Visiting the Ġgantija Temples in Gozo
Officially recognised by UNESCO as the oldest freestanding buildings in the world, the imposing Ġgantija Neolithic temples, just outside Xagħra in Gozo, are over 5,500 years old–that’s 1,000 years older than Stonehenge or the pyramids in Egypt.
Thanks to an extensive preservation effort, the temples are among the best preserved historical sites in the Maltese Islands.
More info about similar sites in Malta: Uncovering Malta’s Megalithic Temples (including map)
The temples derive the name from a popular local myth. Gozitans believed the temples were constructed by a gigantic race of people–Ġgantija means ‘Place of Giants’ in Maltese.
Another tale recounts how a giantess who ate nothing but broad beans and honey bore a child from a common man. With the child hanging from her shoulder, she built the temples as a place of worship.
The real technique used to erect these magnificent structures remains unknown. Studies have unearthed a number of spherical stones which led to the supposition that the temple builders rolled the impressive blocks of stone on these spheres to get them into place. However, it is uncertain how they managed to place them together.
Excavated in 1826, archaeologists believe that like other Neolithic sites on the islands, Ġgantija was a temple complex dedicated to a fertility deity, a theory supported both by the layout of the temple (which resembles the shape of a fat woman) and also by artefacts found on site such as numerous female figurines and statues.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of two separate temples; the South temple and the North temple. The remains of a third temple were also found adjacent to the other two and archaeologists think this was abandoned before completion. Although the two structures must originally have had plastered and painted roofs, today they stand roofless.
The temple, like most megalithic sites in Malta, faces the rising sun.
Why you should visit Ġgantija
Ġgantija is one of the main attractions you shouldn’t miss when in Gozo. There are many reasons why:
- At over 5,500 years old, it is recognised as one of the earliest free standing structures in the world, even older than the pyramids of Giza.
- Its location is spectacular. Built on top of a hill, it offers a magnificent view towards the South
- The structure is very well-preserved and offers a glimpse into building techniques in prehistoric times
- A modern interpretation centre gives insight into social aspects of the temple builders and their families.
How to get there
To get to the Ġgantija temples you must first cross from Malta to Gozo using the ferry. You can find out more information on how to catch the ferry from my travel guide article on Gozo.
Winter Hours (1st October till 31st May)
- Monday to Sunday: 09.00 – 17.00hrs
- Last admission at 16.30hrs
Summer Hours (1st June till 30th September)
- Monday to Sunday: 09.00-18.00hrs
- Last admission at 17.30hrs
Closed on 24, 25 & 31 December, 1 January & Good Friday
John Otto Bayer Street, Xagħra, Gozo
Tel: +356 21 553 194
- Adults (18 – 59 years): €9.00
- Youths (12 – 17 years), Senior Citizens (60 years & over), and Students: €7.00
- Children (6 – 11 years): €5.00
- Infants (1 – 5 years): Free
Above fees include admission to the Ġgantija Temples and Ta’ Kola Windmill.