Malta off the beaten trail: From the Congreve Memorial to the arch at tal-Hamrija

Malta Off the Beaten Trail is a series of articles about the less accessible areas of the island for which a sturdy pair of walking shoes and a degree of physical fitness is usually necessary.
It all started when the Azure Window collapsed into the sea and I realised that our son, who had seen the Grand Tetons, had never visited one of the most-photographed places on the Maltese islands. I knew then that we could not take the natural wonders around us for granted any longer and needed to get off the couch and start exploring. In the absence of the much more famous Azure Window, the arch at tal-Hamrija seemed a natural, if smaller, next-best choice.
Getting to the Congreve Memorial is fairly easy, it’s a downhill walk along a paved path that is accessed by taking a left at the Hagar Qim Temple Complex carpark towards the Mnajdra temples. (Since this route by-passes both temples, there is no need to pay an entrance fee.) A few metres before the path ends at the Mnajdra temples, an unpaved path through the garigue veers left. Take this path and make your way over the rocks and patches of soil, paying attention to the vegetation as it is mostly protected, to the Congreve Memorial.
Congreve Memorial
The Congreve Memorial is dedicated to a former Governor of Malta, Sir Walter Congreve. During his life, Sir Walter developed a deep affection for Malta and its people and his wish was to be buried at sea between Malta and the tiny islet of Filfla. After his death in 1927, his request was granted and a memorial in his honour was erected in this spot.

Tal-Hamrija arch
From the Congreve Memorial the walk becomes more strenuous as you first have to climb down a steep incline to get to the ledge of land below. At this point, the arch is already visible but if you continue trekking to the left, you will come to a vantage point from where you can get some really good shots of it.
Tal-Hamrija arch
Although not level, the terrain is easy to negotiate. Looking up, you will see a sheer rock-face towering above you, with tal-Hamrija Tower peering over the cliff-edge to the sea below.
Tal-Hamrija tower
To the left of this point is a strip of land that looks like the snout of a crocodile and is known as in-Neffied (the piercer).
In-Neffied (18)In-Neffied (55)
It was windy day in early spring when we hiked to the arch at tal-Hamrija (also known as Ghar Hanex or Worm’s Cave) and the stacks that hold it up were taking quite a battering from the waves. One of them has been eroded so badly that it is a wonder that the arch hasn’t collapsed yet. Hopefully it will stay around for many years to come.
Tal-Hamrija arch
Tal-Hamrija arch
Although it’s inaccessibility makes it less famous than the world-renowned (and much missed) Azure Window, the arch at tal-Hamrija is definitely worth the rather strenuous walk to get to it. Moreover, in spring, the shallow pockets of red soil and rocky terrain that characterise the garigue, give life to a number of tiny, but very pretty, flowering plants like chamomile, Mediterranean heath, red clover and others – most of them not bigger than my smallest fingernail – that are also worth a closer look. While the arch can be enjoyed in all seasons, the garigue in spring is at its most beautiful.
Wildflowers of the garigue
Although at first the long trek to the arch at tal-Hamrija may seem rather discouraging, the natural beauty of the whole area, coupled with the megalithic temples and tal-Hamrija tower on the plateau above, make it well worth the extra effort required to get there. It is probably quite obvious that the areas of Malta that are most charming and unspoilt are found off the beaten trail. If you are interested, you can read about some other places here and here.
Tal-Hamrija arch
Location: Tal-Hamrija Arch, l/o Qrendi, March 2017
All images ©Sincerely, Loree
Debbie Nolan said...

Dear Loree - wow your pictures of this beautiful spot are awesome. I could see the crocodile's snout. Isn't it amazing how one can travel all over the world and miss the beauty of nearby shores. Thank you friend for sharing this lovely spot. Take care and have a great day. Hugs!

Gattina said...

You make us discover such beautiful places ! It seems to be very rocky there ! I think I would have to watch it from far !

Cathy said...

AS always, a very intuitive and entertaining write. Malta's secret beauty is "hiding in plain sight" many a time. Thanks for taking the time to find these lovely places.

Amanda Summer said...

The water, wind and rock formations make Malta seem like a place of such power.

Loree said...

We sure get a lot of wind, Amanda. There's nothing to protect us from it's force.

Loree said...

It's an enjoyable 'hobby' and the walks help keep us fit.

Loree said...

It is, indeed, very rocky but it is an enjoyable adventure.

Loree said...

I am glad you picked out the snout too. It is one of those places that remain imprinted on your brain.

La Contessa said...

I LOVE those tiny white and yellow daisies!YOU are surrounded by OLD and FABULOUS scenery........
Good of YOU to get OFF the SOFA and ROAM the ISLAND!!!!!!!
EVERYTHING you PHOTOGRAPH is UTTERLY BEAUTIFUL!
XX
PS. I can hear the waves hitting from your photos!

Loree said...

Thank you. I enjoy taking photos. The tiny floeflo are actually a type of chamomile.

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