Nature sites in Malta & across the Maltese Islands
The nature in Malta and the sister islands is similar and is mostly concentrated towards the deep and rich colours of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises you can witness. If you really want to get most of the sunrises and sunsets, then it is suggested to take the time and enjoy them in an area with unobstructed views of the horizon and the sea.
All photography in this article belongs to Alex Turnbull.
Nature in Malta
Malta was once rich in greenery and woodland, until the era of the Spanish galleons when trees were chopped down for shipbuilding. Since new trees weren’t planted to replace those taken down, over time without plant life having roots grip onto the soil, the soil got washed away and today the soil is also not in the same condition for plantation as it was back in the time of flourishing greenery. There used to also be streams and rivers, which were essential for inhabitants, as they live on an island which gets very hot and is surrounded by seawater. These streams eventually also dried out and today you can view some of what remained of the streams and rivers without the water.
The lack of greenery is unfortunately one aspect that is highly noticeable even as the plane approaches the island. Over the recent years, the remaining greenery has also been chopped down for further development of roads and buildings. However, in Gozo, a sister island that is much smaller, you can notice that it is much greener. From the moment you get off the ferry, you will notice new as well as older plants, palm trees, flowers and brushes across the island.
Buskett Gardens dates back to the post-Roman Republic, when the area was used for celebrations to honour the gods. Later, when Christianity flourished on the island, this area was used for Christian celebrations of St. Peter and St. Paul. After the Spanish galleons had chopped down the trees for shipbuilding material, the Knights Hospitaller planted trees at Buskett Gardens and used the area as a hunting reserve. Today, Buskett Gardens, located close to Siggiewi and Dingli, is a large area of greenery (473,694.5 sq. meters). It is also where the Verdala Palace is located, the official residence of the President of Malta.
Salt Pans in Malta and Gozo
There are Salt Pans found in both Malta and Gozo. In Malta, the Salt Pans are located at Zonqor Point in Iz-Zonqor, close to Marsascala. In Gozo, just off Xwejni bay (which is also a popular dive site) closely located to Qbajjar bay in the area of Zebbug you can visit these 350-year-old salt pans. For more information about Salt Pans in Gozo, make sure to check out the Comino and Gozo article.
Cliffs and caves
Qammieh cliff and Ghar Hasan cave
There are several different cliffs that you can also visit across Malta and Gozo, which will give you stunning views onto the open sea such as the Qammieh cliffs. Some of the cliffs also have caves, such as that of Ghar Hasan, which also comes with a legend. There are several versions of the legend, but they all circle around the Saracen whose name is Hasan. A Saracen was a term used mainly by Christian writers in the Middle Ages to describe a person or persons who live in the region of Arabia Petraea and who were distinguished from the other Arabs.
The legend mentions Hasan, who abducted a beautiful Maltese farm girl and kept her in this cave. When the locals found out, they arranged an attack on the cave and Hasan threw the girl into the sea and jumped right after, killing himself.
Dingli cliffs, Ghar Lapsi and Blue Grotto
A must-see is also the area of Dingli cliffs, which is the highest point in Malta and all the Maltese islands (253 meters above sea). From Dingli cliffs, you can get a very clear view of Filfla.
View from Dingli cliffs
Filfla is an uninhabited islet found 5 km off the coast of Malta. Today, it is not allowed for anyone to go to Filfla as it is a bird reserve since 1980. The only people which may be granted access to the islet are those with an educational or scientific purpose and must get permission from the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. Fishing closer than 1.9 km to the islet is not allowed due to the possibility of encountering unexploded ordnance which may have been left behind by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force who used the islet for target practice back in 1971. These restrictions were set in 1988 in the Filfla Natural Reserve Act.
Closely located is the beautiful Ghar Lapsi, which is a popular dive site, and the Blue Grotto which is another stunning natural site to visit. You can get a boat ride to experience the Blue Grotto and the incredible shades of the sea with light reflections inside the cave systems.
Ras Il-Hamrija window
Adjacent to the Blue Grotto is the Wied Iz-Zurrieq or the Zurrieq Valley. The easiest way to enter is with the use of a small boat. The water is quite deep and during the summer season this area can get quite busy with several boats docked. Wied Iz-Zurrieq is another popular place as a dive site as there is the Um El Faroud wreck as well as it is an incredibly beautiful spot for those who enjoy underwater photography.
Ta’ Cenc cliffs
The Ta’ Cenc cliffs are different from those cliffs at Dingli in Malta. These are smoother and have several sea cave openings. Even though they are not as high as the Dingli cliffs in Malta, many visitors speak very highly of this location and one can never go wrong with watching a beautiful sunset or sunrise when watching from a cliff. For more information about Ta’ Cenc cliffs, make sure to check out the Comino and Gozo article.
Inland sea, bays, and beaches
Dwejra, Gozo Inland sea, tunnel, and Fungus Rock
In Gozo, Dwejra, where once stood the Azure window, is also a site that simply must be experienced. Just before approaching Dwejra, you can notice a huge aqueduct, after which you will notice on the right, the inland sea. In the inland sea, there is a cave that leads you to an opening and just deep and crystal-clear waters. Further on the right, are the ruins of the iconic Azure window and on the left, you can see the Fungus Rock. You can also admire the gorgeous cliffs of San Lawrenz. For more information about Dwejra, Gozo Inland sea, tunnel, and the Fungus Rock, make sure to check out the Comino and Gozo article.
One of the things anyone notices as they approach Malta by boat or plane is the deep and surreal colours of the Mediterranean Sea. All the Maltese Islands have beaches along the perimeter of the islands. There is also plenty of water sports equipment that can be rented on most beaches, such as jet skis, dinghy sailing, windsurfing, paddleboats, kayaks and many others.
Inland sea in Gozo
Manikata – Ghajn Tuffieha, Golden bay and Gnejna bay
Manikata is a village in Malta, which isn’t highly developed with buildings and is mainly made up of fields, two very popular sandy beaches, and a third beach which is popular for those who are looking for a quiet beach setting after trekking with stunning views. There is a tower, Ghajn Tuffieha Tower when you reach the end of the road by car, and from that tower when facing the beautiful open sea, you have Golden bay on your right and the Ghajn Tuffieha bay on your left. Golden bay is easily accessible and has the Radisson Blu Resort located right next to it. The bay does experience strong currents from North West winds, so it is important to stay in shallower waters when a red flag is signalled.
Ghajn Tuffieha bay
Ghajn Tuffieha bay is one that many recognize due to the 200 steps one must walk down to get to the beach. Despite the number of stairs one must walk down and then up, it is a very popular beach. The same as with Golden bay, if the red flag is signalled, it is best to stay in the shallow waters. Above Ghajn Tuffieha bay, you can notice a trekking path which many use for a nice walk that leads you to a piece of land that is across to the Ghajn Tuffieha Tower. On the left of the land is Gnejna bay. To get to this bay, there is quite a steep clay and limestone slope from the trekking path which leads you to the bay. The bay may be not as full of people due to the walk one must take to get to it, as well as the minimal amount of sand found on the bay. It is also a bay that is popular amongst the occasional nudists so just a heads up.
Mellieha / Ghadira bay, Slugs bay, Coral Lagoon and L’Ahrax
Mellieha bay which is also known as Ghadira bay is the largest beach in Malta. It is a sandy beach and for those who don’t like depth, this beach is perfect. One must walk for quite a while until reaching deep-sea levels. Mellieha bay hardly experiences rough seas and does not have any underwater currents. The shallow water of the beach also makes it very popular amongst families. The beach is separated into 3 parts, the middle part being the widest and with the longest stretch, from the three sections. There is also a big selection of water activities which you can enjoy, such as canoeing, windsurfing, water-skiing, and many others.
In close proximity to Malta’s largest beach, is a remote beach called Slug’s bay. Above this bay are the L’Ahrax tal-Mellieha cliffs. It has a natural swimming pool which leads to the beautiful open sea. Although it is mainly sandy, there are also rocks found on the bay. Many locals with boats, also find it easier to access this beach with their boats and to leave the boats just off the coast.
When standing on the cliffs of L’Ahrax tal’ Mellieha, there are also two campgrounds. Campground Ahrax Tar-Ramel and Campground Ahrax Tat-Tunnara. Further on, or rather opposite Slugs bay towards Armier, you find a stunning dive site called Coral Lagoon. It is a hole that was the former ceiling of a cave. Many dive and jump inside this hole to enter the cave. There is also an opening which those that jump in, use to swim out of it. The hole leads you into the open sea, from which then you climb up the rocks onto land.
Mistra bay and St. Paul’s Islands
Mistra bay is an enclosed bay found between Mellieha and Xemxija, but on the side of Xemxija bay. The bay starts off as sandy but as you walk further into the sea, it turns into a pebbled surface. It is advised to wear water sandals as the surface of the pebbles can be slippery.
Closely located to Mistra bay is the St. Paul’s Islands, also known as Selmunett. The St. Paul’s Islands have been uninhabited since World War 2 and are considered to be the largest uninhabited islands on the island of Malta. Before 1575, these islands were called Isola Salomone and Isola Salomonetto, after the Salomone family who owned land in Mellieha. The origin of the current name, St. Paul’s Islands, refers to the story of Paul the Apostle and his story of getting shipwrecked on, what is written to be Malta while on his way to Rome, in chapter 28 in the Acts of The Apostles in the bible.
St. Paul’s Islands
St. Peter’s Pool
St. Peter’s Pool is a stunning natural swimming pool that is closely located to Marsaxlokk. This rocky beach has become one of everyone’s favourites due to its clear crystal waters. It is also a great place for those who enjoy snorkeling. One thing to note is that are no facilities surrounding St. Peter’s Pool, so anyone who goes there always makes sure to get everything they may need with them. It is also not the best place for small children.
Il-Hofra L-Kbira, Il-Hofra Z-Zghira and Il-Kalanka cave
Il-Hofra L-Kbira and Il-Hofra Z-Zghira are rocky beaches that are secluded. Both are closely located in the region of Delimara, close to St. Peter’s Pool. Getting there isn’t an easy task. To get to Il-Hofra L-Kbira you should take the road called Triq Xrobb L-Ghagin, in the direction towards the Nature Park and Centre for Sustainable Development. To get to Il-Hofra Z-Zghira, you need to take the road that is taken towards St. Peter’s Pool, Triq Delimara, turn left, and at the end of that road is the beach. St. Peter’s Pool is a further drive, with that road going on the right. There is a sea cave called Il-Kalanka cave located Il-Hofra L-Kbira which is perfect for those who like a little adventure.
Ras Il-Hamra, Gozo
Ras Il-Hamra translates to Red Beach, also called Ramla bay. It got its name due to the sand’s exquisite orange-red colour. Surrounding the beach are rocky cliffs and a beautiful valley and this beach are definitely one of the most unique beaches in the Maltese Islands. Many use this area not only for swimming but also for hiking. Calypso cave overlooks Ramla bay, as well as does Mixta cave. For more information about beaches in Gozo including information on Ras Il-Hamra, Calypso cave, and Mixta cave, make sure to check out the Comino and Gozo article.
Comino and the Blue Lagoon
Comino or Kemmuna and the Blue Lagoon is simply a must to anyone visiting the Maltese Islands. Comino is the third island after Malta and Gozo by size and to date has a population of 3. There is just one hotel and the population is the family that runs the hotel. Comino is perfect for those who want to get away from today’s busy life, with no roads, cars, and when off-season, no people. It’s perfect for those who like trekking, diving, snorkeling, or just simply swimming.
One of the well-known locations to top the list of Nature in Malta would be the Blue Lagoon. It has been seen by far more people than expected because many people have seen it without ever visiting Comino. One of the most renowned films, Troy was filmed in the Blue Lagoon. Its fascinating shades of blue and crystal-clear waters surprise visitors of Comino, even if they have been there several times before. There are several options to get to Comino by boat. There are ferries that leave every 25 to 35 minutes from Cirkewwa in Malta and Mgarr in Gozo to go to Comino. If you have a private boat, you can also use the boat to get there. There are also the Maltese Islands tours if you wish to simply have a boat tour. For more information about Comino, make sure to check out the Comino and Gozo article.