Ghar Dalam

History, Culture and Archaeology Of Malta,
Prehistoric Age Of Malta, Mediterranean Sea

Date Last Updated: 8th November 2019

Ghar Dalam means ‘Cave of Dalam’ which dates back to the prehistory time era. It contains the bones of animals that were stranded and subsequently became extinct on Malta at the end of the ice age.

It is the start of the Prehistoric Age in Malta dating from 5200 to 4500 BC. During that time Malta was joined to Africa and Sicily since the water of the Mediterranean were very low.

Large animals such as freshwater tortoises, dwarf elephants, hippos, foxes and other vertebrates roamed around for food.

The history of the islands due to the findings inside this cave, can be decoded from the Stratigraphy which are distinguished in six principal layers.

1. Domestic Animal Layer - The top layer known also as ‘cultural layer’, giving evidence of the existence of human settlement on the Maltese islands, dates to 7400 years ago.
2. Calcareous Sheet - 0.6cm
3. Deer Layer - 25,000 to 18,000 years ago
4. Pebble Layer - 25,000 to 18,000 years ago
5. Hippopotamus Layer - 500,000 years ago
6. Bone-Free Clay Layer - 500,000 years ago

Visitors in side Ghar Dalam cave
History About Ghar Dalam
History About Ghar Dalam

- The cave was formed around 500,000 years ago by water seeping through the Lower Coralline limestone during the Pleistocene period including flooding which washes inwards all materials in its path.

- The first archaeological digs were carried out during 1885. It was opened for the public during 1933. During 1933 a museum was built beside the main road leading to Birzebbugia.

- The entrance to the cave is through this museum which is down hill through a staircase and a short passage leading down the valley, situated on the side of the valley.

- During World War ll the cave was used as an air raid shelter for 90 people. Later on the British forces used the cave as a storage for fuel. Then after the war during 1945 the museum was opened again to the public.

Animal remain found in the museum

- In 1987 a team of researchers from the university of Lecce Italy made further investigations and discovered Palaeolithic cave art depicting human hands, anthropozoomorphic, and several animal designs from underneath the stalagmatic formations.

- The museum displays a vast wealth of finds from animal bones to human artifiacts.

- During 2002 a side extension was built onto the museum. This section of the museum explains the effects of life on earth and the effects of the Ice Age on Malta.

- The cave is around 144 metres deep but only the first 70 metres are accessible to the public.

- The pottery is a local variant of the impressed ceramic wares that we know to be the oldest of their kind in the Mediterranean coastal regions. The pottery is associated with the spread of agriculture in these areas.

- Ghar Dalam remain an important link to Malta's prehistoric era.

Trip Advisor Reviews for Ghar Dalam Caves
Trip Advisor Reviews for Ghar Dalam Caves

A different type of prehistoric Site

"Visit the exhibition before descending into the cave. It is small by comparison to other Maltese Sites but has a different perspective. Very interesting to see how it was used. The south tour bus stops right outside the entrance so it's easy to get too. If interested it's well worth a visit plus it's inexpensive."

Wow

"This is such a beautiful and amazing cave. It is a gem to find. The prehistory of Malta amazed my family and I. We will go there again and again."

Great last minute trip

"We managed to get to Ghar Dalam on our last day. Being able to go into the cave and see where all the sediment layers had been found was very interesting along with the museum housing a multitude of bones and the different animals that had been native to the area."

Admission To Ghar Dalam Caves
Admission To Ghar Dalam Caves

Opening Hours:

- Monday to Sunday: 09:00 – 17:00
- Last admission 16:30
- Closed on 24, 25 and 31st December, 1st January and Good Friday.

Tickets: Only accessible to Ghar Dalam

- Adults (18 – 59 years): €5.00
- Youths (12 – 17) & Senior citizens (60 years and over) : €3.50
- Children (6 to 11): €2.50
- Infants (1 – to 5): Free

Tickets: Accessible to Ghar Dalam and Borg In-Nadur

Adults (18 – 59 years): €6.50
Youths (12 – 17) & Senior citizens (60 years and over) : €5.00
Children (6 to 11): €4.00
Infants (1 – to 5): Free

Ghar Dalam cave and museum entrance

How can I buy tickets?

If you want to just go to Ghar Dalam or Borg In-Nadur or both together, you will have to buy the tickets from there.

What if I want to go to other temples together with these?

There are tours available that combine different sites together.

1. Malta Prehistoric Temple Tour (Half Day) - In this tour you will visit Ghar Dalam and Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples. This tour does not include Borg In-Nadur

2. Malta Prehistoric Temple Tour (Full Day) - In this tour the locations you visit are Hagar Qim and Mnajdra TemplesGhar Dalam CavesLimestone HeritageMarsaxlokk Fishing Village and Blue GrottoThis tour does not include Borg In-Nadur.

If you purchase tour tickets from any of the above two links, enter 'maltainfoguide' in the coupon box for a 5% discount.

How to get to the Museum
How to get to the Museum

Getting there: By car drive through the main road leading to Birzebbugia. Parking is easy and accessible adjacent to the museum.

Where is Ghar Dalam located?

Here is a map showing you the location Ghar Dalam. It is located very close to Marsaxlokk Fishing Village. 

How can I get to Borg In-Nadur from Ghar Dalam?

Borg In-Nadur is only 11 minutes on foot. Below is a map showing you the distance between the two premises. We suggest to go to Ghar Dalam first before going to Borg In-Nadur since you can buy one ticket to enter both sites.

Public Transport: The buses that pass by Ghar Dalam are 80, 82 and 85. The route 85 only passes one way from near the caves. When the bus return back to Valletta it does not pass from Ghar Dalam. The other two routes (80 & 82) do pass by both ways.

Hop-On Hop-Off Routes: The Red South Route for both sightseeing operators namely Malta Sightseeing and City Sightseeing Malta pass from here with a stop just beside the Museum.

Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions

Are the premises accessible for wheelchairs?

-  Unfortunately no they aren't as there are steps that lead to the caves and in the caves, the flooring is uneven.

Are there any tickets online to purchase for the Museum?

- No there aren't. You will need to buy them when you get there.

Can I buy souvenirs from here?

- Yes there is a small area when you enter the premises where you can buy souvenirs.

Are the premises indoors?

- Yes the museum is inside, but to get to the caves you will need to go outside where there will be stairs leading to the cave.

How much time is required to visit this site?

- It depends on your interest. This location doesn't require more than a few hours to visit. When you arrive first visit the museum than walk down the staircase leading to the cave.

Helpful Information Regarding Ghar Dalam
Helpful Information Regarding Ghar Dalam

Closest Village: Birzebbugia is just down hill. The adjacent village is MarsaxlokkOther close villages within the circumference of the main road leading to Birzebbugia are Zejtun, Ghaxaq.

The passage way leading to the cave

Cultural Attractions: 

- Borg in-Nadur lies very close to Ghar Dalam. Just down the main road on the right going up hill. Arriving at the first small Pretty bay.

- Between Birzebbugia and Marsaxlokk Bay, lies St. Lucian Tower built by the knights of Malta between 1610 and 1611 forming part of the Wignacourt Towers. During the British colonial times, it was further reinforced.

Presently it is used as The Malta Center For Fisheries Science. It is not open for the public but one can walk around the tower admiring the fantastic view of the surrounding bay.

Ghar Dalam remains the main evidence of prehistoric life in Malta.

The historical location is governed by the Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) of International Importance and Special Protection Areas (SPA) which fall within the Natura 2000 which is an Environment European Commission which safeguards special protected areas around the world.