Gnejna – Swimming and More
Gnejna is quite a small sandy bay, reached through the farming village of Mgarr in Malta – and a natural playground with the people of the village of course. But this sheltered sandy beach’s renown goes beyond Mgarr and in high summer it can also get quite busy, especially at weekends and more so on summer Sundays.
Gnejna’s sandy stretch is all of two hundred metres long - miniscule really – but it’s a lovely stretch of clean, reddish sand bordered by the bay’s clean waters. The beach has a modicum of amenities with adequate parking facilities, a public convenience and a kiosk which offers basic meals and drinks and hires out deck chairs and beach umbrellas.
But there’s more to Gnejna than just sand and sea. It is a beauty spot par excellence with a steep, breathing valley leading down to the beach proper. A 16th century Knight’s tower stands high above the beach and if one is willing to go for the climb, the view of the bay is quite spectacular.
No less interesting are the two ‘arms’ of the bay beyond the sand. To the beach’s south (left of the sandy beach) is a ramshackle collection of boathouses, some actually hewn out of the rock. In summer their owners turn them into temporary summer residences and some owners spend most of summer here: swimming in Gnejna Bay, fishing and otherwise enjoying the easy life.
For the more curious, the area beyond the boathouses contains a lovely maze of boulders and wild scenery which merits some exploration and there are a couple of splendidly secluded coves if peace and quiet is one’s cup of tea. An amazing little place to explore – especially around sundown.
The bay’s northern arm is no less interesting. Just past the sandy stretch there is an area of wide rock shelves where bathing off the rocks is popular and the sea even more clear than in the sandy part. From here a path meanders below the high cliffs for some 500 metres through a highly scenic combination of land and seascape and at the end of it there is what is widely regarded as Malta’s only naturist beach located on a flat rocky outcrop. Though nudist bathing remains strictly illegal in Malta, this location is remote enough not to attract much official attention, and the police rarely give the place as much as a glance. Be aware however that nudist bathing is done at one’s own risk – and one has to contend with the somewhat treacherous scrambling over clay slopes close to the outcrop.
For visitors not having their own transport, Gnejna can be reached by public transport from Cirkewwa and Golden Bay via an hourly service. Regular buses also run from Valletta to Mgarr and though the walk from Mgarr to Gnejna is quite pleasant, making the climb back to the village can be quite arduous.