Hiking Gozo’s Coastline

This map, featured in the Gozo Coastal Walk brochure, proved to be very handy for our day hike.

This map, featured in the Gozo Coastal Walk brochure, proved to be very handy for our day hike.

Please allow one last post from Gozo, then I promise to shut up about this place… at least until I’m able to return to this beautiful Mediterranean island. Today I’m remembering the wonderful 17-mile journey along the western and northern coast of Gozo that we hiked on April 29, 2015. As I reported in my post about our diving experience, the water was too cold for wetsuit diving. However, springtime on Gozo is absolutely perfect for hiking, with air temperatures averaging in the upper 70s and low 80s F. Before we traveled to Gozo I downloaded a few pages that did an “okay” job of describing day hikes on Gozo. Fortunately, after we arrived we discovered a better brochure called The Gozo Coastal Walk that includes a hiking map and route guide. We carried it with us during our hike from Xlendi to Malsalforn and managed to get lost only a couple of times. I carried a GPS receiver in my pack so we always knew where we were — we just didn’t know where the trail was at times. There are painted trail markers along the way but not all intersections are marked when you need help the most. It wasn’t frustrating; it just added to the experience of hiking an unfamiliar land. Thank God for friendly Gozitans! Whenever we asked locals for directions they were very willing to help. English is one of two official languages in Malta so we communicated easily with most everyone. One exception was an old farmer tending to his vegetables along a narrow path we weren’t supposed to be on. He didn’t speak much English but after some friendly hand gesturing he managed to steer us back to the correct path.

The following is text that I lifted from The Gozo Coastal Walk brochure that does a good job of describing the path. To download the brochure with a description of the entire walk around the island, check out this link.

THE GOZO COASTAL WALK

Xlendi to San Lawrenz

From Xlendi, take the uphill road which leads inland towards Victoria. After about 1 km (at a point opposite a traffic island and a bus stop) take the minor uphill road to the left (8).

A parish church just up the hill from Xlendi.

A parish church just up the hill from Xlendi.

This steep and twisting road takes you to the outskirts of the village of Kerċem, passing the valley of Wied il-Lunzjata and its lush greenery. At the top of the climb, take a left and follow this road as it curves inland back into Kerċem. Occasionally take a look back to admire the magnificent views of Xlendi. Taking the first turn on the left on reaching some houses and then left again, you reach the small town of Santa Luċija.

Part of the coastal hike takes you through the streets of small towns like Santa Luċija.

Part of the coastal hike takes you through the streets of small towns like Santa Luċija.

Coming to a Y-junction stay to your left and continue on this wide country road for about 2 km, to arrive at Ta’ Sarraflu fresh water pool (9). This rare permanent freshwater pool hosts a number of locally uncommon species. To reach Wardija Point, take the concrete track bounded by rubble walls across the
road from the pool.

Looking back toward Xlendi from Wardija Point

Looking back from Wardija Point you view terraced farm fields on the hills above Xlendi.

This path heads towards the cliffs and offers magnificent views towards Xlendi. After about 400 meters you take a narrow path on your left which leads down to a cliff path at a lower level. This very pleasant route along the cliffs takes you to Wardija Point (10). Here you can visit the Punic sanctuary or Nympheum, said to have been dedicated to the Goddess Tanit which was carved into the yellow limestone about 2,500 years ago. Continue along the coastal path enjoying spectacular views of Dwejra Bay, Fungus Rock and the Azure Window. Take care in following the narrow path curving along the coastline. As you approach the small islet known as Fungus Rock you can notice the Dwejra Tower (11). At the time of the Knights this islet was the only known source of a plant known as the Cynomorium Coccineum, a very rare parasitic plant much prized by the Knights for its presumed medicinal powers.

The Dwejra Tower was built in 1651 to guard the coastline of Dwejra from invaders.

The Dwejra Tower was built in 1651 to guard the coastline of Dwejra from invaders.

and at a later stage, after 1744, it also served as a guard to the Fungus rock and its prized medicinal plant. The coastal path curves down through a small valley and then up towards the tower, which is worth a visit. The tower is open for the public when the flag is raised. You would have noticed the semicircular shape of the bay, formerly a cave, the roof of which collapsed.

We stopped for lunch at Dwejra Bay and enjoyed the local ale.

We stopped for lunch at Dwejra Bay and enjoyed the local ale.

The Dwejra area has several of these features called dolines, the largest of which is the one forming the Inland Sea. You ramble on along the coast past the tower to reach an often busy car park with cafés and public toilets. Be sure to wander out onto the flat limestone shelves near the sea to examine the many exposed fossils there.

This is the best place for views of the impressive rock structure known as the Azure Window, featuring as a backdrop of several films, and the Blue Hole, a favorite diving spot.

The Azure Window is a popular attraction and served as the backdrop for several movies, including a wedding scene in Game of Thrones.

The Azure Window is a popular attraction and served as the backdrop for several movies, including a wedding scene in Game of Thrones. And yes, those are people on top of the arch.

The Blue Hole is a favorite diving spot, or so the brochure says. It was too windy this day.

The Blue Hole is a favorite diving spot, or so the brochure says. It was too windy this day.

A visit to the Inland Sea, a salt water pool which was formed many millennia ago by the collapse of a very large cave, is also recommended. It is connected to the sea by a narrow 70 m long tunnel running through the sheer cliff. Here you can enjoy a safe and pleasant swim and an enjoyable boat trip through the tunnel and out to the open sea towards the Azure Window. Well worth it! Continue the walk by going up the rock-cut path behind the chapel of St Anne, near the car park. To your left you may notice a pair of the enigmatic cart ruts running towards the Azure Window.

Wild plants known as "Maltese Everlasting" grow only near the western cliffs of Gozo.

Wild plants known as “Maltese Everlasting” grow only near the western cliffs of Gozo.

Mary climbs limestone steps as we depart Dwejra Bay.

Mary climbs limestone steps as we depart Dwejra Bay.

You head uphill among delightful wild plants, the most distinctive being the Maltese Everlasting (Helichrysum melitense) with its light grey-green leaves and yellow flowers, which is restricted to the western cliffs of the island of Gozo and Fungus Rock Nature Reserve. The path goes between the cliffs of the Inland Sea and the sea, a route that will provide you with astounding views. As you look back from the road you can appreciate why the exceptional geology in this area renders it a potential World Heritage Site. The road takes you past some quarries before curving uphill towards the traditional village of San Lawrenz and its attractive parish church, situated in the main square (12).

The impressive parish church is situated in the main square of San Lawrenz.

The impressive parish church is situated in the main square of San Lawrenz.

San Lawrenz to Marsalforn

You start this section of the coastal walk by following the road on the left side of the church of St. Lawrence, heading northeast towards the nearby village of Għarb. After about 800 metres, at a Y-junction, take the road to the right which leads downhill towards the Chapel of il-Madonna Taż-Żejt, the subject of a local legend (13) and at the next junction take the road to the left. The road goes uphill to the north passing some lovely restored farmhouses and alongside small, well-tended fields.

A typical view along one of the farm roads, part of the marked path between Xlendi and Dwejra Bay.

A typical view along one of the farm roads, part of the marked path between Xlendi and Dwejra Bay.

At the next Y-junction (14) take the country road to the left. To your right, you can see the impressive
Ta’ Ġordan Lighthouse perched on a hill. A little further along on the right you reach the Chapel of San Dimitri P with its wonderful rural setting, and which is the focus of several local legends. At the
crossroads next to the chapel you take the path to the north and after a few meters, at the next T-junction, turn left along a yellow limestone path to reach the wild northern coast about 500 meters away.

Impressive cliffs of Gozo's northern coastline.

Impressive cliffs of Gozo’s northern coastline.

The path to the right along this fantastic, wind-sculpted coastline leads you to the scenic valley of Wied il-Mielaħ Q. Go across the small bridge at the mouth of the gorge to reach the eastern side to view the impressive rock window. The coastal path continues to the east, where you can admire dramatic cliffs and several large caves. After about 800 meters the road curves inland to approach a tranquil valley which has at its outlet the dramatic Wied l-Ghasri Gorge. To get to the coast on the far
side of the gorge you have to follow the main track through a small crossroads (17), then after a few meters, just as the track starts heading inland, you follow a narrow downhill earthen path that goes straight ahead for a few meters towards the valley edge, and then turns right. After about 100 meters along the valley edge, you should be able to step on the large rocks to pass over this usually dry stream bed. The path now turns left towards the coast. Take some time to admire the Wied l-Għasri Gorge and the pebble beach at the bottom, which can be reached through rock-hewn stairs. It is a spectacular
valley mouth, especially in rough weather.

The Wied I-Ghasri Gorge has a blowhole that erupts whenever a large wave crashes up through the gorge.

The Wied I-Ghasri Gorge has a blowhole that erupts whenever a large wave crashes up through the gorge.

You may resume the walk by heading north towards the coast to reach an impressive stretch of ancient salt pans. This extensive complex of man-made basins, tanks and channels were cut by hand in the flat limestone shelves and some are still used for the production of sea salt. Although some were abandoned in recent years, salt harvesting is still an active tradition, and you may be able to see some harvesting in summer. This fascinating showcase of Gozitan tradition runs for about 1.5 kilometres until it reaches Xwejni Bay. As you reach this northern bay, you cannot fail to notice the strange yellow mound at the tip of a peninsula. This is composed of compacted sand and gravel washed into a cave over a period of millennia. The limestone walls of the cave were later eroded by rain and wind, while the compacted and harder material inside was left behind.

The strange yellow mound at the tip of Xwejni Bay is composed of compacted sand and gravel washed into a cave over a period of millennia. The limestone walls of the cave were later eroded by rain and wind, while the compacted and harder material inside was left behind.

The strange yellow mound at the tip of Xwejni Bay is composed of sand and gravel washed into a cave over a period of millennia. The cave eventually eroded, leaving behind the harder material.

This peninsula separating Xwejni Bay from neighbouring Qbajjar Bay is the site of a military battery built in 1716 by engineers Jacques de Camus D’Arginy and Bernard de Fontet to avoid landings of enemy craft in the area. This battery is the last vestige of an intricate chain of fortifications built early in the 18th Century around Marsalforn Bay (18) and Ramla given the easy access they provided to potential invaders. Follow the path along the coast, leaving Qbajjar Bay and keep to the left on the coastal promenade. Walk along the park turning up the car park getting all-round views of the seaside town of Marsalforn and its beautiful bay T. Marsalforn has many cafés and hotels, public toilets, free Wi-Fi and a frequent bus service to Victoria and Mġarr Harbour.

Mary makes her way down one of several gorges along Gozo's northern coast.

Mary makes her way down one of several spectacular gorges along Gozo’s beautiful northern coast.

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