Few people give the area the time it deserves and fewer still wander beyond the rock- hewn window. But if you have the time it is well worth it. You’ll need plenty of that, four hours by my reckoning if you want to reach the next town walking mostly gentle gradients; but it’s an awesome, remote trek across a part of Gozo which is uncharacteristically arid and immensely uplifting to the senses.
Leave the car park and walk up to and beyond the chapel overlooking the Inland Sea. The chapel itself is quite unremarkable so a miss is quite in order. The top of the cliffs give one a beautiful view of the inland sea with its boathouses and cafes. Cross over to the opposite cliffside (the one overlooking the sea) and basically you can now follow the coastline. The observant rambler will probably notice a profusion of grey-leaved plants. This is the Maltese Everlasting, (Helichrysum melitense) a very rare endemic plant found only in this corner of Gozo and nowhere else worldwide. Needless to say this is a legally protected species and should not in any way be damaged. The plant produces a golden yellow flower head between April and June.
There are two quarries immediately after you leave Dwejra but once past these there are hardly any man-made intrusions except for the odd hunting hide – some tottering precariously on the cliff’s edge. The coast follows a wide curve allowing you to view the Azure window from a completely new angle. This stretch is an important bird area – it is estimated that it supports some 500 pairs of Cory’s Shearwaters and between 30 and 50 pairs of Yelkouan Shearwaters. The Yelkouan is endemic to the Mediterranean basin and is a globally threatened species with an estimated population of between 15 and 30 thousand pairs worldwide – Malta has about 1,500 pairs.
In an hour or so you should reach San Dimitri point – the Maltese Islands’ most westerly point. From here the walking is in an easterly direction and one soon comes across Wied ir-Raheb – a deep cleft in the cliffs that falls dramatically to the sea below. Walk a little way inland to go round this elevated river valley to follow the coast again on the valley’s eastern side. The cliffs here are high and mighty coralline ones but soon give way to a gentler, smoother cream colored limestone plateau. Look out for a particularly quaint rock formation – a mushroom shaped one created by a cap of the harder coralline stone over a stump of the more easily eroded globigerina limestone.
The next river valley you will come across is Wied il-Mielah. There is a natural arch where this valley meets the sea…not as well known and certainly not as celebrated as the Dwejra one but equally dramatic nonetheless. Steps lead down to sea level for a better view.
Beyond Wied il-Mielah the limestone plateau continues for another kilometer or so until the cliffs are broken again by the beautiful Wied il-Ghasri, a fjord-like drowned river valley with its own miniscule pebble beach wedged between the high cliffs. Rock-cut stairs lead to the beach and the detour is well worth it as this is one of Gozo’s seriously beautiful spots.
Moving on from Wied il-Ghasri the limestone plateau continues and the gradient is gently downhill. This part of the coast has the largest stretch of salt pens in the islands, still worked and harvested by hand to this day. There is a cute hole-in-the-wall salt shop if you want to buy some of the stuff. You will soon reach Xwejni Bay – another popular summer bathing spot, with a curious conical clay form at its eastern end.
Between Xwejni and the next bay (Qbajjar) is a newly restored Knights’ redoubt.
Beyond Qbajjar Bay there is a lovely north facing promenade and once past that you are now in Marsalforn proper. Marsalforn is Gozo’s most important resort town, pretty crowded in summer but blissfully quiet in the winter months. You will be lucky to find a couple of bars open on the front, as after this longish route you will definitely cherish a good local beer and perhaps a hobza biz-zejt to go with it…
Both start and end points of this walk are served with hourly bus services from Victoria so having your own car is not an issue, the bus is in fact the better alternative since this is not a circular route.
This article was first published in the December 2013 edition of Il-Bizzilla - the Air Malta inflight magazine