Postcards & Passports

Malta: A Southern European Country with a 5000-Year History

This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019

Malta is an archipelago of 3 islands, consisting of the main island of Malta, where most people live, Gozo, the northernmost island, and Camino, which has just one permanent resident. 
Malta is about 60 miles south of Sicily and 180 miles from the north of Africa. You can catch a ferry from Sicility to Malta or fly in from most cities in Europe.

Guest post by Skye R.

Malta has been influenced and conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Ottoman Empire, British and for a brief time by the French and the Spanish!
It’s no wonder that the native language of the Maltese people is influenced by a variety of different languages, including English, which is one of the official languages of the country.

When we think about visiting Europe, we consider countries like France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland or the Netherlands. However, I know of many expats who did not know about Malta and once they ended up here, they never left. I am one of them! In case you are in Malta and looking for an apartment, I would recommend using Remax Letting.  

Now, let me take you on a journey through Malta’s rich history…

Għar Dalam: 5200 BC

The Cave of Darkness as it is known in English, can be found in the southern city of Birżebbuġa in the main island of Malta.

It was excavated in 1885. See the bones of animals from the Ice age which became extinct 10,000 years ago on display. You can also discover the artifacts left behind from the earliest human settlers more than 7000 years. They were believed to have come from Sicily.

Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum: Underground Settlement 4000BC

Hypogeum in Greek means ‘underground’. It is an underground sanctuary and massive necropolis with the remains of over 7000 people. It is a very special site for history aficionados and only about 60 people are allowed to visit inside the tomb.  

I recommend buying tickets at least 2 months in advance from Heritage Malta’s website. The tickets for guided tours cost €35 and tickets for the audio-visual show costs about €5. Buying just the audio-visual ticket does not give you access to the actual tomb.

Ggantija: A Megalithic temple older than the pyramids!  

Ggant in Maltese means Giant. The Maltese believe this ancient temple complex was built by a race of giants as long ago as 3600 BC. It is one of four Megalithic temples which are UNESCO world heritage sites. The other three are  Ħaġar Qim, Ta’ Ħaġrat Temples and Skorba Temple.

Located in the island of Gozo, this ancient temple complex was built more than 5500 years ago, making it older than the pyramids in Egypt. It is the second oldest religious structure in the entire world. The oldest one is called Gobekli tepe, which is located in Turkey.

You need to take a ferry from  Ċirkewwa in the north from the main island of Malta. You can find information about the schedule and fares at the Gozo Channel websiteBe sure to get a multi-pass ticket to visit all four temples. It costs about €50.

Cittadella: a citadel inhabited since 1500 BC

After visiting Ggantija, return to Victoria and take a stroll through the Cittadella which has been inhabited for the past 3500 years. You should first stop by at the visitor’s center before you enter the Citadel to get orientated for your journey through time in this mesmerizing place.

I don’t want to talk too much about its history because it might ruin your experience in the Visitor’s Center. You can find some panaromic 360-degree pictures of the Citadella here .

Mdina, the Former capital of Malta inhabited since 800 BC

A fortified city still lit by lamps at night, Mdina was the first city in Malta. It was established by Phoenician settlers who named it ‘Maleth’. The Romans renamed it as ‘Melite’ when they conquered it.

It is said that modern-day Mdina is much smaller than ancient Mdina. It was the capital of Malta until 1530 when the Order of St John took control of the island and decided to shift the capital to Birgu.

It’s called the ‘Silent City’ and only a handful of residents of the city are allowed to drive inside the city walls. You can usually hire horse-drawn carriages outside the city walls to explore the city.

Some beautiful places to explore in this timeless city are:

  • the Roman Villa (Domus Romana)
  • Catacombs
  • St. Paul’s Grotto
  • The churches and monasteries
Valletta: Capital City and UNESCO Heritage Site 1530

As the southernmost capital in the European Union, Valletta was established by the Order of St John. The order of St John was a vassal kingdom of Sicily and ruled over Malta for almost four centuries from 1530 to 1780 and protected her from invasions from the Ottoman Empire.

Take a stroll through the beautiful ancient streets of Valletta and discover beautiful buildings with architecture inspired by Sicilian, Gothic, and Arabic cultures.

Places to see in Valletta:

  • St. John’s Cathedral
  • Grandmaster’s Palace
  • The Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens

Malta is teeming with tourists during the summer and you can find a map at the gate of the city along with brochures. A tourist information office can also be found next to the gate.

For now, you can go to  to learn about more points of interest in Valletta. It’s an excellent guide for travelers exploring Malta. These are just some of the many historical places Malta has to offer. You can also visit Heritage Malta’s website to find out more, and be sure to pick up some brochures at the airport.

I hope you decide to visit this hidden gem in the Mediterranean the next time you visit Europe. You definitely won’t regret it!

Skye is a 27-year-old digital nomad from California and has been living in Malta and Sicily for the past 3 years.





7 thoughts on “Malta: A Southern European Country with a 5000-Year History

  1. Lara Dunning

    I didn’t realize there were so many cool historic sites in Malta! I’d love to see the cave, temple, and the underground sanctuary with tickets for the tomb. I had no idea, thanks for putting these things on my radar. 🙂

  2. Evelyne

    I have always had Malta on the radar but never looks a lot into it. Wow there are so many wonderful things to visit with such a long history, I am such a sucker for these types of trips. Thanks for opening up my eyes.

  3. Erin | The Epicurean Traveler

    I’d love to visit Malta someday. It has been on my travel wishlist for a while, and this post reminded me why. It’s such a pretty country, and as someone who loves to be around the water, it seems like an ideal destination for me. I didn’t realize how many historical sites there were to explore though. Great to know for a future trip!

  4. Melody Pittman

    Valletta is a UNESCO site? Good enough reason for me to visit Malta right there! 😉 I would also be interested in seeing Hypogeum underground area. That sounds very interesting. As many European cruises as I’ve done, I’ve still not made it to Malta.


    I think Mdina, the former capital of Malta is the best option if you want to visit a European country with 5000 years of history. Really great post — well compiled. Thanks for the information.

  6. Aymen

    Thank you once again for your love and willingness to share your feelings. I really like the blog. I have shared your site with many friends and family. It is always a pleasure to read.

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