The Blue Grotto - Malta's natural sea caves


Blue Grotto
The Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto, known as Il-Hnejja (meaning 'The Arch') in Maltese, was given its English name by a British soldier who thought it similar enough to Grotta Azzuzza (The Blue grotto) in Capri to deserve the same name. A trip to the Blue Grotto is high on the list of most people's itineraries, and with good reason. Located near Zurrieq in southwest Malta, an area famous for its rocky coastline, the natural sea caves are very appealing.

The boats leave from between 9am and 5pm, weather permitting, from the tiny harbour of Weid iz-Zurrieq and cruise for about 30 minutes before reaching the caves. The water on the west of the island can be quite rough but the captains are adept at handling the boats in choppy seas. During the winter months however, when the weather and water is more unpredictable, less boats run and they are very weather dependent.

All the boats travelling to The Blue Grotto enter under an immense arch into a 140ft high cave cut into the rock face. The system consists of six caves carved by years of relentless pounding by the sea, of which the Blue Grotto is the largest and most impressive. The water seems an impossible cobalt colour as the sky reflects off the white sand bottom. The caves sparkle both with blue reflections of the sea and orange, purple and green of the various minerals present in the rocks.

The Blue Grotto gets almost unbearably busy at various times during the day in the high season so pick your visit carefully. To see the caves at their best, come early in the morning when the water is calmest and the crowds not yet arrived. As they face the rising sun, get there before the sun gets too high in the sky and you'll really see them dazzle with colour. By the end of a busy day the waters can reflect more engine oil than colourful minerals thanks to the volume of boats passing through.

If the sea is too choppy for the boat trip or you're pushed for time, you can still get a decent though less impressive view of the caves from a viewing platform on the side road winding from the harbour to join the main road.

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