Ted and I fancied a few days away in February 2019 and looking through direct flights from Newcastle we discovered inexpensive twice weekly flights to Malta. Malta had never been top of our list to visit – a combination of a lack of trains and being unsure whether there would be enough to keep us occupied on a fairly small island. Once we asked around, many people we knew had visited and were generally positive. In particular, Dave, a friend who had spent many years working as an archaeologist, had visited in the 1980s, was keen to return and reassured us there was plenty to pass a week. Some more research unearthed a remarkably good hotel deal so off Ted, Dave and I went for a week in late February.
A stormy Mellieha
We arrived on a Saturday evening during the worst storm the island had experienced in many years. While our landing was OK, outside there was driving, pouring rain and we were soaked descending the aircraft steps, then again running from the terminal to the bus shelter. However, we made it to our hotel after an hour or so on the bus. We managed to get off at the correct stop in the darkness, just as the bus broke down – it was having problems, probably due to water reaching the engine as we passed through flooded stretches of road. The local press reported that the temperature had dropped to 2 degrees, there were force 10 gales, trees were blown down and roads closed all over the island. Many bus routes were suspended for a time on the Sunday and in the nearby village of Xemxija it had rained fish from the sea onto the main coastal road. By Monday morning the storm had passed and we started to explore as intended. We managed to visit much of Malta and the neighbouring island of Gozo during the week from our base in Mellieha.
Mellieha and the north of Malta
The town of Mellieha (in Maltese Il Mellieħa) is in the north of Malta, on the route to the Gozo ferry. The town is built on a hill above the sea on both sides of a valley (so there are plenty of steep steps to negotiate) with a newer resort area by the beach at the foot of the hill. We were staying in the Maritim Hotel in the centre of town near to the parish church. On our first night the storm meant that all we could do was eat in the Italian restaurant attached to the hotel followed by a couple of pints in the pub directly across the road. We scurried over to the 120 Bar in the pouring rain and the barman asked us why we hadn’t come through the tunnel. It turned out the bar was owned by the hotel and the two were connected by a tunnel beneath the road.
First a little background to the town. Today it has a population of about 10,000 and the municipality covers the northern peninsula of Malta. While some prehistoric remains have been discovered, like the rest of the area it was abandoned around 1500 due to repeated raids from the sea. The area was reoccupied following the construction of fortifications by the Knights of Malta from the seventeenth century. Mellieha became a parish in 1844, and the imposing parish church (pictured) was built shortly afterwards. Like many churches throughout Malta it is huge, towers above the rest of the villages and could accommodate the whole population. Originally a fishing and farming settlement it has expanded greatly in the past fifty years as tourism developed and became a ‘European Destination of Excellence’ (whew) in 2009.
Sunday was our day for exploring the town. After breakfast the heavy rain had turned to showers and we ventured out. When we tried to walk downhill we were blown back, by the wind and it felt risky to stay out. The wind dropped later in the morning and we set out once more – it turned out to be more of a pub crawl than planned as we scurried for shelter. The weather means that some of the photographs make Mellieha seem a bit gloomy – it became much more attractive as the weather improved during the week.
The view from the hotel roof…..once the weather improved
It was Dave’s recollection that the main social hubs in Malta were the band clubs, where everyone gathered to eat, drink and organise the local festivities. In fact they were founded to promote musical activity and secondarily as a social centre. In the past thirty years they seem to have lost prominence due to the growth of modern café-bars, pubs, restaurants and other forms of entertainment. Some have closed, others are the haunt of a few old jimmies having a beer, some have been transformed into bars and restaurants and some remain dedicated to music.
Our nearest in Mellieha was the Imperial Band Club, founded in 1930, which was both band club and social centre – when we stumbled in one evening it had been taken over by the local Maltese Welsh for a St Davids Day dinner and the bar staff were all from the West of Scotland. We also visited the Bøck Club, which has become a bar and restaurant. Apart from the clubs we called into Charlies Bar (it has its own swimming pool, which wasn’t doing much business during the storm. It turned out the landlady came from Tow Law near Durham), Billy’s Bar and the Cross Keys . Foodwise we enjoyed several excellent meals at Ta Randi, and a curry at Katrina’s far exceeded expectations. In addition to the 120 Bar (through the tunnel) we used the cocktail bar in the hotel as our final port of call – not usually my sort of place but the barman was friendly and we enjoyed watching him work as people ordered unlikely cocktails.
Heading from Mellieha towards Valletta there are several villages which have become resorts – Xemxija, round a small fishing harbour, St Pauls Bay (named because, according to legend, St Paul was shipwrecked there in 60CE, though there is no proof of this) and Bugibba, an out and out tourist resort developed since the 1960s. Bugibba was an odd combination of newer hotels and rundown apartment blocks which need renovation.
The Red Tower
In the other direction the road leads to the Gozo ferry via Għadira Bay, the largest sandy bay in Malta. There are a few large resort hotels for people who want a beach holiday – once they have recreated the beaches after the storms. They appeared to be remote from everything though it may be different in summer when restaurants and shops open up and the area is busier. On one occasion our bus to the ferry diverted via Popeye Village, based around the film set for a 1980 Popeye movie and a turning circle called Paradise. The road ends at Ċirkewwa – which comprises the ferry terminal and not much else. Above the area is the Red Tower (St Agatha’s Tower), a watchtower and signalling tower built in 1649 and more recently used as a radar station.
The ferry to Gozo leaving Cirkewwa….
The ferry from Malta to Gozo (also known locally, including on some signs, as Għawdex) takes about 25 minutes passing close to the nature reserve island of Comino (See note 1 at the foot of this section). They are large, modern, roll-on roll-off ferries running 24 hours a day, nothing like Dave remembers from his previous visit – a recurring theme is how much Malta has developed in the past thirty years. Despite various plans for a (hugely expensive) tunnel and a short-lived helicopter service, the ferry remains the only link between Malta and Gozo.
.….and arriving at Mgarr, Gozo
Gozo generally is more rural than Malta with a population of about 37,000, living in villages set amongst rolling countryside. It is not a large island – the connecting bus from the ferry takes about twenty minutes to reach the main town, Victoria, in the centre of the island. That is if you manage to pile on…those in the know make sure they are first off the ferry. Victoria is also known as Rabat, the Arabic word for suburb. The modern town, with a population of about 7,000 began as a suburb of the now un-populated medieval Cittadella which looms above the town. It is a pleasant small town with several squares in where café-bars have outside tables. We didn’t get round to trying the local ftira, a pizza-like flatbread, but we did sample the local pies, which are sold everywhere. We spent some time over a couple of beers in the main square, Pjazza Indipendenza, which is named after the independence of Malta from Britain in 1964 (see note 2).
The Citadella looms above Victoria bus station and the modern town
Above Rabat is the Citadella, the original fortified town, built on a hilltop which has been settled since the bronze age. Some medieval fortifications remain, though most of the remaining buildings date from around 1600 when they were reconstructed by the Knights of St John. For a lengthy period all inhabitants had to be inside the gates for refuge between dusk and dawn, even when the settlement had spread to Rabat. Inside the walls today are the seventeenth century cathedral, the law courts and various museums. There are views across the island to the sea in several directions and to the West the enormous Rotunda of St John at Xewkija stands out – it looks much older but construction began in 1952 and was consecrated in 1978.
Inside the Citadella (above) and views from the walls (below)
The notice explains that the plants growing in-between the stones are very rare and shouldn’t be disturbed. However you have to walk across them to read the notice.
We visited Gozo twice and on our first visit caught a bus for the short journey to Xlendi (below) – a small village by a bay. It used to be a fishing village but is now more tourist oriented. The waterfront provides views over the bay and the surrounding cliffs from a row of restaurants, some specialising in fish and seafood. We sat with plates of perfect spaghetti with clams, plus the inevitable beer and watched not much going on apart from a row of men and lads trying, mainly unsuccessfully, to fish from the waters edge.
On our second visit we headed for the furthest point on the island from the ferry – Dwejra. The bus passes through the village of San Lawrenz before wandering down to the coast and terminating in what looked like the middle of nowhere. It is, however, the site of what used to be Gozo’s main tourist attraction, The Azure Window. It was a limestone arch which formed when a sea cave collapsed, then, following 100 years or so of natural erosion, collapsed itself in March 2017. The coast remains impressive, with views of the cliffs and Fungus Rock, named after a beer (or is it the other way round). Close by is the Inland Sea, a small seawater lagoon which can only be reached through a natural arch, surrounded by fishermen’s huts. Out of season the place looked deserted but he cafe was open so there was time for a beer before heading back to Rabat.
The site of the Azure Window and the Inland Sea
In addition to the direct bus from Rabat to the ferry terminal beneath the village of Mġarr (the bus destination is Vapor, which presumably means ferry), there are a couple of other routes and we took one round the houses and the quiet villages of Nadur and Qada. The bus was quieter than the direct route and we had the luxury of a seat. In theory bus and ferry connect, in practice you get off the bus, buy the ferry ticket and then discover whether or not a ferry is waiting.
Mgarr, from the ferry in the harbour.
Notes: (1) Comino is named after the cumin seed that once grew there. Today it has a permanent population of 3, and is primarily a bird sanctuary and nature reserve, though there is a hotel and some holiday bungalows. There are regular boat trips from Malta and Gozo.
(2) Malta became a British protectorate in 1800 and a Crown Colony in 1813. A measure of self government after World War 2, culminated in independence on 21 September 1964. In 1974 it became a republic with the President replacing the Queen as head of state. Malta joined the EU in 2004 and the Eurozone in 2008.
Valletta and around… plus a bit about beer
Anyone visiting Malta will end up in Valletta at some point, even unintentionally as most bus routes end up there. However, the capital of Malta is not to be missed as it is a historic and well-preserved city. Some accounts say it was rundown in the recent past but it has been spruced up for its year as a European Capital of Culture in 2018. We visited three times, each time on our way back from other parts of the island. We had limited time before returning north to Mellieha, and we could have spent more time to properly explore, though we did manage to get a feel for the place.
Valletta is tiny for a capital city with a population of around 6,500, squeezed into a small promontory surrounded by walls and fortifications (the metropolitan area has almost 400,000 inhabitants). It was founded by the Knights Hospitaller, the foundation stone was laid in 1566 and it became the capital in 1571. It is surrounded on three sides by two large harbours, Marsamxett and the Grand Harbour, and is laid out in a grid plan with streets climbing the steep hills.
Valletta City Walls
Each time we arrived at the bus station, just outside the walls, which felt like an insubstantial, temporary affair compared to the fortifications. Nearby is a new plaza with fountains. Inside the City Gate the main street, Triq Ir-Repubblika, now pedestrianised, leads from the City Gate past the new Parliament House to the Grandmasters (Presidential) Palace on Republic Square. Down side streets are the cathedral, theatres and other monuments. Chain stores have moved into the main street and walking down the side streets is worthwhile – narrow roads lined with tall tenements, usually with a view of the sea somewhere.
We popped in to one of the band clubs – the Societa’ Filarmonica Nationale La Valette, an ornate building which looks very posh, though there were only a few old boys having a drink when we were there – the beer crates in the photo are a giveaway. Our main port of call in Valletta was 67 Kapitali (67 Triq Il-Fran, Old Bakery Street) which sells excellent beer and food.
The Presidential Palace
We had planned to catch the ferry to Sliema, on the other side of Marsamxett harbour from Valletta (there are several towns on the other side of the Grand Harbour, known as the Three Cities, which we didn’t manage to reach). The walk down to the ferry gave more views of the bastions protecting the harbour, but the boat was cancelled due to high swells and we trudged back up the hill to the bus station and caught a bus round the bay. We found ourselves in a brewpub (The Brew Bar and Grill, 74 the Strand, Triq Ix-Xatt) near Sliema ferry terminal and spent a relaxing couple of hours there before heading home to Mellieha.
Sliema (above) and the neighbouring area of San Julian are the modern centre of the island. It is the least authentically Maltese area we saw. However, it is where most of the shopping, the main hotels and most of the nightlife are located and most visitors to Malta will be based there. It looked to us like where most of the money is – given that there is a lot sloshing around Malta. While much of the island can feel like a museum Sliema is modern and lively. Sliema was once a quiet village though most of the early villas have been replaced by large apartment blocks. Nearby St Julians (San Ġiljan) is very much a tourist resort, where the district of Paceville has grown in the past fifty years from a few farms to become the main nightlife area in Malta.
Ted gets his hands on a beer at 67 Kapitali
A bit about the beer which, after all, is the bears’s main interest wherever he goes. 67 Kapitali in Valetta was definitely the place for craft beer with about nine on tap and a wide range of bottles from Italy, Germany, Belgium and elsewhere in addition to the local selection. The main local brewery is Lord Chambray – their brewery and tap room is on an industrial estate in Gozo. They make a wide range of beers including IPA, bitter, stout and Kolsch and are available in a selection of bars round the island. As mentioned above the Brew Bar and Grill in Sliema brews its own beers, which we enjoyed. The craft beers are expensive (but worth it) selling for 5-6 euros per half litre (lots of places advertise pints but they look like half litres – maybe I’m being unfair). Bars tended to sell all draught craft beers at the same price irrespective of strength. There are a couple of other microbreweries on the islands – one of the main outlets appears to be the Fontanella Tea Garden in Mdina – which we walked past because of the misleading name. The only large scale commercial brewery on the islands is Simonds Farsons Cisk. Their Cisk lager is available everywhere for from 2.70 to 4 a pint (dearer in Valletta, cheaper in band clubs). However, they also make Farsons Blue Label amber ale which, though fizz, is a pleasant change from lager.
A selection of Lord Chambray bottles
Central and Southern Malta
Much of the centre of the island is taken up with towns such as Mosta, Naxxar, Lija, Birkikara and Hamrun which have merged together as suburbs of Valetta / Sliema. They aren’t unpleasant but it is uninspiring to crawl through them on long bus journeys to and from Valletta. The most notable site is the Mosta Rotunda, a basilica with a huge dome, which we saw from various angles, as buses took their various routes between Mellieha and Valletta.
The exception, to the west of the area is the fortified city of Mdina (L-Imdina), on the site of prehistoric settlements and the roman settlement of Melite. Mdina was the capital of the islands until 1530 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Game of Thrones location (as was the Azure Window on Gozo. We keep coming across locations wherever we travel – the programme seems to have been filmed everywhere. I must get round to watching it – is it any good?). Mdina is similar to the Cittadella on
Gozo with the old fortified town on a hill and a newer town below, also called Rabat. Mdina is on a grander scale and, though it declined in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries , today it remains inhabited, by around 300 people, mainly living in baroque eighteenth century mansions. There is cathedral, town hall and various churches, plus a few restaurants and places to stay. The fortifications are enormous – we walked around and took in the views over Malta. Ted was in rebellious mood and totally ignored the signs to keep off the walls.
Roman Melite was three times the size of Mdina and we visited the Roman Villa (Domvs Romana) justoutside the Greek Gate of Mdina. It was built in the first century BCE as an aristocratic town house and occupied for 300 years. It is now a museum built around the remains of the house and features an impressive mosaic with 3D effect (below).
We paid two visits to Rabat (Ir Rabat), the ‘suburb’ of Mdina directly outside the walls, which already had a larger population than Mdina by 1419. Rabat is now a town of 11,000 people, We wandered up the main street and found a tiny hole-in-the-wall café for a beer. We called in again on our return journey to the airport with time to spare, wandered round the back streets then sat in the Grotto Tavern and Café by the parish church (below), which turned out to produce great pasta dishes and sandwiches. There is even some railway buffery connected with Mdina and Rabat – see note 3 below.
From Mdina the 201 bus runs to the west coast of the island and the Dingli cliffs, with panoramic views from the road along the top of the cliffs. They are the highest point in Malta at 253m above sea level. The bus heads back inland to the village of Siggiewi then returns to the coast close to the Hagar Qim temple ruins (meant to be worth a visit) and on to the Blue Grotto. En route we passed a series of limestone quarries. The whole island is composed of limestone, which means that there is very little surface water on Malta. All the buildings except some of the most modern are built of limestone and the lack of any heavy industry (limestone is Malta’s only natural resource) and serious pollution make it difficult to guess the age of buildings as they all use the same limestone. Both old field boundaries and modern road embankments are limestone dry-stone dykes (See note 4). The roads were narrow which led to fun when our bus met quarry lorries and coaches full of schoolkids on the same bend.
Boats heading to and from the Blue Grotto
You cant see much of the Blue Grotto from the cliffs or from the row of restaurants and bars that have grown up by the boat landing where tourists are ferried to the grotto, a series of sea caverns. The small village is called Wied Iż-Żurrieq, but the bus stop is named Grotto, which is easier to remember. It was a pleasant sunny day and we decided to have lunch and people-watch as sightseeing buses came and went. We choose the Kingfisher which seemed like a good idea as it was upstairs with the best view. We sat for an hour waiting for two plates of pasta, the excuse being that it takes a long time to boil the water – eventually they served us and two other blokes then closed for the afternoon. With a prime view of the car park we noticed the radical Maltese vehicle registration system. The number plates of taxis are TAXI then a number then M for Malta (or G for Gozo) and bus number plates are BUS 123 etc (We also discovered that the Government cars parked outside the parliament were GM (Government of Malta). Wonder who spent weeks thinking that one up.
Notes: (3) In a country with no railways today I’ve discovered some railway buffery. The Malta Railway ran from Valletta (the station was on the site of the Parliament House just inside the walls and the route it took through them is on the photo of the fortifications) to Mdina, later extended to Museum, a station on the outskirts of Rabat. It was a metre gauge single track line which operated from 1883 to 1931. It reduced the journey time between Valletta and Mdina from 3 hours to just over 30 minutes, but was closed as buses became more frequent and popular. It was known in Maltese as ‘il-vapur tal-art’ – the land ship.
(4) For more about Maltese limestone see ‘Limestone Country: the story behind Malta’s iconic golden hue’ by Adriana Bishop at http://www.guidememalta.com . A more technical and geological article is is ‘Malta: A country shaped by limestone (and a bit of very old poo)’ by Karsten Eig at http://www.karsteneig.no/2013/11/ The limestone watchower in the photo is at the Blue Grotto.
Just southeast of Valletta, in the small town of Paola, are two of the most notable prehistoric remains in the island, surrounded by suburban back streets and a few minutes walk from each other. The Tarxien temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum are evidence of the earliest known inhabitants of Malta and both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We paid them a visit.
The Tarxien Temples (above) are a complex of four separate but attached structures dating from 3000BCE and earlier, discovered by local farmers (who were aware of the Hypogeum discovered a few years before) while ploughing in 1913. Excavation began shortly afterwards with further major excavation in the 1960s. The decorated stones include animals in relief, altars, spiral patterns and ‘fat ladies’ (thought to be a Goddess of fertility). Part of the site has been reconstructed with originals moved into the Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. To protect the site a walkway and explanatory panels were added in 2012 and a large shelter in 2015, protecting and explaining the site much more than on Dave’s last visit. On our visit the site was being looked after by a troop of feral cats which have taken up residence.
A ‘fat lady’ , the route between the two sites, and the the Hypogeum entrance
The Hypogeum is underground (that’s what it means in Greek) and was discovered in 1902 when workmen were installing cisterns for water collection in the houses above. When they realised what had been found the owners kept quiet about it as they feared, rightly, that once it became known their home would be demolished to allow excavation. A few homes were indeed removed but have been rebuilt and the entrance today is in the middle of a terrace of houses.
The central chamber, in the middle level of the Hypogeum
The Hypogeum is a series of Neolithic rock-cut underground caverns on three different levels, estimated to having been used over a period of 1500 years from 4000BCE. The remains of some 7,000 people found in the caverns has suggested that it was used as a necropolis and associated funeral rites. Among the major features are red ochre wall-paintings and carved stone features, complex lintels, steps and doorways and the clever use of light to penetrate the site. Following further excavation and recent restoration work, the damp micro-climate within the chambers is carefully controlled to preserve the remains. People are only allowed in groups of ten several times each day with a guide and audio-guide to explain the site On Dave’s last visit in the 1980s he remembers clambering up and down ladders on his own – now there is a walkway to follow. Photography is not allowed and bags and phones are left in lockers at the entrance – the pictures here are scans of postcards available at the site. Booking well in advance is necessary and kids under six aren’t allowed, though that didn’t stop a couple turning up with a baby expecting to get straight in, then asked if there was a viewing window.
The ‘Holy of Holies’, on the middle level of the Hypogeum
Much has been written about the site, though Dave cautions that much archaeological explanation is speculation, based on the belief and prejudices of the archaeologists. As an uninformed visitor what stuck me was the advanced construction and level of skill of the people involved.
Marsaxlokk is a fishing village on the south of the island, based around a large natural harbour, protected by fortifications, which allowed the development of the village. Today most of Malta’s fish supplies are landed there. The sweep of the bay and the gaily painted luzzu, the traditional inshore fishing boats, attract tourists, mainly day-trippers. It is easy to ignore the cranes of the container port in the distance and the power station on the other side of the bay. Along the front is a row of fish restaurants – becoming less expensive the further away from the bus and coach setting down stop. Needless to say, we ate (well) at the cheap end, sitting outside with several layers on (this was the day after the storms, before it warmed up). On the bus back to Valletta we picked up three cyclists struggling to get their rental bikes back in time for them to get to the airport, which made for a full bus and acrobatics by kids joining and leaving on their way back from school.
And that was our trip. There is a lot more we didn’t manage to see explore. Malta has a tortuous history of successive invasions -the (very real) risk of attack from the sea has led to the creation of many fortifications around the island, the harbours, and along the limestone ridges. The country would be fascinating to anyone with an interest in military history from the Knights of Malta to the Second World War. There are many more archaeological sites that we didn’t have time to visit. We enjoyed our base in Mallieha, which is useful for exploring the northern half of the islands and Gozo. Spending a few days based on Gozo would be a worthwhile option with its slower pace and ease of getting around. We would have liked to explore Valletta further (and the cities across the Grand Harbour) and a base in the city or across the bay in Sliema or St Julian’s would have made this easier.
Maltese is a mix of Italian and Arabic with English words thrown in. Place names have more than one spelling – the Maltese and Maltese-English versions can vary between maps and signposts. The Maltese we heard spoken was nothing like the clear Maltese we heard on the in-flight announcements. Some words, like local cooncil seemed familiar. Virtually everyone speaks reasonable English as a result of the links between the countries and most information is in English. There have been plenty of intermarriages and many British expats living in and holidaymakers visiting the resorts.
Getting to Malta and staying there.
When we started to research this trip it was surprising how many flights there were to Malta, even in the off-season. We flew Easyjet from and to Newcastle but there are very many other options. The airport is fairly small – on our return journey it was struggling to cope with five non-Schengen flights at one time – mostly to the UK. It may get very busy in the summer months.
We stayed at the Maritim Antonine Hotel and Spa in Mellieha (below) at a very cheap rate via Expedia – though prices were creeping up at the season began. The advantage to us was that it was in the town rather than by the beach. There is a lot of building work going on around Malta, so we were faced with the view of a crane from our balcony – it didn’t bother us once it had stopped swaying in the high winds. There is a multiplicity of options online most of which look fine, though a few are resort hotels away from any local facilities.
Bus is the main form of public transport and frequent bus services operated by Malta Public Transport serve all parts of the islands. Details of routes and times are at http://www.publictransport.com.mt . There is a map that can be downloaded and printed and their Tallinja app which shows next buses in real time. Fares are €1.50 in winter and €2 in summer and are valid for two hours including changes – the validity time is printed on paper tickets. A Tallinja Explore card for unlimited travel for 7 days costs €21 euros and can be obtained from bus stations and many shops (there is a full list on the website).
The system has a few idiosyncrasies. Buses are often delayed by heavy traffic (we never traveled between Valletta and Mellieha in the timetabled time) which can
lead to cancelled services and severe overcrowding – the photo is one of the quieter buses. In the northern resorts delays consequent on the morning rush hour are worst just at the time when visitors set out from their hotels to see the island. Standing on he bus for long periods is routine on busy routes – one trick is to use the app to just miss a bus and be first in the queue for the next one. Using routes which avoid Valletta can be useful as they are less busy. The A4 bus map is not very clear and uses the Maltese spelling of place names, which is often different from that on the bus screens and stops. However, the bus stop names, locations and service numbers on Google Maps were accurate and up to date. Finally, the bus stop named after the town seemed often to be the first stop on the edge of town rather than the town centre stop. It’s not difficult once you get used to it.
Another view from the Mdina (L-Imdina on the bus map) walls
Useful bus routes
From the Airport:
X1 for Mellieha, and the Gozo Ferry at Cirkeewwa, avoiding Valletta
X3 to Mdina/Rabat and Bugibba, avoiding Valletta
X4 to Valletta – this can be overcrowded with little room for luggage and excrutiatingly slow, stopping everywhere despite the ‘X’ designation – it took 40 minutes to cover the 6.5km when we used it.
Mellieha and the North Coast:
From Valletta to: Bugibba 45, 48; to Mellieha 41, 42, 49; to the Gozo Ferry 41, 42.
Bugibba – Mellieha – Gozo Ferry 221
From Sliema to: Bugibba 203, 212; to Mellieha and Gozo Ferry 222
Ferry (Vapor) – Rabat (Victoria): 301 direct connecting with ferry times (can be packed), 303 and 323 via longer routes (but quieter)
Rabat to: Xliendi 306 and 330; San Lawrenz/Dwejra 311
Central and South Western Malta:
Rabat/Mdina from: Valletta 50; 52, 53, 56; from Bugibba X3
Rabat – Dingli Cliffs – Blue Grotto – Airport: 201
Valletta to Blue Grotto: 74 in summer (nearby stop Panorama served all year)
Valletta to: the Hypogeum (stop is Ipogew) and Tarxien temples (stop is Neolitici) 81 82,84,85,88 ; to Marsaxlokk 81, 85.
Gozo ferry: runs every 45 mins, €4.25 return, payable at the Gozo side, http://www.gozochannel.com
Sliema – Valletta ferry: every 30 mins, last journey 1900 in winter, later in summer, €1.50 single, €2.80 return.
Comino: Boat trips from Cirkewwa and Mgarr
Two companies operate hop-on-hop-off buses in Malta (two routes) and Gozo. The routes are almost identical. €20 for a day ticket. Details at http://www.citysightseeing.com and http://www.maltasightseeing.com .Ted gets acquainted with a ‘fat lady’.
Archaeological sites and museums
Detains of opening times and prices of the archaeological sites, mueums and other historic buildings open to the public are at the Heritage Malta website http://www.heritagemalta.org . This is the site to book visits to the Hypogeum in advance. Be aware that the route between the Tarxien Temples and the Hypogeum, which are close to one another (both can be visited in a morning or afternoon) is not clearly marked. A good street plan or Google Maps will help – the entrance to the temples is on Triq It Tempji Neolitici and to the Hypogeum is on Triq Ic Cimiterju.
The red ochre wall paintings in the Oracle Chamber, the Hypogeum
Photos: All photographs are by Steve Gillon, except for the following: The introductory map is from http://www.mapsland.com, the Red Fort is from http://www.maltatina.com , the view of Sliema is from http://www.bayviewmalta.com and the Lord Chambray bottles are from Trip Advisor, sourced via Google Images. The three views of the Hypogeum are from postcards published by Heritage Malta and the photos are © Clive Vella.
Copyright: Text and photos, except for the above, are copyright © Steve Gillon, 2019
A traditional fishing boat at Marsaxlokk