Mellieha Guide Malta

Mellieha Bay, two kilometres north of Mellieha town, is a spacious bay, and one of the most popular for Malta holiday-makers. Good, modern roads lead to the bay, and a number of hotels, tourist villages and apartments in the vicinity, provide entertainment to the thousands of Malta holiday-makers relaxing on the beach.

The shallow waters and the extensive sand make the beach suitable for families with children.

The rocky flanks enclosing Mellieha Bay afford ideal spots for swimming off-the-rocks (even if access to the shore is not quite easy). Improvement of the existing tracks and the provision of some facilities are planned to disperse the crowds from the main beach areas. fun for malta holiday-makers at the beach

Across the road from the beach, on the inland side, is the Ghadira Nature Reserve - Ghadira means 'Lake'. The depressed tract of land here holds rain water and looks like a tiny lake. The area was enclosed and reserved for wild-life, mostly migrant birds and water-plants. The reserve, sited in an attractive environment was the first one of its kind in Malta. Subsequently other bird reserves have been sited in other localities.

Observation posts have been set up in proper places for bird watchers. This nature reserve is open to the public during mornings, making a beautiful attraction for families on a Malta holiday.

Malta's prime seaside resorts, Buggiba and Mellieha boast the island's largest concentration of sandy beaches, set around placid waters and backed by a picturesque undulating terrain of ridges and valleys. The area is buzzing in summer but more tranquil in winter.

The towns and villages in the north of the island are pretty diverse. All, however, are moulded by their proximity to the sea. Bugibba emerged as Malta's prime resort town with the advent of mass tourism in the 1960s. The peninsula on which it stands, flanked by two large bays, has become a tight mass of multi-storey apartment blocks and hotels. It is an inexpensive summer resort for several Maltese fanlilies and package tourists, offering among the best hotel deals in Malta. Most of the action takes place in aptly named Tourists Street, with a concentration of tourist accommodation and associated outlets, tour agencies, car rentals, restaurants and bars. It leads to pedestrianised Bay Square, ringed by bars and cafes. There is more bustle in the promenade that skirts the shore, with picturesque St Paul's islets in the background.

The town's authentic character is evident at the south-western extremity, home to two historical attractions and a small fishermen's cove full of colourful boats. Wlgoacourt Tower (St Gerard Street, 2121 5222) was erected by the Knights in the 17th century to guard St Paul's Bay. Today it holds an interesting permanent exhibition of the Knights' military architecture in Malta (open 9.30an1-noon Wed-Mon; also 1-3pm Wed; admission Eur1.16). A little way off, stands St Paul's Shipwreck Church (Church Street) dedicated to the saint's shipwreck in AD 00. Tradition holds that the galley on which St Paul was travelling wrecked during a storm on two nearby islets and the saint scrambled ashore at the spot where the church stands today. The tiny chapel was destroyed by a bomb in World War II and rebuilt in 1958 (open 6-8pm daily; admission free).

At this spot Bugibba merges with St Paul's Bay -once a fishermen's hamlet but dominated today by an anonymous fringe of modern hotels and apartment blocks skirting the inner end of the bay. It is more tranquil and less hectic than Bugibba with a scenic scatter of boats anchored in the bay. The old part of the town, centred around the parish church, is pretty and reveals small old houses used as villeggatura or summer seaside homes for those who live in the centre of the island during the winter months.

Beyond St Paul's Bay, the road snakes up a steep slope towards Mellieha Ridge, on which the largest town in north-western Malta is built, increasingly dominated by seaside tourism. The town's attractive centre dates from the medieval era when the town was a pilgrimage site. Pilgrims flocked to visit the miraculous statue of the Madonna in the underground rock- cut church, the Grotto of Our Lady (Gorg Borg Olivier Street). The small cuboid chapel (open 8am-6pm daily; admission free) has no adornments apart from the old revered statue of the Madonna, but it is imbued with a medieval atmosphere.

During the Middle Ages, Mellieha was a far outpost and pilgrims lodged at the Sanctuary, a convent-like building set around a charming courtyard dominated by the Church of Our lady of Mellieha (open Bam- noon, 5-7pm daily; admission free), partly embedded in a cave, with only two built walls. Originally the church was a small crypt, but was extended several times to accommodate the swelling numbers of pilgrims. The walls of the corridors of the sanctuary are covered with votive offerings, in thanksgiving for the alleged miraculous healings. The present church dates to the 17th century and holds a fantastic mosaic of the Madonna. On the opposite side of the church, across the valley is an interesting feature the mysterious gharukaza - derived from a combination of the words ghar (cave) and the Italian cosa (house) and literally meaning house within a cave. The most fascinating fact is that it is said that an old man still lives here to this day in basic conditions, with no electricity or running water.

Within the limits of Mellieha is the island's largest sandy beach Mellieba Bay (also known as Ghadira Bay). Beyond the bay, to the west, the land rises again to the rugged plateau dominated by the Red Tower built Ion the crest.of the ridge, one of the most attractive towers erected by the Knights. The view: from its roof is one of Malta's best, taking in the scenic spread of Mellieha Bay and the town, and, on the opposite side, stretching all the way to Comino and Gozo. Further west, the rugged rocky terrain and pockets of stunted trees give way to a handful of sandy beaches scooped out of the rocky shore at the north-western extremity m Malta, including Paradise Bay, girdled by rugged dramatic cliffs.

At a glance

For a glorious tan on the best sandy beaches in the island.

Two outstanding restaurants in Mellieha village.

The area is quickly becoming a concrete jungle.

To the beach without a high factor sun cream.