With a population density of nearly 1300 per square kilometer – the highest in the EU and one of the highest worldwide – getting far from the madding crowd may seem like an impossible ask for the visitor here. But not quite… The Maltese are officially (and regrettably) the least active nation in Europe and most people will take to their car for the smallest of errands. Not terribly good for the Maltese waistline but convenient if you plan to see a slice of a different, truly unspoilt Malta in some splendid solitude.
Head for the car park on the edge of the built up area. You will readily notice the huge signs warning you not to stray beyond the car park - no doubt put up by a well meaning but aesthetically blind representative of some authority or other. The signs were only erected after a recent rock fall practically made a good part of the bathing area below all but inaccessible. Politely ignore the sign but use common sense nevertheless - always tread a good three to four meters from the cliff edge.
There is a well trodden path here which is easy to make out in most places. You will be immediately struck by the high cliff to your left, an awesome mass of brownish rock with a few caves high up on the slope. This is a popular rock climbing site – but since this activity was only introduced here recently and is only practiced by a hardcore few, crowds of rock huggers will not be a problem.
A short uphill trudge will get you past the first inlet and then the path continues downhill again following the coast. This is a beautifully majestic area with cliffs and open sea views and, in the distance, the small uninhabited islet of Filfla. This serene picture makes it hard to imagine the (literally) earth shattering events occurring here a few million years back…
According to geologists, an event which must have been cataclysmic in proportion resulted in Filfla bidding farewell to Malta and a channel five kilometers wide opening up where the land collapsed into the sea. There is evidence of this too. The cliffs next to the sea here are made up of Upper Coralline Limestone – a rock stratum that naturally occurs three layers above the Lower Coralline Limestone – but the upper cliffs here are composed of the Lower Coralline! A weird inversion of the order of things at best; known in geological circles as the Maghlaq Fault. Really - you wouldn’t want to be here when it happened.
There is more for the observant eye here. Soon you cross the dry valley bed of Wied il-Maghlaq where the seasonal water course is unmistakably marked by a line of wild reeds. Where the valley bed meets the sea there is a layer of what appears to be brownish soil. In reality this is a stratum of Quaternary deposits left here from what must have once been a fast flowing stream or river… the fascinating detritus and rubbish of millions of years back; loose pebbles, mud, plant and animal remains - all coagulated into concrete hard sediment.
After the valley bed some gentle climbing is again called for and past the next inlet there is a five tongued promontory aptly called L-Ilsna (The Tongues) in Maltese. There are more deposits here and a small sea arch as well. Far above you is the first sign of civilization, a white tent-like structure. This is the canopy that now covers Mnajdra Temple from the elements and you should take this as your cue to start climbing to reach the upper cliff. Aim for a spot to the immediate right of the canopy where the climb is easiest and there is a natural opening in the cliff face.
Once you reach Mnajdra you might want to wander and have a closer look at the tower which is visible at some distance all along this walk. The Hamrija Tower, constructed in 1659 and recently restored, is one of a series built to the order of Grand Master De Redin. On the way to the tower there is a memorial stone commemorating Walter Norris Congreve who served as the colonial governor of Malta from 1924 to 1927. At his request he was buried at sea in the channel which separates Filfla from the mainland.
After this detour make your way to the road via Mnajdra and Hagar Qim temples.
This walk takes about two hours to complete but you will probably find you want to wander a bit longer than that. Always check the weather before setting out, wear light clothing and sensible, comfortable footwear.