Mellieħa travel guide and tips
Mellieħa is one of the northernmost villages of main island Malta and overlooks Malta’s largest sandy beach called Mellieħa Bay, also referred to as Ghadira (pron. a-deera).
The village has a lovely character and picturesque scenes that provide you with a view of life in Malta as well as offering you all amenities for a comfortable holiday. Mellieħa is situated on top of a hill, surrounded by fertile valleys providing beautiful panoramas and village scenes not seen frequently in the Maltese islands.
- Mellieħa population: 10,000+
- Mellieħa is about an hour’s drive from Malta International Airport
- Mellieħa Bay is Malta’s largest sandy beach and everyone calls it Għadira (pron. a-deera, meaning stagnant water and referring to the nature reserve further inland)
- The local village feast of Mellieħa is celebrated annually on the 8th of September, which is a public holiday nationwide.
Why stay in Mellieħa (and why not)?
Stay in Mellieħa if:
- You’d like to get a bit of a feel for what village life in Malta is like
- You want a good base to explore Malta from that isn’t busy, but offers good accommodation options
- You’re eager to head to Gozo and Comino but you also want to do sightseeing in Malta.
- You want a lazy holiday with sun and sea. (You can find some of the best beaches in Malta in this area)
Don’t stay in Mellieħa if:
- You’re expecting a buzzing nightlife – there isn’t much around
- You don’t like steep uphill walks (or you’re not as fit/mobile). The village sits on top of a hill so expect to climb steps and walk uphill.
- You absolutely don’t want to hire a car. You CAN get by with public transport, but being a little remote, you’re definitely better off renting a car. Plus, it’s pretty quiet around the area so driving isn’t as tricky as in the busier parts of Malta. Always talk to your hotel/accommodation contact in advance to enquire about parking spaces, however.
How to get to Mellieħa
Popular Bus Routes
- From Valletta bus routes 41, 42 and 44 take you directly to Mellieħa.
- If you’re in the Sliema area, bus numbers 225 and TD5 can take you directly up to Mellieħa.
- From Birkirkara, take buses 42 or 44.
- Bus numbers 221, 223 and 225 will take you from Buġibba to Mellieħa in under an hour.
- And if you need to go up to Ċirkewwa to catch the Gozo ferry, you need to hop on bus number 42.
- Route X1 takes you straight from the airport to the centre of Mellieħa and terminates at Ċirkewwa (Gozo ferry) as well.
Other forms of transport to Mellieħa
If you would like to hire a car, grab a taxi or take a look at what other transport options are available in Malta, I recommend having a look at another one of my articles: Public transport, taxis and other ways of getting around in Malta and Gozo.
Hotels in Mellieħa
Mellieħa is a very popular tourist destination and a great alternative to the busy, loud and fast life of St. Julian’s, Sliema or Buġibba/Qawra/St. Paul’s Bay. There are several options when planning your stay in Mellieħa, being it a hotel, holiday complex, or a self-catering apartment.
You can find a full list of my recommended hotels here: The Best Mellieħa Hotels based on personal recommendations
Here’s a quick overview:
- Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Malta Golden Sands – Located in the wider Mellieħa area, this is a five-star hotel well known for its unique location overlooking Golden Bay. It offers a number of excellent restaurants with great food services. Facilities include a private beach.
- Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa – A 4-star hotel in the centre of Mellieħa, just a few minutes walk from the beach and close to a lot of restaurants on the same street. Facilities include 3 pools, gym and spa.
- db Seabank Resort & Spa – offering 4-star accommodation with plenty of bars and restaurants within the hotel. It is very popular with families with children, being so close to the beach right across the road and promising a great time for young ones with games rooms and bowling lanes.
- Mellieha Holiday Centre – A resort boasting extensive grounds, large swimming pool, several restaurants, a tennis court, children’s playground, mini golf course as well as a well-stocked supermarket. Accommodation in spacious, well equipped self-catering bungalows with a private courtyard.
- Ramla Bay Resort – Located in a beautiful bay overlooking Comino and Gozo and offering 280 spacious en-suite rooms, each with a balcony and unobstructed views of the sea or countryside. Featuring various restaurants and snack bars, SPA and 2 pools.
- Pergola Club Hotel & Spa – Popular 4 star hotel with pools, SPA, nice rooms and a number of good bars and restaurants.
- Mellieha Bay Hotel – Excellent location with 313 recently refurbished rooms offering a breathtaking view of Mellieħa Bay from a private balcony or terrace. Guests can explore the lush gardens, lie by one of four beautiful swimming pools, or relax on the private sandy beach.
Places of interest in Mellieħa
Parish Church of Mellieħa
The Mellieħa parish church is a 19th-century baroque style building built in traditional Maltese stone. It is dedicated to the birth of The Nativity Of Our Lady with a feast celebrated annually on the 8th of September. The church boasts five bells that were brought over from Milan. The major attraction within this church are the five paintings by the famous Maltese artist Giuseppe Calì.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieħa
Once a small Augustinian monastery, the sanctuary dates back to the 16th century. The crypt within, originally one of the many natural caves found in this area, was excavated by Mario de Vasi, a Sicilian wine merchant who contributed to the erection of the statue of Our Lady of the Grotto.
According to local legend, the cave was visited by St Luke and St Paul when they were shipwrecked on the island – two splendid marble sculptures of the two apostles are among the many items within the sanctuary. Other religious items include letters from devoted visitors asking for a miracle, icons, frescoes, oil paintings dating as far back as the 17th century, as well as a small museum dedicated to Pope John Paul II, who visited this sanctuary in 1990.
An impressive collection of votive prayers line the walls. The sanctuary opens every day from 08.00 to 12.00 and from 16.00 to 18.00. On Saturday’s, a mass in English is held at 1000 hrs.
The Red Tower
St. Agatha’s Tower, or as it’s most commonly known, the Red Tower stands guard over Mellieħa Bay. It was built as a signalling post for communication with Gozo. It was capable of housing 30 soldiers. From the top of St Agatha’s Tower, the view is absolutely stunning. You can see right up to Gozo on one side and down past Mosta on the other. For a small entrance fee, visitors can climb to the top of the tower and also visit a small section with the history of the tower and the restoration process.
The Red Tower is opened by Din l-Art Helwa volunteers as follows:
- Winter Opening Hours – 16th September – 14th June: 10.00hrs – 16:00hrs
- Summer Opening Hours – 15th June – 15th September: Mornings 10.00hrs – 13:00hrs
- Summer Opening Hours – 15th June – 15th September: Afternoons 15.00hrs – 18.00hrs
The White Tower
Built in 1658, the White Tower (Maltese: Torri l-Abjad) is a small watchtower overlooking Armier Bay. It is one of 13 watchtowers, built under the rule of Grand Master Martin de Redin to defend the Maltese coast. In 2009, it was passed on to the local council as part of the area’s cultural heritage.
Għajn Tuffieħa Tower
The tower that guards Għajn Tuffieħa (Riviera bay) and Il-Mixquqa (Golden Bay) was built in 1637. It’s very similar to Lippija Tower, its close counterpart overlooking Ġnejna bay. The Għajn Tuffieħa Tower is longish in shape and the ground floor room is larger than the second floor one. It was armed with ½-pdr cannon and manned by four men, a captain and three men, who were paid by the University of Mdina.
Għadira Nature Reserve
The Għadira Nature Reserve, with its rare habitat, is the only place in Malta where you can go bird watching. Located inland from Mellieħa Bay, it has been in operation since 1978. Various species of migrating birds visit the wetland and the salt marsh each year and nature lovers can observe them from two hides opposite each other.
The reserve is open from 7 November to May on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm. Entry is free but donations help the volunteers maintain this unusual attraction in Malta.
Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park
The recently opened Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park offers miles of coastal walks across rocky paths with superb views of the cliffs and the sea.
The wild habitat in the park offers a look at the typical arid Maltese countryside, with its variety of wild plants and fauna, like the common lizards and the not so common local snakes. They generally scuttle off in hiding when they hear you coming. Parking is available at several points, such as at Golden Bay. Sturdy footwear recommended.
Mellieħa Air Raid Shelter
The Mellieħa air raid shelter is the largest of 46 shelters dug in Mellieħa during World War Two, reaching a length of over 500 metres. It was recently opened to the public by the Maria Bambina Choral and Orchestral Society of Mellieħa. The shelter includes waxwork characters in various rooms, showing how the Maltese took shelter during the bombing. Admission price is €2.80. You are left to your own devices to explore the tunnels in your own time.
Popeye Village is an entertainment park based on the real film set used in Paramount Pictures 1980’s Popeye movie starring Robin Williams is a great place for families with children.
It offers great views of the bay and the on-site restaurant is quite popular. Within the set itself, one can enjoy various reenactments by actors. Visitors can also use the beach facilities to swim in Anchor Bay or just lie down by the beach.
Entrance is at a fee, but the package includes a number of offerings, such as boat trips, entrance to the cinema on location, a drink and use of facilities.
A little interesting fishing museum with various exhibits and history. Originally a fort, the place was later used in the second world war as a defensive position. It has since been restored and converted into a museum by a number of local volunteers to explain the complex job of tuna fishing by Mellieħa fishermen.
If you happen to be in Malta around the 8th of September, then you might want to visit the Mellieħa village feast. The feast is dedicated to Our Lady of Victories and fills Mellieħa full of life during the feast with musical concerts, fireworks, folk singing, food stands and art exhibitions as well as religious processions.
Beaches near Mellieha
One of the major benefits of holidaying in Mellieħa is that you’ll be close some of the most gorgeous beaches of Malta within an area of a few square kilometres. If you choose to stay in this village, beaches like Golden Bay and Għajn Tuffieħa are within easy reach by bus as well.
The most popular is Mellieħa Bay (or Għadira), also Malta’s largest sandy beach. Its crystal clear waters are very shallow which makes it ideal for families with little children. Public toilets and several snack bars can be found on the beach and for a couple of Euros, you can rent an umbrella and sunbeds for the day.
Paradise Bay is a small sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs and a view of Gozo in the distance. It lies over the hill beyond Mellieħa Bay, on the road towards the Gozo ferry which departs at Ċirkewwa. It is easier to reach if you’re renting a car. Public toilets, as well as a large snack bar, are available on location.
Armier and Little Armier
This is a popular beach among locals especially. Armier Bay is located on the north side of Malta’s figurative tail fin. The minute you get up on the hill past Mellieħa Bay, take a turn to your right onto a bumpy road and take a turn to your left when you see the sign pointing towards Armier. Here you’ll find a beautiful sandy beach, with clean sands and waters and a large snack bar at the edge of the beach for refreshments.
Slugs Bay is a small secluded beach off the beaten track. It lies on the same ridge as Armier bay, but on the opposite side. The name of the bay comes from the sea slugs found there. It is accessible from a winding path which takes you down through the cliff boulders to the bay. The clarity of the sea at this bay and the abundance of marine life make it very popular with divers.
Another secluded beach with clear waters is Imġiebaħ Bay, accessible from a narrow road opposite the Selmun Palace. It is not a popular beach and there are no facilities on site, however, it is very peaceful and excellent for swimming and snorkelling.
Anchor Bay Dive Site
On the opposite side of Popeye’s Village, one can find an excellent dive site, very popular amongst the local aficionados. Divers have a chance to see interesting caves and rock formations in the area and a wide variety of marine life such as octopus, groupers, parrot fish, moray eels, scorpion fish, cuckoo wrasse and many other species.
It’s also a great location for snorkelling.
History of Mellieha
Mellieħa’s history goes back quite a while. Evidence of Neolithic activity has surfaced many times in the area. A number of megalithic remains, rock-cut tombs, pottery fragments and primitive tools were all found around the Mellieħa hill. There are also many naturally formed caves around the base of the village which according to experts have been inhabited by troglodytes since 213 B.C. These caves seem to have been used not only as dwellings but also as a place for burial.
Like many other remote parts of the island, Mellieħa was abandoned during the late 15th century due to fear of corsair attacks. Mellieħa was repopulated in the 17th century when the Knights of Malta built several fortifications to protect the area. Its inhabitants settled in the area mainly for agriculture, taking benefit of the fertile valleys around Mellieħa as well as “tunny net” fishing.
In 1844, Mellieħa was established again as a parish and developed into a more modern town. Most of the buildings and streets in the centre of current-day Mellieħa date from that period.
Which beach is safe today?
Check out this useful map that marks safe beaches in green flags, telling which beaches are free from jellyfish and which are calm.
How far is Mellieħa from Valletta?
There’s nearly 23 km between Mellieħa and Valletta. A number of buses take you directly between the 2 destinations, such as bus routes 41, 42 and 44, and others make a connection with other hubs.
How far is Mellieħa from the airport?
Mellieħa is 22 km away from the Malta International Airport. Taxis are available from just outside the terminal, as well as the X1 Public Transport Bus which leaves at frequent intervals and takes just over an hour to get you there.
Are there any supermarkets in Mellieħa?
Yes, there are a few supermarkets that are easy to find:
- Valyou Supermarket is the largest one around and is located close to the roundabout coming up from Xemxija (drive into Mellieħa, first left, then immediately right.
- At the top of the hill in the main road you can find a small supermarket called Kurt’s Discount Store
- If you’re staying near Mellieħa Bay, the easiest (but not cheapest) option is the small supermarket at the Mellieħa Holiday Centre (entrance to the complex is located at the roundabout around the middle of the bay).