GOOD TO KNOW:
Plug Type: G
Currency: EUR – Euro (€)
Languages: Maltese, English
Time Zone: GMT +2 hour(s)
Mellieħa: Things to do and see
Għadira Bay: Easily accessible, this spot is a favourite with families, who tend to stay out for the day. There are sun beds and umbrellas for rent, but there is still space on this wide beach for anyone wishing to bring their own equipment. There are plenty of snack bars and small cafes and the beach offers different types of water fun, such as pedal boats rental, parasailing or large floating play areas.
Għadira Natural Reserve: The nature reserve encloses two types of habitat that are very rare in Malta: wetland and salt marsh. The area was declared a bird sanctuary in 1978 after BirdLife Malta presented scientific data to the government showing the ornithological value of the wetland (read more here).
Armier Bay: The sandy beach at Armier stretches around the shore of an open bay and is just a short drive away from Għadira bay. This sandy bay has a lovely view over the Islands of Comino and Gozo. Bars and small restaurants provide the necessary beach facilities.
Popeye’s Village: This popular attraction is the film set of the 1980 film, Popeye. Popeye’s Village has daily shows for the tourist as well as rides for the younger children, slides, trampolines and a Lido.
St. Agatha’s Tower: This Tower, guarding the bays of Mellieha and Ghajn Tuffieha, is more known as the Red Tower. It was built to act as a signalling post in 1647 for communication with the island of Gozo, so it’s natural that it dominates the skyline of Malta’s Marfa Ridge. It originally housed cannon, 30 men and enough food to withstand a siege for 40 days (read more here).
White Tower Bay: White Tower Bay is enclosed by a fortification wall that was built by the knights.
Żurrieq & Southeast Malta: Things to do and see
Church of the Annunciation: On a minor road between Żurrieq and Mqabba is the Chapel of the Annunciation, in the deserted medieval settlement of Ħal Millieri. This tiny church, set in a pretty garden, dates from the mid-15th century and contains important 15th-century frescoes – the only surviving examples of medieval religious art in Malta.
Parish Church of St. Catherine: The Parish Church of St Catherine was built in the 1630s and houses a fine altarpiece of St Catherine – painted by Mattia Preti in 1675, when the artist took refuge here during a plague epidemic – and there are several 17th- and 18th-century windmills dotted about the village.
Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra: The megalithic temples of Ħaġar Qim (adge-ar eem; ‘standing stones’) and Mnajdra (mm-nigh-dra) are the best preserved and most evocative of Malta‘s prehistoric sites, and have an unparalleled location atop sea cliffs, looking over to the islet of Filfla. They’re believed to have been specially constructed to align with movements of the sun, and it’s worth the effort, especially around the summer (21 June) and winter (21 December) solstices at some of the supposed solar alignments, when Heritage Malta organises special guided tours.
Tentlike canopies have been erected over the temples to protect them from the elements. There’s also an informative visitors centre with some nice hands-on exhibits to help explain how and why the structures may have been built, and some way-marked nature trails in the area surrounding the temples, which allow for splendid views out to sea.
Blue Grotto: The Blue Grotto is located on the southern coast of Malta, west of Wied iz-Żurrieq facing the little deserted islet of Filfla. The site got its name from a British soldier who thought that since the area looks like the Grotta Azzurra in Capri, it deserves the same name. The site is extremely popular, attracting some 100,000 tourists per year, also for diving purposes. The site also features in the film Troy (2004) starring Brad Pitt. The location of this fascinating natural grotto combines with sunlight and the surrounding chain of caves to reflect the phosphorescent colours of the submerged flora and the deep dark shade of blue of the sea.
Some caves, including the Blue Grotto, which is the biggest cave in the area, can be reached by boat from Wied iz-Żurrieq, from where you can also enjoy superb views of Filfla and the surroundings. The ‘frejgatini’ boats depart daily between 09:00 and 16:30 weather permitting, (apart from Christmas and New Year) and cruise for about 25 minutes before reaching the caves. The water can be rough but the boatmen know the area well, so your safety is ensured.
Għar Lapsi: On the road west of the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra temples is a turn-off (signposted) to Għar Lapsi. The name means ‘Cave of the Ascension’, and there was once a fishermen’s shrine here. The road winds steeply to the coast and ends at a car park beside a couple of restaurants and boathouses. The main attraction here is the swimming – a little cove in the low limestone cliffs has been converted into a natural lido, with stone steps and iron ladders giving access to the limpid blue water. It’s a popular spot for bathing and picnicking among locals, and is well frequented by divers and fishermen.
Markets: There is a street market every Thursday morning in Żurrieq where one can find fresh vegetables, fish direct from the fishermans, as well as everyday needs. On Sunday morning, there is a bigger, more popular market in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk where one can go to buy fresh fish and seafood caught during the same morning as well as locally produced honey, fruit jams, wine as well as vegetables, souvenirs and clothes. After shopping at the market, you can have lunch in one of the many seafood restaurants scattered in the picturesque bay of Marsaxlokk.
Outdoor activities: The southern coast (inc. Wied Babu and Wied iz-Zurrieq) provide a place of heaven for those interested in rock climbing, trecking and absailing, from novice to experts, with routes of differrent grades of difficulty. You will find several guides who can assit you with the interesting Maltese landscapt that offers sea cliff walls, caves and sea slabs through its rugged coastline. The ideal climate provides ideal outdoor coniditons and when it gets too hot, immerge yourself into deep water soloing and sea lever traversing for an exciting experience.
Diving: Wied iz-Żurrieq is popular with divers because of the Um el Faroud tanker wreck, a 3,147 gross ton vessel. The wreck has been prepared for diving, with all doors and windows removed, and entrances and exit holes cut. This is a great dive, suitable for experienced divers only, and using a 15l cylinder.
The east reef site offers many different areas to explore. With drop offs, ledges, gullies and boulders, all surrounded by sea grass and sandy areas, this is an amazing site. It has caves, the walls of which are covered in a wide variety of brightly coloured corals and it also serves as home to many fish; damselfish, red mullet, cardinal fish, moray eels, cuttlefish, wrasse, John Dory, scorpion fish, painted combers, and even seahorses have all been seen here. Wied iz-Żurrieq is also a great site for a night dive. Great lighting on land, reef walls to navigate underwater, and a full moon makes this the perfect night dive site.