Officially recognised by UNESCO as one of the oldest freestanding buildings in the world, the Ġgantija Neolithic temples, located just outside Xagħra in Gozo, are over 5,500 years old. Older than even the pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in the UK.
The temples were built between 3600 and 3200 BC but fell into disuse around 2500BC. Like most of Malta’s megalithic sites, the Ġgantija Temples face the rising sun.
Located at the highest point on Gozo island, the temples offer a great view of the Mediterranean Sea and the Gozitan countryside.
What’s In A Name
The name Ġgantija comes from the Maltese word for giant. Ġgantija means ‘Place of Giants.’ The Gozitans say it was giants that built the temples. Not surprising really when you see the size of some of the limestone blocks. Some exceed five metres in length and weigh over fifty tons.
Another tale about the temple tells of a giantess who only ate honey and broad beans. One day, the giantess bore a child from a local man. Umm, some interesting images come to mind here -and with the child holding on to her shoulder, she built the temples as a place of worship.
How Have The Ġgantija Temples Survived So Long
The outer walls of the Ġgantija Temples are made from weather-resistant coralline limestone, while for doorways, altars, the softer, Globigerina limestone was used.
The Ġgantija Temples consist of a north and a south temple with several nooks that lead off a central corridor. There is evidence that the internal walls were plastered and painted. Two plaster fragments found that were painted with red ochre are now preserved at the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.
In front of the temples, there’s a large terrace which would most likely have been used for ceremonies. Animal bone remains suggest possible animal sacrifice. There are also stone hearths for fire and cut into the floor are some libation holes that may have been used for liquid offerings.
Statuettes and other objects found at Ġgantija can be seen at the Museum of Archaeology in Victoria, Gozo.
How Were The Ġgantija Temples Built
No one really knows how the temples were built. Studies have unearthed several spherical stones which led to the belief that the temple builders maybe rolled the blocks of stone on these spheres to get them into position. However, it is still unknown how they managed to piece them together.
Top Tips For Visiting Ggantija Temples
As with many places in Malta and Gozo, there is very little shade. For some reason, the Maltese have an aversion to trees.
If you are visiting in the summer months, wear a hat, bring water and wear sunscreen. Go early or go late.
Be sure to visit the fascinating and air-conditioned interpretation centre. Should you need to buy a souvenir to remember your visit, like all good historic sites, your exit will take you out via the museum shop.
After you visit the temples, take a short stroll to the town square. Here you will find an impressive church and lots of eateries. Fancy a light lunch; we recommend the Coronation Bar. Fancy somewhere a bit fancier, head to Latini.
Opening Hours For Ggantija Temples
Open daily from 09:00 to 18:00
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Ggantija Temples
Students/ Seniors €6
Children 6-11 €4
Ggantija Temples is part of Heritage Malta, and they often have special ticket deals if you visit more than one site. Check here for latest deals https://heritagemalta.org/admission-fees/.
How To Get To Ggantija Temples
The temples are located in Xaghra, Gozo.
The temples can easily be reached by car. There is plenty of parking nearby.
By Hop On/ Hop Off Bus
The Hop On/ Hop Off Bus stops right outside.
Take Bus 307 from Victoria. Journey time 15 minutes and buses run every hour.
Take Bus 322 from Marsalforn and Mgarr Harbour.
From Xlendi, you will need to take a bus to Victoria and change there.
On A Day Tour
Guided tours are available to the Ggantija Temples. Ask your hotel for details.
Would We Recommend Visiting Ggantija Temples
Yes, if you are already in Gozo, it’s well worth a trip.
Don’t go out of your way to get there, if you’re staying on Malta. With summer traffic and local transportation, you’ll be fed up and exhausted by the time you get to the temples. The distances may be short, but to cover 20 kilometres in Malta takes a lot longer than other places. Need a Neolithic fix? Don’t worry; there are plenty of Neolithic sites to explore in Malta such as the Hypogeum and the Hagar Qim Temples.
Have you visited any Neolithic sites on your travels? We would love to hear your tales and recommendations. Tell us about them in the comments below.