By Travel Oh TravelWednesday, November 13, 2013 | 4:54 PM
Malta is a gold mine when it comes to places to visit. In fact, every town and village on the Maltese Islands has something interesting to discover. Before planning your visit to Malta, it is a good idea to list all the major tourist attractions and fun places to go to, so as not to miss them.
Valletta, the capital city Valletta is the capital city of Malta and is named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, a French nobleman who was Grand Master of the Order of St. John and leader of the defenders during the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565. After the great siege of 1565, the Order of St. John decided to found a new city on the Xiberras Peninsula to fortify their position in Malta. Francesco Laparelli designed the city, while Gerolamo Cassar built many of the most important buildings. Valletta was one of the earliest sites inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage list and is regarded as the world's first planned community.
St. John Cathedral Location: Republic Street, Valletta. Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar built St. John’s Cathedral between 1573 and 1578 on a design. The floor is entirely taken by knight's graves all having intricately inlaid marble in different colors. The cathedral was largely decorated by another Italian artist and a knight himself, Mattia Preti in the 17th Century, who designed the intricate carved stonewalls, all done on site, and painted the vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John. 3. Mdina, the silent city the word Mdina is derived from the Arabic word ‘medina’, which means 'city'. It was first created as such by the Romans when they separated it from the rest of the town, which became Rabat, which means Suburb, and fortified it. Mdina was already the principal settlement of the Phoenician around 3,000 years ago and up until the arrival of the Knights of St. John in the mid 1500's, it was the capital of Malta. Today Mdina is a major tourist attraction recognized internationally as an important UNESCO heritage site and is the seat of the Maltese bishop.
Ggantija Temples Location: Temples Street, Xaghra. The Ggantija Temples is the best preserved and the oldest freestanding structure in the world. It consists of two megalithic temples surrounded by a massive common boundary wall. The temples were cleared around 1826 and consist of two Neolithic temples dating back to 3,500 B.C.
The Blue Lagoon Location: Comino. The Blue Lagoon is located along the coast of Comino, the small island that lies between Malta and Gozo. The lagoon enjoys crisp, clear, turquoise waters that are perfect for swimming. At both sides of the lagoon, there are small sandy beaches and a variety of interesting rocky beaches to explore.
St. Paul's Catacombs Location: St. Agatha Street, Rabat. St. Paul's catacombs are a maze of narrow passages, and contain very interesting carvings. The Roman cemetery was located on the outskirts of the old Roman capital Mdina, as the Roman law prohibited burials within the city. The characteristic feature of the Maltese catacombs is the presence of round tables known as agape tables carved from stone with slanting sides on which mourners reclined to take part in a farewell repast. St Paul's Catacombs represent the earliest and largest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta and was cleared and investigated in 1894 by Dr. A.A. Caruana, the pioneer of Christian archaeology in Malta.
Mosta Dome Location: Mosta. The Mosta Dome is the third largest unsupported dome in Europe and is dedicated to the Assumption. It was built between 1832 and 1863 around Mosta's previous parish church, which was then demolished and brought out stone by stone, through the doorways of the magnificent new edifice. The Mosta Dome is an architectural masterpiece distinguished by the grandeur of its 67-meter high cupola and neo-classic façade embellished by iconic columns. The church escaped destruction in the Second World War when an afternoon air raid on 9 April 1942 saw a 200kg bomb penetrating the dome and landed on the mosaic floor where 300 people were gathered in prayer. The bomb failed to explode and a replica of the bomb is now on display in the church.
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum Location: Burial Street, Paola. Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is a subterranean structure excavated around 3,600 B.C. and consists of a system of caves, passages and cubicles cut into the stone, similar to the interiors of megalithic temples. It is the only prehistoric underground temple in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage. To ensure its conservation, the site's microclimate is strictly regulated. For this reason, the site is open to a maximum of 80 visitors each day.
Blue Grotto Location: Zurrieq. The Blue Grotto is the most famous cave in Malta, with its deep waters displaying magnificent dazzling colors, ranging from turquoise to deep blue. Situated near the village of Zurrieq in the south west of Malta, the 43-metrehigh cave is hollowed out of the cliff rock face. The waters around the limestone caves and archways are said to be at their most impressive in the early morning when the sun's rays glimmer through the opening to the grotto. The cave was given its English name by British soldiers who thought that its blue waters resembled the Grotta Azzurra in Capri. To get to the grotto, visitors have to travel by boat.
Hagar Qim Temples Location: Hagar Qim Street, Qrendi. Hagar Qim temple was excavated for the first time in 1839. The megalithic temples date from what is known as the Ggantija phase around 3,400 B.C. and are estimated to be one thousand years older than the pyramids at Giza. The temples are built of globigerina limestone rock, some towering six meters high, and weighing around 20 tones. The complex is an impressive maze of corridors, chambers, niches and altars, all carved out of stone using flint. On the morning of the summer solstice, sunlight passes through a hole known as the 'oracle hole' and fills the apse of the temple.
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