The island is inhabited by only a handful of people and is mostly visited for a day trip, both by the Maltese themselves as well as tourists.
For the more adventurous Maltese, Comino is also a frequented as a place for camping or to spend a day hiking across the island.
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 nowadays.
The island is mostly a rocky wilderness largely undeveloped, with jagged cliffs, two small sandy beaches, coves, creeks and a coastline dotted with deep caves. And of course, Comino island is known for the famous Blue Lagoon bay with its crystal clear and azure-coloured water.
Home to just a handful of farmers, Comino has no tarmacked roads (and only a handful of cars) and is only 2 km long by 1.7km wide. The island offers a complete change of pace from the neighbouring islands of Malta and Gozo and is a great place to go for a day trip, or even to spend part of your holiday if peace and tranquillity are what you’re after.
For most travellers, the answer is a definite ‘Yes.’ However, it really depends on what sparks your interest and most importantly, at what time of the year you plan to go.
So, if you’re travelling to Malta in July or August, the only reasons it’d be worth going are:
If neither of those reasons apply to you, visit Gozo instead – more to see and do, much less busy.
From March through to November – it’s definitely worth going although be aware that the sea will be pretty chilly from March to May and in November. At this time of year undercurrents may also not make it very safe to swim in the deeper parts and no life guards will be stationed there.
You can get to Comino in a few ways:
You can choose to book a day trip or tour to Comino with one of the boat tour operators that depart from Sliema or Buġibba/St. Paul’s Bay (neighbouring towns) or Gozo. Operators normally stop for a good 5-6 hours at the Blue Lagoon and also sail around part of the island.
These tours may not be as cheap as taking one of the ferries (more on those below), but bus rides to Ċirkewwa are usually pretty lengthy and not nearly as much fun. Moreover, considering how busy the Blue Lagoon gets in the high season, having a spot on a boat to chill from really is a plus.
Tip: If you don’t intend to stay in any of the towns from which tour operators depart, they usually provide an optional pick up and transfer service (at an additional fee).
Tour operators that depart from Buġibba/St. Paul’s Bay:
Tour operators that depart from Sliema:
Using the iSeeMalta hop-on / hop-off ferry you can get to the Blue Lagoon easily from Sliema, Buġibba and Gozo. Apart from the lower cost (€15 pp. for adults, €11.50 for children), it gives you more flexibility in terms of how long you stay in Comino. You can choose to combine a few hours there with another stop in Gozo, for example.
The downside for the Blue Lagoon is that you’ll have to find a spot on the shoreline yourself to hang out while you’re there, which is not as comfortable as being on a boat.
If you’re more interested in hiking around Comino, that won’t matter though, of course.
Finally, there are also regular ferry services that run from Ċirkewwa (the Northern most tip of Malta) and from Mġarr Harbour (on Gozo). The crossing to Comino takes around 25 minutes and costs around €10 for a round trip. The stop on Comino is usually at San Niklaw Bay, on the north side of the island.
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.
These are two ferry operators with which you can get Comino all year round, provided the weather conditions are favourable.
Both depart Malta from near Ċirkewwa, all the way up North. Several bus routes can take you there, if you don’t intend to drive in Malta.
Get my best recommendations here and book in advance!
There’s only one hotel on the island and is situated at San Niklaw Bay, the pick-up and drop-off point for visitors from Malta and Gozo. The Comino Hotel (yes, that’s its very original name) offers decent rooms at a modest price, although, as one TripAdvisor reviewer says “It’s not the Ritz”.
It offers bright rooms and bungalows with simple furniture but good facilities and will do just fine if you’re not looking for a 5-star resort.
In any case, you wouldn’t choose to stay in Comino for a length of time if you’re looking for a “lazy hotel holiday” with all the comfort and more of your daily life. It’s also unlikely you’d be looking to stay there for weeks. If you’d like to just visit Comino and explore (or simply escape the inhabited world for a couple of days) you could always book a few nights in combination with a stay in Malta and/or Gozo.
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.
Book well in advance (6+ months) if you’re looking to stay here during peak season (July-August) as it’ll be hard to impossible to get a room otherwise.
The staff of the hotel seems to be very helpful in making arrangements for airport transfers as well as through their ferry service to and from Malta, so do get in touch with them if you plan on staying there.
If you’re a little more adventurous you could camp out on Comino as well. There’s a small campsite in the North of the island, overlooking the beautiful Santa Marija Bay, which is a great place to go for a swim as well with a small sandy beach offering easy access to the sea. You’ll also find facilities there like public toilets and a stone BBQ if you’d like to give that a go and you don’t need a permit to camp there.
As far as I’m aware there are no regular organised camping trips to Comino but if you’re set on camping out there for a couple of days your best bet is to mingle with the Maltese in relevant Facebook groups to see whether you can tag along with anyone or organise a trip with a few local campers.
Would you like more detailed info on this option? These are a few public Facebook groups on camping around the Maltese islands where you can ask local campers for their advice:
Lunch can be had at the hotel, even if you’re not actually staying there. Boats berthed near the Blue Lagoon or San Niklaw Bay will often be able to sell you cold drinks and food as well.
If you enjoy hiking or mountain biking , there are plenty of paths to follow on Comino, and although the scenery knows few landmarks 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, sunglasses sunscreen 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.
Timing is essential. The best time to visit Comino for a hike is definitely springtime when everything is in bloom. Mid-summer hikes are rarely a good idea.
It won’t take you long to hike across the whole island, maybe an hour or two. If you prefer two wheels, the hotel rents out mountain bikes I’ve been told.Don’t worry about getting lost. Apart from the small size of the island, the Santa Marija tower is visible from most parts of Comino so you’ll always have a reference point.
Thinking of going for a hike during the off-season months? Have a look at this suggested walking route, courtesy of visitgozo.com
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.
The clear waters of the Mediterranean are perfect for scuba diving or snorkelling 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.
From being a defensive outpost to being a hideaway for corsairs, to being used for agriculture, Comino has served various purposes to those who ruled the Maltese islands over the centuries.
During Roman times, the island was known to have been inhabited by farmers, while during the rule of the Knights of Malta its main purpose was for recreation and used for recreational hunting. Wild boar and rabbits inhabited Comino when the Knights arrived in 1530 (the latter species still do nowadays), the area was protected under strict sanctions. Anyone caught hunting illegally were harshly punished with serving as a galley slave for up to three years.
Comino was never really populated until more recent times, simply because it was considered unsafe with little or no protection against corsairs. The Maltese had been looking to make Comino an inhabited island for centuries when the Knights decided to build a watch tower in 1618 to help as an early warning system and deterrent for any invaders looking to set foot in Malta. Although it helped increase security, it didn’t seem to entice people to settle in Comino until the 18th century.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Comino served as a secluded prison or place of exile for knights who had fallen out of grace for one reason or another. Knights who had committed small crimes were also sometimes punished with having to man Santa Marija tower – a lonely punishment and not without risk.
The island may have served as a place of isolation during the early 19th century when cholera and the plague were still highly lethal. Santa Marija tower is thought to have served as a hospital during this time.
Although this tiny island bears few marks of civilisation, there’s a small number of historical buildings. These include Santa Marija (St. Mary) 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, Santa Marija Tower has one of the most dramatic and beautiful backdrops that photography enthusiasts will love. The tower is a square building, roughly 12 metres tall, with defensive walls that are approximately 6 metres thick, and is perched at the top of a cliff on the edge of the island, around 80 metres above sea level.
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 also discouraged the bands of pirates using the island’s many caves and inlets to hide out and board unsuspecting ships passing between Malta and Gozo. The tower also served as a communication link between towers built in Gozo and Malta within the larger scheme of fortifications around the Maltese islands.
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 into 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.
It was most recently restored in an extensive operation between 2002 and 2004 and is open to the public as a small museum during specific hours, usually on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 10:30am and 3pm from April until the end of October.
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