To really get a taste of rural life in Malta and to understand this island’s unique culture and history, I recommend a trip to the village of Mellieħa on its northern coast. With its historic buildings, a wildlife sanctuary, World War II shelter tunnels and the island’s longest beach, Mellieħa is a fascinating base for a holiday on this unique Mediterranean island.
Set on a hilltop, this traditional Maltese village gives visitors a rare glimpse into the life and culture of Malta, something that’s often missing in other destination around the island. Be warned, though: the hilly location means that there is a lot of walking up- and downhill on a visit here, but don’t worry, each trip is rewarded with a breathtaking view of the neighbouring islands of Gozo and Comino or a fascinating historical site.
Here’s my guide to just a few of the cultural highlights that are worth making the trek up Mellieħa’s hills for.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieħa
Excavated from one of the natural caves that litter the shoreline here, the crypt of the seventeenth-century monastery was first created in 1610 by a Sicilian wine merchant who also contributed the statue of Our Lady of the Grotto. Later – in 1719 – a monumental arch was built to thank Our Lady for helping the local population through a period of devastating drought. One of the most fascinating features of the cave is a Byzantine-style fresco. Local legend has it that the fresco was painted by Saint Luke when he was shipwrecked here with Saint Paul. (Recent dating technology has actually dated its creation to the fourteenth century, but it’s a good story nevertheless!) As you’re leaving the sanctuary, take the time to enjoy the view of the bay below and the neighbouring islands from the beautiful Renaissance veranda.
The Red Tower
This dramatic red landmark both looks and sounds like something from Game of Thrones. The tower was built in the seventeenth century as a signalling post for communicating with the nearby island Gozo. The tower would once have slept more than 30 soldiers, whose job was to keep watch over the bay of Mellieħa from this vantage point. Today, visitors can still enjoy the spectacular views over Gozo in one direction and over Mosta in the other.
The Village Feast
If you haven’t already booked your holiday and you enjoy a good fiesta, it’s worth ensuring that your visit to Mellieħa coincides with the village’s famous Feast. From August 30 to September 8, the village is given over to celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Victories. The fiesta includes food stalls, musical parades, a religious procession and lots and lots of fireworks. The entire population of Mellieħa gets involved, and it is not only a whole lot of fun, but also an unforgettable cultural experience.
World War II Air Raid Shelters
While UK residents huddled in Anderson shelters, there’s a network of caves that span more than 500 metres in Mellieħa. As you explore the tunnels, you’ll discover individual rooms that were used as maternity rooms and hospitals. The wealthy families of the day often paid extra for the creation of their own private rooms. The tunnels have been authentically dressed to show how they would have been used, making a visit here a truly fascinating experience (although it’s not advisable for anyone suffering from claustrophobia).
How to Get to Mellieħa
There are regular direct flights from the UK to Malta Airport, which are offered by a range of airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet and Air Malta. The flight takes three hours, and the transfer from the airport takes a further 30 minutes. My advice would be to book an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct before you leave home so that one of their experienced and helpful drivers will be waiting for you in the arrivals lounge when you land. Sorted – it’s simple!
Where to Stay
Victory Sea View Apartment – For modern, stylish self-catering accommodation, try the Victory Sea View Apartment. As the name suggests, all apartments boast sea views, which you can enjoy from your own private balcony. There is free Wi-Fi throughout the property.
Mellieha Holiday Centre – For the privacy of apartment living with the convenience of hotel-style facilities (including a swimming pool, tennis court, spa and restaurant), book a stay at the Mellieha Holiday Centre. Accommodation is in a range of elegant, private bungalows with their own terrace, kitchen and dining areas. Free Wi-Fi is available.
Mellieha Sea and Land View Apartment – A modern apartment in the village can be found at Mellieha Sea and Land View Apartment. Featuring a flat screen TV and a kitchen with a dishwasher, this is a Maltese home away from home, offering sweeping views out over the bay.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is a leading provider of airport transfers across Europe and North Africa. Offering a range of private car services, you can select the level of comfort that you desire when you book online, and one of our friendly and punctual drivers will be waiting for you when you land at the airport. Book online using the user-friendly booking form and then rest assured, knowing that your travel needs will be taken care of.