From the vast prehistoric caves of the Hypogeum to the picturesque coves of Ghar Lapsi, and even Xerri’s Grotto, located under a private home, Malta offers plenty for opportunity for exploration below ground level. When the sun gets a little too hot to handle, seek out some of these incredible subterranean caves in Malta.
This so-called ‘cave of darkness’ is one of the oldest caves in Malta. A significant local landmark, Ghar Dalam was found to contain the remains of the first settlers on the island (around 7,400 years ago) as well as the fossilized remains of dwarf elephants and hippopotami dating back some 500,000 years. Discovered in the late 19th century, the cave can now be accessed via the on-site museum.
The largest of a number of small caves located near Wied iz-Zurrieq, The Blue Grotto is one of the most popular caves in Malta – one glance at the gorgeous azure waters and you’ll understand why. Visit in the morning, when the water takes on many different shades of blue and the reflections of underwater flora hit the cave walls. Rumour has it this site inspired the Hollywood blockbuster, Troy.
Located behind an unassuming little house in ix-Xaghra, on the island of Gozo, you’ll find one of the most unusual caves in Malta, Ninu’s Cave. Discovered by local resident Joseph Rapa, the cave is accessed via a steep set of stairs inside a private family home. Guided tours are usually taken by a member of the family, who, for a small fee, will point out all the interesting geological features of the cave, such as some impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
A little way down the road from Ninu’s Cave, you’ll find Xerri’s Grotto. Also entered through a family home, this cave was discovered in 1923 by Antonio Xerri when he attempted to dig a well outside his house. Famous for its alabaster stalactites and stalagmites, much of the excavations took place during WW11, when the cave was used as an air raid shelter.
Surrounded by myth and superstition, Calypso’s Cave is believed to be the place where sea nymph, Calypso imprisoned Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. But aside from the Ancient Greek associations, the real attraction of this particular cave is its awe-inspiring views out over the burnt red sands of Ramla Bay. Wander down onto the beach below to take in the remains of an 18th century fort built by the Knights of Malta, or simply take a dip in the cooling waters.
A large subterranean burial chamber dug out of the rock and spread across three separate levels, the Hypogeum is undoubtedly one of the most impressive caves in Malta. First discovered in 1902, excavations continued up until 1911, with the many interconnected chambers and passageways finally opening to an intrigued public in 1908. Unfortunately, all this interest resulted in some damage to the Hypogeum’s delicate prehistoric wall paintings, meaning only ten people are now allowed in per day. Best get in there quick, then!
Ghar Lapsi, meaning ‘ascension cave’, is a popular swimming spot found just south of the Blue Grotto. The cave is a little on the small side but bring a snorkel and flippers and you’ll get a great view of Malta’s marine life through incredibly clear waters. A popular local haunt during the summer, come prepared for company.
Are you an art lover or culture vulture holidaying in Malta? Well, you’ll be pleased to find that this Mediterranean island may be small, but it packs a punch when it comes to art and culture. Here are six recommended destinations to add to your itinerary to experience the best of Malta’s art scene.