Gozo Coastal Path

I had a work trip to Malta mid November and we decided to stay out a bit longer and head over to the island of Gozo for some winter Mediterranean walking. The only way to Gozo is by ferry (which runs 24 hours a day) and there’s buses to the ferry direct from the airport or Valletta. All buses in Malta have a flat fee for 2 hours travel (€1.50 in winter), and you only pay the ferry on the return journey. We used a topo map of Gozo and a rough route guide.

Leaving our AirBnB in Mgarr, we descended on a track to the cliffs where we picked up a path heading west. There’s no signposts but it seems to have been marked with dots of red spray paint every now and then. And if in doubt, keep the sea to your left!

It was windy but we set out in shorts and t-shirts, and soon worked up a sweat along the undulations. The landscape was surprisingly green; they had a big storm a couple of weeks ago so I think everything had a growth spurt. The fields were cut into steps down the hills, and interspersed with white limestone boulders or the gorgeous yellow sandstone that a lot of the buildings are made of. We’d been told that the reason for the tiny fields was that each plot of land traditionally gets passed down the family and split between the children, resulting in ever smaller plots.

We dropped down to a tiny beach in an inlet via some rough limestone steps and tried not to wake a bunch of climbers bivying who hadn’t started the day yet. It was straight up the other side, but the maximum elevation of Gozo is below 250m, so none of the hills were particularly troublesome.

After following the wiggling path to Ta’ Ċenċ we stopped for elevenses at the cliffs. We could no longer see Malta due to a wall of rain in-between the islands. Rich’s boundless optimism declared it wouldn’t hit us within the hour; I took the bet to £5. I won the bet.

The path stayed very close to the cliff edges which we could see were sometimes overhangs, so we stayed as far from the edge as possible. After some more loops around peninsulas, we descended to a picnic bench at the edge of Xlendi for lunch. As we were eating, a very pretty cat strolled over and lay across the table demanding affection. We had clearly sat at her table, and obliged.

The trail detoured inland for a bit to get around some more cliffs, and we walked on minor roads for a while before returning to the coastal rocky path. The trail on the ground petered out at one point when we diverted around a path that had PRIVAT spray painted in red. We cut cross country to rejoin, and the heavy rain set in.

We took shelter in some sandstone overhangs to munch on some Oreos and marvel at the shells and fossils. It was a slip and slide down to the ‘inland sea’ and the ruins of the Azure Window, before continuing back up the other side. Marching on in the rain and forgetting that we needed to turn off the trail to get to our B&B we ended up having to backtrack when we found ourselves at a locked gate in a quarry.

Eventually in the fading light we arrived at our accommodation (Taljola B&B), wetter than an otter’s pocket. Morale picked up after a hot shower and 2 cups of tea, and a heater to dry out our belongings. We wandered into Gharb for dinner and ate half the menu.

The next day normal service resumed with clear skies and bright sun. We followed a track to the north coast and the sea was now a deep brilliant blue. The north coast of Gozo is scattered with salt pans, shallow pools cut into the rock and filled with sea water left to evaporate over the summer.

We stopped for some pastizzi (like a puff pastry Cornish pasty traditionally filled with whipped ricotta or peas) in Marsalforn then plodded up the hill and down the other side to Ramla Bay, one of the few sandy beaches in Gozo. Rich had a swim, I had a wade. The sea was a balmy 22 degrees. Post lunch we accepted that there wasn’t enough daylight left to stick to the whole coast path, so we struck inland for Mgarr. Barring a brief relationship with a cactus, we found our way across the edge of a field to join up to a steep track to Nadur.

Cresting the hill in Nadur might have been the best view of the weekend. Late afternoon sun on the yellow rock of Mgarr, with views to Camino and Malta, and the failed walled city of Fort Chambray. We stopped for a while to take it in and appreciate the quietness of the island.

A final descent back to our AirBnB ended our walk at approximately 50km.

I can recommend Gozo/Malta for anyone wanting to stockpile some vitamin D, relatively easy and quiet walking over interesting landscapes, and good ice cream!

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