Among the locals, Comino is also referred to as ‘Kemuna’. The island is named after the Cumin seed which naturally flourished the island. In this article, you can find all the things you can do in Comino apart from the blue lagoon.
Comino is a stretch of land covering just 3.5 kilometres in the Maltese archipelago between Malta and Gozo, home to the stunning Blue Lagoon, and popular with water sports enthusiasts. Its car-free status also attracts walkers and cyclists, who can enjoy the island as a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. Appropriately, Comino is named after the seed of the cumin plant once common in the region. With just one hotel and very few residents, it’s also suitable for winter breaks, when visitors can fully appreciate the natural environment – the island is an important stopping-off point for migratory birds, and local volunteers help to ring them.
There have been people on the island since prehistoric times, and near Santa Marija Bay there is an important archaeological site, which may be a burial ground. The Romans farmed here, but Comino’s importance rose with the arrival of the Knights of St John in 1530. An abundance of wild boar and hares made it a useful hunting base, and due to its geographical position, it became a defence post against the Ottoman Turks. Also frequented by pirates and occupied by the French, Comino’s significance diminished over the years, but since the Second World War and the advent of tourism in the 1960s, it has found a new purpose, with its unspoilt beauty also providing a perfect location for film makers.
Looking Beyond the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon, in a sheltered inlet with clear blue-green water lapping at white sands, is Comino’s biggest and best-known attraction, where scuba divers can explore the caves and watch marine life. Naturally, day-trippers and hotel guests alike make for this paradise, but while it certainly shouldn’t be missed, there are other quieter beaches and areas worth exploring. Diving conditions are excellent all around the coastline, and the coral reef near the small islet of Kemmunett (Cominotto) is a must-see.
The next best beach is Saint Mary’s Bay on Comino’s northern coast. It’s an ideal spot to relax, or to indulge in some swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. If you like it so much that you want to stay, there is a camping site with facilities.
Santa Marija Caves, where you can dive among shoals of bream, are accessible through a tunnel leading from the bay. In addition, diving centres on Malta and Gozo organise regular excursions.
Also on the northern side of Comino, Saint Nicholas Bay is the boarding point for the nearby hotel’s ferry. The two small sandy beaches, reserved for hotel guests, are less crowded and offer the usual watersports.
It’s a good starting point for a scenic stroll around the cliffs, especially rewarding in winter due to the beautiful natural ambience. And it’s only twenty minutes walk from the Blue Lagoon!
South-east of the Blue Lagoon, Crystal Bay is overlooked by imposing cliffs, and is accessible only by boat. Not surprisingly, this beautiful cove is quieter, and diving into the crystal-clear water (it lives up to its name) is a joy. You will be able to borrow goggles and other equipment.
More Caves and Cliffs
The clear waters of the Mediterranean are ideal for underwater swimming activities, making Malta a magnet for diving enthusiasts. Comino is surrounded by cliffs that tower above natural caves, and secluded coves washed by warm azure water. You can take a tour by power boat around these caves, or join one of the organised day trips that stop at some points.
Saint Mary’s Tower
As well as abundant natural beauties, the island has some buildings of historic interest. If you’re crossing from Malta to Gozo, to the south east you’ll spot the coastal watch tower, or battery, of Santa Marija, built in 1618 by Grand Master de Wignacourt.
It originally served as both a look-out post and a defense against possible Turkish invasion forces, and to deter pirates who hid in Comino’s caves before launching attacks on passing ships.
With its square shape, twelve-metre high and six-metre thick walls, and two of its original six cannons remaining, it was linked with similar forts in Malta and Gozo.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Comino was used as a place of exile for out-of-favour knights, and those committing small crimes were sometimes tasked with the lonely and risky job of looking after the tower. Following the French invasion of the area in 1798, it was occupied by the Maltese resistance, and later by the British. It was also a summer residence at some point, and in the early nineteenth century it probably became a hospital to isolate plague and cholera victims.
It later fell into disuse but has now been restored as a small museum, usually open on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 10:30am and 3pm, from April until the end of October. Its situation on the cliffs 80 metres above sea level, with the Blue Lagoon and dazzling sea as a backdrop, makes it a place to linger for the views, and a dream location for photographers. Film fans will recognise it as the prison Chateau d’If in 2002’s “The Count of Monte Cristo”.
Isolation Hospital, Bakery and Police Station
In the early twentieth century, the hospital, an extension of a palace erected by Wignacourt, treated sufferers of cholera and plague to keep them away from Malta itself. Later, injured soldiers from the First World War’s Dardanelles campaign were brought here, but it closed soon afterwards.
In the early twentieth century, the hospital, an extension of a palace erected by Wignacourt, treated sufferers of cholera and plague to keep them away from Malta itself.
Later, injured soldiers from the First World War’s Dardanelles campaign were brought here, but it closed soon afterwards.
The Old Bakery fulfilled an essential role with its weekly bake for the islanders. Today, it displays original equipment to show how bread was made at that time. The small Police Station in Santa Marija Bay was first erected by Grand Master Pinto in 1743, and today officers patrol with a speed boat and motorcycle when necessary.
Saint Mary’s Chapel and the Cemetery
The island’s only chapel dates from 1618, and is dedicated to the Return of Our Lady from Egypt. It celebrates mass in Maltese on Saturdays and Sundays. Records show a chapel on the same site in the twelfth century, and the apse and wooden screen may have originated there. Other highlights are an eighteenth-century painting by the Maltese artist Francesco Zahra, and a triple-arched belfry. With its buttressed side walls, it is typical of the simple style of traditional Maltese architecture. Comino cemetery, near the tower, may belong the same period, but it’s no longer used and is closed off.
There are no problems with getting lost on this small island, especially with the always-visible Santa Marija tower as a useful landmark. So take one of the many paths and enjoy the views. If you’re an experienced hiker, you’ll know what to take, but beginners should dress appropriately and include walking shoes, hat and sunglasses. If you have to hike in the hottest months, pack a good sunscreen, food and plenty of water. It’s best to go in company in case of accidents or illness, but other than that, Comino is safe to wander around. Avoid the heat of summer if at all possible – a springtime walk is much more pleasant, and will give you the opportunity to see the land at its best, as the flowers bloom.
Like walking, biking is environmentally-friendly and economical, and comes with the same health benefits. With its lack of cars, Comino presents no dangers for cyclists. Its unspoilt rocky tracks are very well suited to mountain bikes, which can be hired from the Watersports Centre on one of the Comino Hotel’s private beaches. Advice on what to take with you is similar to that for hikers (apart from the shoes, perhaps!). Again, mid-summer is the worse time to be on a bike, but for both walkers and cyclists, if you have to do it, take advantage of early mornings and late afternoons, when there will be more shade and cooler air. You can also check the daily weather forecast online before you decide
Top Tips for Your Stay on Comino
Try to set aside separate days to visit Comino and Gozo, or you’ll end up frustrated and not seeing either properly. If you only have time for one of these destinations, Gozo is your best bet for a satisfying and fulfilling day.
Make a trip to the tower a priority, and do climb to the top for breath-taking views. Although the opening times are given here, it would be worth checking and confirming these before you set out.
Don’t forget to try the other snorkelling and diving sites around the coast, away from the Blue Lagoon. Remember to bring your goggles and snorkel with you, or alternatively, book a diving excursion with a reputable operator in Malta.