Comino island in Malta: travel guide and tips
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.
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.
- Comino is Malta’s third largest island
- Land area: 3.5 km² (1.4 sq. m.)
- Located between main island Malta and Gozo
- Population: 3
- Protected nature reserve and bird sanctuary
- Backdrop of the famous Blue Lagoon, a bay with crystal clear azure water
- No tarmacked roads, only a few cars
- Only a handful of buildings, among which a hotel, watch tower, chapel and a deserted farm
- Great for: Snorkelling, diving and rambling
Is it worth going to Comino on my trip to Malta?
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.
- Comino’s main attraction and reason to visit is the Blue Lagoon. It’s a highly popular tourist hot spot, which means that in peak season (July and August), it will be swarming with people.
- If you’re more interested in exploring the island as a whole, you’re better off going outside of peak season (July, August and usually September still as well). Not because of crowding, but because of the scorching summer sun. No fun to be out walking at that time and with such little shade to be found.
So, if you’re travelling to Malta in July or August, the only reasons it’d be worth going are:
- You love sun and sea and don’t mind crowded places
- You want to have seen it and swam there once, so you can tick it off your travel bucket list.
If neither of those reasons apply to you, visit Gozo instead – more to see and do, much less busy.
During April through November – YES, it’s worth going although be aware that swimming isn’t always possible during that period (really only from June into October).
You can get to Comino through the regular ferry service 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 Euro 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.
Comino ferry operators
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.
Comino boat tours and day trips
You can also opt 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). These guys normally stop for a good 5-6 hours at the Blue Lagoon and sail around part of the island.
These tours may not be as cheap as taking the ferry, but bus rides to Ċirkewwa are usually pretty lengthy and not nearly as much fun.
- If you don’t intend to stay in those areas, tour operators provide an optional pick up and transfer service (at an additional fee).
- If you’re staying in Valletta, you can easily take the ferry across Marsamxett Harbour and get a boat trip from Sliema from the same berth.
- If the Blue Lagoon is on your itinerary, having a boat to use as your base for the day is a lot more comfortable during the high season than the tiny beach that’s normally packed with people.
Tour operators that depart from Buġibba/St. Paul’s Bay:
- Sea Adventure Excursions currently offer the best day tours to the Blue Lagoon and have a few options to choose from:
Tour operators that depart from Sliema:
Accommodation and hotels on Comino
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.
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.
- Ask for a sea view room if you book directly as the price difference isn’t all that big, especially not for the value received.
- It’s not a 5-star resort so don’t expect luxury. Although it’s stated as a 4-star hotel, it’s probably less than that, but for the relatively modest prices charged it’s fine for most.
More adventurous? Camp out!
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.
In case you hadn’t read my article about the Maltese yet, they’re generally very friendly and welcoming, speak English well (it’s one of the country’s official languages, next to Maltese of course) and they’re very active on Facebook. These are a few open groups on camping around the Maltese islands:
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.
6 Points of interest in Comino
- Two words: Blue Lagoon. Just look at that. Look!
- There’s another Lagoon, a bit further South called the Crystal Lagoon. Although mostly rocky and not as bright blue, it’s still a beautiful location for swimming, as well as diving and snorkelling around the caves in this small bay.
- 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, and is one of few beaches around. Comino bungalows are also located here and, as mentioned above, there’s a campsite with facilities. Very peaceful and quiet nevertheless.
- Santa Marija Caves – The beauty of the cave’s blue waters make this the perfect spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. Santa Marija Cave can be also reached through a tunnel from Santa Marija Bay.
- Located in the North of the island, San Niklaw Bay is the access point for Comino Hotels ferry and the 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.
- St. Mary’s Chapel is dedicated to the Return of Our Lady from Egypt and mass is held (in Maltese) on Saturdays (4:30pm) and Sundays (5:45am). As you can imagine, it’s a pretty small building and not really worth visiting during other times. It’s located nearby the campsite.
- Santa Marija Tower – One of Malta’s watch towers built in the 17th century, recently restored and open to the public on specific days/times. More info below.
- Santa Marija Battery was built in 1715 to protect the South Comino channel, and is one of three surviving coastal batteries were you can still find a few (original) 24-pounder cannons. You can find the battery at the Southeast corner of the island.
Things to do
Wandering around Comino on foot or by bike
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
Exploring Comino‘s 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.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
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.
History of Comino
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.
Santa Marija Watch Tower
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.
- Built in 1618 under Grand Master de Wignacourt
- One of 6 built in this period, of which 4 remain intact
- 12 metres tall, 6-metre thick walls
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.
My tips and recommendations for visiting Comino
- Unless you’re really pressed for time, don’t plan to visit both Comino and Gozo on the same day – You’ll see too little of either to make it worth it. If you have to choose one or the other you’ll probably get more value out of visiting Gozo.
- I’d definitely recommend paying a visit to, and getting up on top of the tower for a breathtaking view of the surroundings. Although specific opening hours are set (see above) it’s always wise to ask around to get confirmation before you go to Comino.
- Comino offers more beautiful locations apart from the Blue Lagoon where snorkelling and scuba diving are worth your while. So either bring along your goggles and snorkel on your day trip or arrange for a diving excursion with a reputable operator in Malta.