Hal-Saflieni Hypogeum

Paola, Malta

The Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni is a subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase (3300-3000 BC) in Maltese prehistory. It is often simply referred to as the Hypogeum, literally meaning 'underground' in Greek. The Hypogeum is thought to have been originally a sanctuary, but it became a necropolis in prehistoric times, and in fact, the remains of more than 7,000 individuals have been found. It is the only known prehistoric underground temple in the world. The Hypogeum is UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is a complex made up of interconnecting rock-cut chambers set on three distinct levels. Earliest remains at the site date back to about 4000BC, and the complex was used over a span of many centuries, up to c. 2500 BC.

The uppermost level consists of a large hollow with burial chambers on its sides. This hollow was probably originally exposed to the sky and excavations in the early 1990s indicate that there might also have been a monumental structure marking the entrance. A doorway leads to the Middle Level, which contains some of the best known features of the Hypogeum such as the intricate red ochre wall paintings and the beautifully carved features in imitation of architectural elements common in contemporaneous Megalithic Temples. The deepest of the three levels is known as the Lower Level, which is accessed down seven steps in the chamber popularly known as the ‘Holy of Holies’.

The Hypogeum was first opened to visitors in 1908 and since then it has been visited by many thousands of people. Unfortunately, this has had a toll on the delicate microclimate of the site which has affected the preservation of the site and the unique red ochre paintings. For this reason, after a conservation project which saw the site closed for 10 years between 1990 and 2000, a new system was established in which only 10 visitors an hour are allowed in for a maximum of 8 hours a day, complemented by an environmental control system which keeps temperature and humidity at required levels.



Your name


Triq Ic Cimiterju, Paola, Malta
See all sites in Paola


Founded: 4000-2500 BC
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Malta


4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Paul Roberts (11 months ago)
Been waiting to do this tour for a very long time and I'm glad I did. It is incredible and well worth a visit. You have to book well in advance. My only disappointment was that it was an audio guide rather than a tour given by a human. You can not take pictures inside.
Claude Chene (13 months ago)
Spectacular historical sight. Hard to comprehend its 5000 years old. Expensive to visit but so unique. A wonderful experience.
Dimitry Sinyukov (2 years ago)
Excellent experience. Well presented and organized. The site itself is a must see, truly a one of a kind.
Aaron Scheible (2 years ago)
Wow... What an incredible place. Seeing the Hypogeum is a once in a lifetime experience! The neolithic temples of Malta shrink in comparison to this! Well worth the money!
Gabi Gorito (2 years ago)
I was really impressed. It's amazing how they could built this hipogeum so long ago, so big and with nice details. It's not something you can find in every trip you do. The tickets are not cheap, but when you go there, you understand all the process they have to do for maintaining it open to the public.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls

The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls was part of the federal sanctuary of the three Gauls dedicated to the cult of Rome and Augustus celebrated by the 60 Gallic tribes when they gathered at Lugdunum (Lyon). The amphitheatre was built at the foot of the La Croix-Rousse hill at what was then the confluence of the Rhône and Saône.

Excavations have revealed a basement of three elliptical walls linked by cross-walls and a channel surrounding the oval central arena. The arena was slightly sloped, with the building"s south part supported by a now-vanished vault. The arena"s dimensions are 67,6m by 42m. This phase of the amphitheatre housed games which accompanied the imperial cult, with its low capacity (1,800 seats) being enough for delegations from the 60 Gallic tribes.

The amphitheatre was expanded at the start of the 2nd century. Two galleries were added around the old amphitheatre, raising its width from 25 metres to 105 metres and its capacity to about 20,000 seats. In so doing it made it a building open to the whole population of Lugdunum and its environs.