Although only a three mile channel separates the islands of Malta and Gozo, the smaller sister island displays a number of features which are quite distinct from the larger island of Malta. Geographically Gozo is characterised by a number of flat hilltops – some featuring picturesque villages proudly sitting atop the larger ones. The pace of life is distinctly slower than on neighbouring Malta and the only significant traffic centres around Victoria and on the road leading to the Mgarr ferry. Due to the abundance of clay on the island, Gozo also manages to look much greener than its larger neighbour. The Gozitans are in general more reserved and tend to be less loud than their countrymen across the water.
Unlike Malta, Gozo has a somewhat inaccessible coast which means that seaside resorts are limited to the villages of Marsalforn and Xlendi. Most of the rest of the coastline remains exquisitely untouched – making for some of the best coastline rambling anywhere in Europe.
The easiest of the walking is along the stretch of coast from Mgarr to Xlendi. This consists mostly of a long stretch of clifftop walking with just a couple of inlets – the low shore at Xatt l-Ahmar and the fjord-like indent at the picturesque Mgarr ix-Xini.
Beyond Xlendi the cliffs get even higher. Best access north of Xlendi follows a road that leads to the so called Ghadira ta Sarraflu – a large natural pond perennially filled with water and supporting a variety of bird and wildlife. Beyond this pond a track once again follows the cliffs to the Azure Window at Dwejra – by far the loveliest approach to this natural wonder. Unfortunately the Azure Window collapsed in March 2017.
Beyond Dwejra one can again follow the coast via a cliff path which rounds off the north-western corner of Gozo at Cape San Dimitri and then follows more cliffs all the way to Marsalforn. The landscape along this northern part of the cliffs is somewhat austere and almost lunar in places but is again pleasantly broken by two deep inlets – the one at Wied il-Mielah and the celebrated Wied il-Ghasri – this last an impossibly picturesque feature of this part of the coast.
Marsalforn is the most accessible part of this part of the coast and of course this translates into the resort we see today. Although this is by far Gozo’s largest resort town it still remains very much a quiet place and gets even quieter in winter.
Beyond Marsalforn the coastline takes a different look. Characterised by clay slopes and the reddish boulders composed of the exposed greensand rock layer this is definitely scenic stuff. The stretch from Marsalforn to Ramla is particularly beautiful and not too difficult a track either. Hidden along the way is one of Gozo’s loveliest bathing spots – The rocky outcrop at Ghajn Barrani.
From Ramla the going gets tougher. There is a tricky path here which leads to San Blas but this can only be managed if the sea is calm as the path literally hugs the coast. The ‘path’ is not a definable one in most places – it involves scrambling up and down rocks and requires a considerable amount of energy. It is also best done in a group – there are various walking groups in the islands.
Equally challenging is the stretch from the beautiful sandy hideaway of San Blas to Dahlet Qorrot Bay. This is practically a large boulder field almost a kilometre long and again this stretch is best attempted with an experienced walk leader.
From Dahlet Qorrot to Qala point the going is much easier – but is unfortunately marred for part of the way by Gozo’s largest open quarry. Beyond Qala point, the stretch back to Mgarr Harbour more than makes up for the unsightly quarry – a stretch featuring low cliffs, one or two beautiful pebbly beaches and great open views across to Comino and Malta.
Really one cannot experience Gozo properly without a good look at the island’s amazing coast.