Visitors during the warmer months will most probably want to spend a good amount of time on the beach especially if they have young children with them. However, away from the hours building sandcastles and playing in the sea, there are other attractions in Malta which children might find interesting. Even in our hot summer temperatures, a few cultural excursions can provide welcome relief for all family members. You’ll be surprised how kids enjoy a chance to discover something beyond the norm on holiday, and that applies equally to local children facing three hot months and inevitable beach boredom or screen fatigue.
Here’s a brief guide on how to make the most of visiting Malta’s Neolithic Temples of Tarxien, Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra with the kids in tow. See also our post on Malta’s World Heritage Sites.
Why visit these temples in particular?
Children may or may not be impressed to find out that the Megalithic Temples of Malta are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but they will probably find it interesting that the temples are thought to be among the oldest free-standing constructions on earth. They might also have difficulty appreciating the fact that these buildings are about 5,500 to 4,000 years old, as kids do tend to switch off when presented purely with facts and figures. But, my four year-old did manage to work out for himself that cave-men must have lived here, even if a later remark about dinosaurs was off the mark by a few hundred of million years! Nevertheless, he was quite impressed as most children would probably be; let’s face it, there’s no harm in a little fantasy and fiction if it turns the visit into a resounding success.
Equally impressive is the size of some of the stone slabs with which the temples are built. The complexity of Tarxien temples might be lost on younger children. However, since they are located in a built-up area, the entrance to the ‘garden’ from the museum still constitutes a captivating sight. The approach to Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra is equally astonishing in that these temples are situated in a very stark landscape and they completely dominate the area.
Making the tour interesting for children
It’s highly likely that children will have plenty questions to ask unsuspecting parents so we recommend doing some homework on the temples before you visit. Thankfully, Heritage Malta steps in to help…
The Visitor’s Centre at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra tries hard to engage adults and children in a fun and interactive way. Younger children can have a go at using the large building blocks to attempt their own temple models, while older children and adults will find plenty in the centre to fuel their curiosity, if not provide all the answers to these baffling megalithic constructions. There are no hard and fast theories on their full meaning. Most of the descriptions dotted around the temples require some level of explaining to children, so swot up in the centre to be prepared for quick-fire replies around the sites themselves.
At Tarxien, there is a very feeble attempt to engage children in a quest to locate and determine how many weather stations there are dotted around the site and which monitor the effect of the elements on the fabric of the temples. However, you can make it up as you go quite easily by getting children to follow a trail looking out for the wonderful carvings in stone of animals and spirals, the ‘skirt and feet’ remains of a colossal statue and the various imposing architectural elements, doorways, altars, huge ‘pots’ and pits.
The temples are largely outdoors. Do consider the heat factor if visiting during the summer months when it’s best to visit early in the day or late afternoon. Time of day is very important to factor in if you’re to make the most of the scenic 500 metre trek down to Mnajdra; it’s a moderate incline, but negotiating a push chair or carrying infants may be strenuous for some. The views en route are stunning; as our photo above shows, these temples are perched on the coastline in open country and you can also wander the rough, stony ‘park’ around the sites (if kids are good, steady walkers).
The wooden walk-way around Tarxien temples makes these temples highly accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs…my 8 year-old’s only regret was the slightly irreverent dismay at not having her rollerskates with her.
There is easy parking at both sites. Expect to tip the parker something though. Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra Visitor Centre has a cafe-restaurant attached. Toilet and Nappy changing facilities are also adequate.
Buses: see Malta Public Transport for routes and timetables; ensure you don’t end up waiting a long time though as in winter especially, buses aren’t that frequent on this route.
If your visit coincides with a solstice or equinox, then try your very best to get tickets from Heritage Malta for the viewing of the dawn’s first rays of sunlight illuminating the sides of the main altar (solictice) or the innermost centre of the altar (equinox). The adventure of arriving at Mnajdra in pre-dawn darkness and witnessing the alignment of the temple with the sun is truly magical for children of all ages (see top photo).
Visitor Info: Opening times & How to Get There
For full details of opening times, how to get there and facilities on site, see Heritage Malta.
About the Author
Robert Newby Grech is an MA student of English and the Media at the University of Malta. He researched and wrote this article for an assignment on blogging.