Comino – the smallest of the Maltese islands
Comino or Kemmuna (in Maltese), is a very small (and generally very peaceful) island midway between the islands of Malta and Gozo. Named after the plentiful cumin (flowering plant) that grows on the island, Comino is thick with wild herbs and flowers, with the entire island classified as a wildlife sanctuary. It is a rocky wilderness, with jagged cliffs, two small sandy beaches, coves, creeks and of course the famous Blue Lagoon bay with its crystal clear and turquoise waters.
Home to just a handful of farmers, Comino has no roads or cars and is only 2km long by 1.7km wide. The island offers a complete change of pace from the neighbouring islands of Malta and Gozo, and is an ideal destination for a day trip, or even to spend part of your holiday.
Comino and the Blue Lagoon
Comino is just a tiny island, but there are plenty of reasons to pay it a visit. You’ll definitely want to swim in the Blue Lagoon, which is located between Comino and the islet of Kemmunett (also referred to as Cominotto), on the West side of the island. The Blue Lagoon, with its crystal clear blue sea and white sandy beaches, provides one of the most spectacular sights of the Maltese archipelago, attracting hundreds of tourists every day.
The Blue Lagoon is a paradise for relaxing, swimming and scuba diving, and has something to offer for everyone, whether a professional scuba diver, looking to explore the depths or a child learning to use a snorkel in the safety of warm, shallow waters.
During the high season, various operators provide day trips to Comino by boat, with various points of operation in Malta (Sliema, Bugibba, Cirkewwa) and Gozo (Mgarr harbour). Such day trips are popular among tourists and locals alike, and your best bet is to choose a weekday, to avoid the really busy days. The sandy beach at the Blue Lagoon is small, so most boats will just drop their anchor and you’ll be able to just jump in and buy lunch and drinks on the boat itself. Keep in mind that, besides on the boat, there is little shade, so take a hat, sunscreen and drinks. Any beverages offered on the boat are likely to be sold at a premium, though the benefit is you don’t have to carry drinks around and they’ll be ice cold for sure.
A little way from the landing stage, up some steep steps, is a small flat area for sunbathing, where you are able to put a deck chair (if you are lucky and get there early).
Places of interest in Comino
Kemmunett (or Cominotto) is one of the uninhabited islets of the Maltese archipelago. It is located at a distance of 100m from Comino and from the Blue Lagoon. The crystal clear waters tempt everyone to swim up to its rocky shores, but with undercurrents this is a challenge fit only for experienced swimmers.
Santa Marija Bay, located on the North side of Comino, is considered the second best place for picnics and swimming on Comino Island, after the Blue Lagoon. The Bay offers a lovely beach and perfect waters for snorkeling and scuba diving. Comino Bungalows are also located here.
Santa Marija Cave – The beauty of the cave’s blue waters make this the perfect spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Santa Marija Cave can be also reached through a tunnel from Santa Marija Bay.
Located near the Blue Lagoon, San Niklaw Bay is the access point for Comino Hotels ferry and the single hotel located here offers also a small sandy beach for its clients. This is also a good starting point for a pleasant walk around the edge of the island’s cliffs.
Comino became a parish in the 13th century. St. Mary’s Chapel is dedicated to the Return of Our Lady from Egypt and it is open for weekend services only.
Historical Sites in Comino
Although this tiny island bears few marks of civilization, there are a small number of historical buildings. These include St Mary’s Tower, one of Malta’s coastal watch towers, which is located on the south-east side of the island and can be seen from the ferry when crossing from Malta to Gozo. Perched on the edge of Comino’s high cliffs, and with the turquoise sea and Blue Lagoon in the background, St Mary’s Tower has one of the most dramatic and beautiful backdrops that photography enthusiasts will love.
Built in 1618 on the orders of Grand Master Alof de Wignacourt of the Knights of St John, its original function was to keep watch for the Turkish enemy who were a constant threat to Malta at this time. The Tower fortified the island and swept away the bands of pirates using the island’s many caves and inlets to hideout and wait for unsuspecting ships to pass between Malta and Gozo.
As time passed and Malta enjoyed a period of relative peace, the tower’s role changed and it was used as a summer residence for those knights who were keen to hunt the wild hares. In 1798, following the French Invasion of the Maltese Islands, the tower was used by the Maltese resistance and later by the British. It was always used as a defensive position but fell in disuse at the end of the 19th century. The tower became more famous when in 2002 it was used to represent the prison Chateau d’If in the movie “The Count of Monte Cristo” starring Jim Caviezel.
Things to do
If you enjoy hiking, there are plenty of paths to follow on Comino, and although the scenery consists mostly of rocks you’ll definitely enjoy the views on your hike. If you’re planning a hike on Comino, make sure you have good, comfortable walking shoes (no sandals), hat, sun protection lotion and plenty of water. There are no dangerous animals, however, Maltese summers are hot and it is not advisable to wander around on your own, despite the relatively limited surface area the island offers for hiking. The best time to visit Comino for a hike is definitely spring time, when everything is in bloom.
Exploring Comino Island cliffs and caves
Comino is surrounded by natural caves and dramatic, high cliffs which are awesome. There’s a tour by power boat that takes you around these caves, but several day trip operators will also stop at some of these sites on the way to the Blue Lagoon.
Scuba diving and snorkeling
The clear waters of the Mediterranean are perfect for scuba-diving or snorkeling and Malta is a very popular diving holiday destination. Diving in Comino is something special because of the warm, turquoise water and secluded coves. The Blue Lagoon is an ideal location for scuba divers to explore the caves that are hidden from above the sea surface and admire the rich marine life in the area. Diving conditions are excellent all around the coastline, and a recommended location not to miss is the coral reef that is located near the small islet of Kemmunett.
The Santa Marija Cave is also a very popular dive site, where you can dive among shoals of bream. The dive site is not accessible by land but the diving centres on Malta and Gozo organise excursions to the site regularly.
Accommodation on Comino
There’s only one hotel on the island, the Comino Hotel, and it’s open only through the months of April to October. The hotel is situated at San Niklaw Bay, the pick-up and drop-off point for visitors from Malta and Gozo. It’s a four star hotel that offers bright, simple rooms and good facilities. There are two small sandy beaches, exclusively accessible to hotel guests, as well as two large swimming pools, one for adults and another for children. The hotel also offers water sports facilities that include diving and windsurfing and there are also ten tennis courts to choose from as well as a fully equipped gym, restaurant and bar.
A mere ten minute walk away from the hotel, you can find bungalows, located in the lovely Santa Marija Bay. They have their own private rocky swimming area, and are only a few meters away from the sandy beach inside the bay.
You can get to Comino through the regular ferry service from Cirkewwa (the Northern most tip of Malta) and from Mgarr Harbour (on Gozo). The trip to Comino takes around 20 minutes and costs around 5 Euro. The stop on Comino is on San Niklaw Bay, at a short distance from the Blue Lagoon.
The Comino Hotel also runs its own ferry service to and from Malta and Gozo. Although priority is given to the hotel guests, non-residents can also use it.
The main tourist areas on Malta and Gozo run shuttle services to the island during the summer, at varying rates. Beware of the fact that operators will sell such rides from as far away as Sliema, charging high prices and meaning it will take longer for you to get to Comino and less time to actually spend on the island. It’s much wiser to take a bus up to Cirkewwa and take the normal ferry to Comino. Public transport bus lines 45 (from Valletta, passing through St. Paul’s Bay main street), 48 (from Bugibba/Qawra bus terminus) and 645 (from Sliema) can get you to Cirkewwa for a very low fare.