Prehistoric monuments such as the Ggantija Temples, the Mnajdra and Hagar Qim Temples, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, the Tarxien Temples, and the Bugibba Temple are among the best things to see in Malta.

Out of all these Neolithic monuments, the Ggantija structures are the oldest.

This article shows you how to visit the Ggantija Archaeological Park of Gozo, when to go and why bother exploring these megalithic buildings.

ggantija temples panoramic view

Ggantija Temples History

The Ggantija temples are two Neolithic heritage sites located on the island of Gozo just northwest of Malta, dating back to around 3600-3200 BCE.

They are considered among the earliest freestanding manmade structures in the world. The temples are older than the pyramids of Egypt, constructed well before Stonehenge or similar sites.

How Many Temples Are There in the Ggantija Archaeological Park?

The two temples are called the South Temple and North Temple.

The South Temple is better preserved and larger.

The temples get their name from a Maltese legend that they were built by giants. They provide a stunning window into what life was like on the Mediterranean island over 5,500 years ago.

ggantija temples violeta matei

This is my first stop on this day trip to Gozo from Malta – I came to Gozo to visit Ggantija in the first place.

How To Get There: A Scenic Ferry Ride Away from Malta

The Ggantija temples sit just outside the village of Xaghra on Gozo island, which is reachable by ferry from Cirkewwa harbor on Malta’s northwestern coast.

Visitors can drive and park at the harbor or take a bus from destinations around Malta directly to the ferry port. The ferry ride takes only around 25 minutes and offers beautiful views of the Gozo Channel.

Regular public buses on Gozo run to the Xaghra bus terminal, a simple walk from the Ggantija temples.

For those staying on Gozo, day trips are also available from select hotels and tour companies.

When to Visit: Early and Late for Smaller Crowds

As one of Gozo’s top landmarks, tour groups frequent the site along with individual travelers. To beat larger crowds, early morning and late afternoon are ideal times for a more serene visit.

Ggantija Complex Opening Hours

The temples are open daily as follows:

– Winter time: 9:00am – 5:00pm

– Summer time: 9:00 am – 6:00pm

The winter months tend to be less crowded overall as well, though the weather may be more prone to rainfall.

Summertime also extends the evening hours to explore the structures just as the first Neolithic builders did ages ago under starry Mediterranean skies.

How Much Time Does It Take To Visit the Temples?

I’ve been to Ggantija in June, traveling from Cirkewwa harbor on Malta.

Getting to the archaeological park was as easy as riding a bus for 30-40 minutes.

The visit took about two hours. The ticket includes visiting the two temples and the museum.

As a matter of fact, you need to pass through the museum to get to the temples, so you can’t miss it.

Guided Tours or Self-Guided Visit?

A self-guided visit allows you to see everything at your own pace. There’s an audio guide in front of the two temples. You can listen to that commentary to understand the history of the monuments. The guide is available in a wide array of languages, English and German included.

On the other hand, a guided tour would allow you to relax and not worry about the logistic of getting to the temples from Malta or finding your way around Gozo.

Click here to see the details of a day tour from Malta to Gozo that includes a visit to the Ggantija Archaeological Park.

ggantija temples unesco heritage

The entrance to Ggantija museum and temples

ggantija temples hole in wall

These holes in the walls by the entrance were supposedly holding the door hinges.

ggantija temples museum rolling blocks

Stone balls were used to move huge limestone slabs around.

Why Visit: Immense Historical Significance

Beyond their striking historical significance as some of humanity’s earliest freestanding monuments, the temples are marvels of engineering before complex machinery.

Using only stone tools and work animals, ancient peoples quarried giant slabs of rock and transported them to construct limestone walls with huge megaliths topping the structures.

The technical sophistication of the temple’s central passageway, interior rooms with various altars and niches, and the rounds of sacred chambers remains impressive even today.

The Physics laboratory at nearby Gozo University actively researches the site. Various figurines, statuettes, decorative pottery and important artifacts found in situ help paint a picture of what life looked like 5,500 years ago. You’ll see many of these artifacts in the Ggantija Archeological Museum.

Just look at the following fragment of skeleton showing that the individual suffered from spina bifida. Scientists estimate that the age of death of this person was somewhere between 8 and 13 years.

ggantija temples museum spina bifida

Spina bifida is a developmental disorder of the backbone, causing leg motor problems

There’s also evidence of people suffering from dental problems, as shown in the skull fragment in the image below:

ggantija temples museum dental problems

Individual affected by two dental abscesses, who also had lost a number of teeth during their life

There are many other examples like these in the museum. I highly recommend it to those who want to gain a better understanding of life in the neolithic age.

ggantija temples museum woman statue

ggantija temples gozo island scenery

Gozo Island, Europe’s Hidden Gem

Of all Mediterranean islands, little Gozo holds astonishing Neolithic secrets and the Ggantija temples should be on the itinerary for any history buff, archaeology enthusiast or cultural explorer imagining Malta’s ancient past.

Life on Gozo unfolds at a slower pace. The breathtaking scenery, the monuments, the gorgeous sandy beaches, the food, and the local traditions are only a few things that recommend Gozo as one of the best islands in the Mediterranean to visit or to live on.

Violeta Matei
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