Most visitors to Gozo will probably include a short trip to Dwejra - the site so well known for its unique dramatic seascapes and geological features which include the famous Azure Window, Fungus Rock and the so called Inland Sea. Chances are you will get little of the feel of this unique site on a stop-and-go tour of the island, as the area really cries out for better appreciation.
Gozo by its very nature demands a slower way to do things and an alternate way to visit Dwejra is actually to walk there from the island's capital Victoria. It's a relatively easy five kilometer trek and it is a rewarding alternative. It can be done in two hours - but make that three for stops, diversions and gawping in general!
The way out of Victoria is easy enough - just follow the signposts to Kercem which lies just ten minutes walking away. Kercem itself is a miniscule village with one quiet main street winding its way in and out of the village again. There are a few ancient stone balconies of note on some old houses but little else of much interest apart from the quaintness of it all.
Once out of the village follow the signposts to Ghadira ta San Raflu. It's a quiet road bordered by fields and soon enough it follows close to the cliffs - giving breathtaking views across the water. In thirty minutes or so you should arrive at the Ghadira itself - a small pond which attracts waterfowl and other fauna. Until recently the pond supported a thriving population of the local endemic painted frog Discoglossus pictus but insensitive individuals have introduced the alien Bedriaga frog which has all but taken over the Ghadira. Nonetheless being here during the frogs' mating season is quite an experience - their mating calls are incredibly loud and create an impressive ruckus in this otherwise silent place.
The road divides into two at the pond - take the narrow trek on the left. The trek, initially smoothly cemented over, soon becomes a dust road and eventually just a narrow cycle path skirting the cliffs. The views here are breathtaking - with the small tower at the head of Xlendi Bay looking somewhat lonely amid the wide vista of cliffs. The path eventually leads to an open space with a small rock- hewn chamber and a couple of wells dug in front of it. This is in fact an ancient Punic sanctuary about which very little is known. Not much remains of course but the site is certainly one of Gozo's most atmospheric, perched as it is on an impressively high cliff and commanding the best views towards Dwejra and the Fungus Rock. Take time out to gawp.
Retrace your steps from the site and go uphill for a minute or two until you can see the path towards Dwejra - there are various well trodden paths in fact. The observant rambler will note a proliferation of curious greyish-leaved plants occurring from this point onwards. This is none other than the Maltese Everlasting (Helichrysum melitense) an extremely rare endemic plant confined to just this small corner of Gozo and nowhere else worldwide. It produces yellow flowers between April and late May.
Soon one arrives at the curved Dwejra Bay with the Fungus Rock standing majestically at its entrance. Again the views here are impressive. Fungus Rock itself is a protected site - being the only known place where the so called Malta Fungus- a strange mushroom-like plant - grows. In the past it was believed to have potent medicinal powers and the Knights of St.John provided round the clock guard to deter locals from collecting this supposed elixir. Past the curve of the bay, head for the Dwejra Tower and you are practically in Dwejra now. Take time to enjoy this great site having tasted its splendor unfolding little by little.
There is an hourly bus back to Victoria from Dwejra if, quite understandably, you find the hilly road back a bit daunting.