Comino – Go early and beat the crowds
The small island of Comino sandwiched between the larger islands of Malta and Gozo starts getting a steady influx of visitors from June onwards, when the bathing season is in full swing and the locals start to flock there on day trips. Comino’s amenities are limited – there is just one hotel, practically no shops and no cars either. This is quite understandable as its permanent population consists of just three people.
So why go there at all one may ask. Well as far as the Maltese Islands are concerned it is definitely the ultimate get-away-from-it-all destination and a day spent there is like no other. In May its two main beaches, Santa Maria Bay and the Blue Lagoon, are still almost empty of people and can be enjoyed ...erm… as they should be – peacefully!
The Blue Lagoon with its underlying bed of white sands is probably the most enticing stretch of sea in the entire Maltese archipelago – its translucent waters are an invitation to dive in even to the most determined landlubber. Santa Maria Bay is not to be sniffed at either, not least because of its line of tamarisk trees bordering the sea which offers priceless shade. The latter bay can be almost deserted in late spring and the water is crystal clear here as well.
What of the determined landlubber who will still resist the call of the sea? Well there is still enough to see to easily fill a day. On Comino’s highest ground stands the Santa Maria Tower – an imposing fortress built by the Knights at a time when Comino was frequently a convenient hideout for corsairs with dubious intents. In more recent times the tower has often featured in films – most notably in The Count of Monte Cristo where it doubled for the notorious fortress-prison of the Château d'If. As a rule of thumb, if the flag is flying from the tower that means it’s also open to visitors.
Next to the tower is a ramshackle building, originally an army barracks and now largely deserted except for a few rooms which make up the home of the remaining inhabitants. It’s a cool atmospheric place with a couple of delightful leafy lanes…and you might even get a glimpse of one of the three lone islanders – true modern day castaways surviving on what is essentially a bare rock.
Over on the south side of the island there is a small Knights’ Battery and close to Santa Maria Bay there is a lovely chapel still used by the islanders for Sunday mass – with a priest dutifully making the crossing from Gozo every week.
But really the landlubber’s Comino is a place to get lost in for the day and savour its remoteness; the arid landscape punctuated by the low thyme bushes which at this time of year take on their purple hue, the cliff scenery and the open water vistas across the channels separating it from its larger neighbours …and the blissful quiet.
There are daily ferry crossings to Comino from both Cirkewwa in Malta as well as Mgarr Harbour in Gozo. Although there are no shops on Comino the hotel bar and restaurant are open to non-residents and there are usually a couple of fast food kiosks at the Blue Lagoon.
Author: Steven Bonello