at least knew that there was “something” down there for quite some time.

Hagar Qim’s location looks over the sea and onto the neighbouring island of Fifla. Most of the artefacts have been removed and now live inside the  National Museum of Archaeology at Valletta such as altars, statues and the Maltese “Venus.  No one really knows who built the temples, and these prehistoric people are simply referred to as the “Temple Builders”.

Further down the hill is the The Mnajdra Temple.  This is a fairly easy walk, that even my mother and aunty (who are in their 70’s) are able to handle with a few breaks for breath.  It’s a complex of three temples, that even includes some prehistoric graffiti (possibly the oldest graffiti in the world – eat your heart out Banksy!) . Whats really cool about these temples is their uses in astronomy and as a type of prehistoric calendar system:

During the spring and autumn Equinox (20-21 March, 21-22 September) the sun rises in line with the main doorway of the South Temple, passing through the central corridor to the innermost apse. During the Summer Solstice (21 June) and Winter Solstice (21 December), a narrow beam of light just makes its way through the main doorway at sunrise. On all these occasions Heritage Malta organises guided tours to allow visitors to witness the phenomenon.

All in all it’s a really fascinating place to visit, and a really interesting history which you can learn about by reading Malta: Prehistory and Temples (Malta’s Living Heritage) which is available all over the country at historic sites, or on Amazon if you are living overseas.

Opening hours

Mon – Sun from 9am to 5pm (7pm in summer).
Last admission at 4.30pm (at 6.30pm in summer).
Closed on 24, 25 & 31 Dec, 1 Jan, Good Friday.

Entrance is €9 adults, €6.50 concessions, €4 children.

How to Find Hagar Qim and Mnajdra:

Much of Malta is fairly easy to drive around (especially when you have your father in laws Toyota Hilux pickup!), and there is a great public transport service available as well that serves most of the touristy areas.  If you are based in the capital of Valetta, tax buses X4, X5, or X7 to the main airport. Then take bus 201 to Hagar Qim and Mnajdra.

Otherwise , take 71 or 73 from the bus terminus, and get down at the Gonna stop along Blue Grotto Road, in Iz-Zurrieq (district). Then take bus 201 to Hagar Qim and Mnajdra.

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