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Five unusual things you can do in Malta

Malta may be a small island but size can be deceiving. From an entire ‘village’ full of cats to a neolithic necropolis, there’s much more to Malta than meets the eye.

Five unusual things you can do in Malta
Diving at the site of the Azure Window. Photo: Visit Malta

Presenting five unusual things you shouldn’t miss in Malta.

Explore a prehistoric tomb

From mythological Atlantis to the lost city of El Dorado, hidden or lost places have always captured the imagination.

In Malta, you can explore an underground burial site that went undiscovered for thousands of years. The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a neolithic necropolis nestled under the streets of Paola, also known as Raħal Ġdid. The large underground burial chamber is a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of seven on the island. Dug directly into the limestone, the prehistoric complex, which was in use for up to 1500 years, dates back to 4000 BC. Carved with Stone Age tools like flints and antlers, the subterranean chamber, complete with stellar acoustics if you feel like a chant, paints a fascinating picture of prehistoric life. Make sure to book in advance, numbers are limited with just 10 people admitted per hour.

Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. Photo: Visit Malta

Cosy up with the cats

Malta is a country where you’ll find The Three Big Cs of Tourism: culture, cuisine…and cats.

Yes, in Sliema, a town on Malta’s northeast coast, is Cat Village, a park that’s home to many (well-fed and healthy) homeless cats. There’s also a giant multicoloured cat statue because what cat village would be complete without one? It’s an essential pitstop for all visiting ailurophiles (that’s ‘cat fans’, to you and me).

Test the waters

Malta went into mourning when its famous Azure Window, a 28-metre-tall rock arch, collapsed in 2017. But where one door closes (or one window collapses), another one opens.

The arch itself is no longer there but under the water a new tourist lure has emerged. Where the limestone formation once stood has become a popular diving spot that is quite literally swimming with marine life. With a depth-range of five to 52 metres, it’s suitable for divers of all levels who are keen to explore this underwater playground.

It’s a spectacular sight at the moment but won’t stay this way long. Soon, the sharp-edged chunks of white rock will be smoothed down by the ebb and flow of the Mediterranean and blanketed in plants — so there’s no time to waste if you want to catch it in its current condition.

Delve into the ‘Dark Cave’

Ghar Dalam. Photo: Visit Malta

Malta has more prehistoric sites than a caveman could shake a club at. The island’s oldest prehistoric site, of which the lowermost layers are over 500,000 years old, was discovered in the second half of the 19th Century. Għar Dalam (the ‘Dark Cave’) has gifted palaeontologists, archaeologists and ecologists with the bones of Ice Age animals, remains and artefacts from the first human settlers in Malta and many geological features including stalactites and stalagmites. There’s also an interesting little museum at the entrance where you can read about how the cave was formed and see some of the treasures its turned up.

Take a bite of Maltese history

Food is to culture what eyes are to the soul. It’s the window into a country’s history and the simplest way to understand local culture. There are plenty of restaurants where you can try modern Maltese fare, but if you really want to get a taste for the island’s past then try Heritage Malta’s new concept ‘Taste History’. Join professional historians, curators and chefs and sample traditional dishes revived from the 17th and 18th Centuries. From what would have been typical peasant snacks to a merchant’s decadent dinner, it’s a unique opportunity to discover Malta and its eclectic past through your tastebuds.

Photo: Taste History – Heritage Malta

Click here to start planning your trip to Malta

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Visit Malta.

 

TRAVEL

Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany

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