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Feb 06 2017

Walking Around Gozo

walkingWalking around Gozo wasn’t on my list of things to do when I arrived.  I knew the island was small, but I didn’t realise quite how small it was until I did my Forrest Gump impression: I went for a walk and kept on walking.

While I was in Gozo, I wanted to go to Dwerja to see the Azure Window.  It’s one of those ‘must-see’ sights.  I was initially thinking of going by bus.  That was until the hotel receptionist told me I could walk there.  Well, once she had said that, I just had to walk it because that was bound to be a lot more interesting than going by bus, and I had wanted to go for a hike.

I was staying in Xlendi at the time.  When I set off, I really wasn’t sure how to get there, and I had no idea how long it would take.  I had directions, the map on my phone, and I had been told about following blue signs. None of these turned out to be particularly useful, but the combination of all three plus my own internal navigation, got me there, eventually.  It took about 2 hours in total.  It would have taken less time if I didn’t have to backtrack or stop on the way to suss out where to go.

At the start of the trip, I walked towards Victoria (Gozo’s only city), away from the sea.  I was looking for blue signs, as I had been told to, but I didn’t see any.  There wasn’t an island by a bus stop either, as the directions stated.  Eventually, I spotted a blue/red arrow painted on the ground, almost opposite the bus stop Tuta, which pointed upwards on a minor road to my left.
An arrow indicating a walking route in Gozo
I decided to follow it, even though I wasn’t quite sure if it was the right way.  It winded upwards and took me through a village.  That was nice because I passed a few friendly locals on the way.  Once I got to the end of the village, I turned left.  That led me to the main square of Kercem.
Kercem, Gozo
Was I going in the correct direction?  I wasn’t sure, so I consulted the map on my phone.  It showed that I needed to follow the main road, which took me through the town of Santa Luicja.  When I got there, I saw the sea.  That was the first time I knew I was definitely going in the right direction – fantastic!  I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on.
Santa Luicja, Gozo
Everything seemed to be going fine.  I finally saw signs for Dwerja, and I was enjoying the scenery as well as the walk.  Perhaps I was enjoying it a little too much because, when I checked my phone, I had somehow gone past a turning I should have taken.  I backtracked to take the turning, which was easy to miss – honest!  I walked over a bridge and then continued on.  I checked my phone again, only to find out that I had missed another turning. I backtracked again.  It was another turning that was easy to miss.  Do you believe me?  It looked like the driveway to the house next to it.  I followed the road around, and checked my phone again.  I was somehow going in the wrong direction, again!  Missing the turning was becoming a bit of a habit.  I backtracked once again, but I couldn’t find the path that was marked on the map on my phone.  There was no path, and it didn’t look like a particularly safe place to walk with a big drop.  There wasn’t anyone else around, and I was concerned about injuring myself, so I continued on a bit further and found a safer, flatter place to walk.
The scenery was spectacular.  I love rugged coastlines, and this is certainly rugged.  Fungus Rock, the first limestone rock I came across, got its name in medieval times because of the parasitic flowering plant that grows on it.  It was thought to have medicinal properties, and the rock was protected in the 18th century for that reason.  I couldn’t get too close because it was so windy.  In fact, I had to stand with my back against a stone wall to steady myself while I took some photos, holding onto my phone and camera tightly whilst doing so.
Fungus Rock, Gozo
I was surprised to find Dwerja Tower open because of the strong winds.  I did make my way to the top, but I didn’t stay there long for fear of being blown away.  I went down to the basement where there was a video about the area and the history.

After that, it was time to get a closer view of the Azure Window.  There were a lot of people already there who had arrived by bus, coach, and car.  I didn’t get too close to the edge because of the wind and the enormous waves crashing against the shore.  Some people did, though.  The following day, I found out that some people had to be rescued, having been swept out to sea the day I was there.  They were tourists who must had gotten a little too close to the edge in pursuit of that perfect photo or selfie.  I’m sure the strong winds didn’t help.  Thankfully, no one was injured that day.

Before I left Dwerja, I walked to the inland sea, which is sea water that flows through a sixty metre long tunnel known as the Blue Grotto.  Weather permitting, it is possible to go by boat through the tunnel, under the Azure Window and around the Fungus Rock.  The strong winds made that impossible when I was there.  In better weather, apparently, the inland sea is a popular diving spot.

Then, it was onwards and upwards to Saint Lawrence (San Laurenz).  I had thought about eating at the restaurant in Dwerja, but I decided to have something in Saint Lawrene instead.  I thought it was a town which would have a few restaurants and cafes.  Boy, was I wrong!  Firstly, it’s a village.  Secondly, there is only one restaurant, which was closed at the time.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  I could have waited for a bus, but I decided to head on towards Ta Pinu because I wanted to see the church, and I knew it wasn’t too far from Saint Lawrence.  It was further than I thought it would be.  I walked in the direction of Gharb because I knew it was near there. When I got to Gharb, I was really hungry.  Gharb looked like a ghost town, so my hopes of finding something to eat were fading until I spotted a sign for a restaurant which was open.  I went in, sat down, and was relieved when I saw there was something vegetarian on the menu.

Gharb, Gozo

With a full belly, it was time to move on.  I asked how to get to the church and was given directions.  I wasn’t far away.  I set off, and when I turned a corner, I saw the church in the middle of nowhere.  It is enormous. I wasn’t expecting it to be so big, but it is a basilica – The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu.  The basilica is particularly important because a number of miracles have been reported there.  It has an interesting story, which begins in the 16th century when it was smaller and marked for demolition.
Ta' Pinu Sanctuary, Gozo
After that, I still hadn’t seen a bus. I saw a sign for Ghasri, so I decided to walk there.  Again, it was a bit of a one-horse town.  It had a church, of course. I popped into the shop to buy some water and a bus went past as I was coming out – typical!  Since I had missed the bus, I decided to walk to Victoria to get the bus back to Xlendi.  I found out later that I could have, in fact, walked to Marsalforn, but I didn’t realise that at the time.  When I arrived in Victoria, I decided to walk back to Xlendi rather than walk to the bus station and wait for a bus. I followed the signs, and went past Fontana on the way.  I had been this way by bus.  Walking gave me the chance to stop and look at the original bath and an air raid shelter that I hadn’t noticed when I was on the bus.
Fontana, Gozo
I was surprised at how quickly it took me to walk back.  Once I saw a bus stop I had seen at the start of my walk – Tuta – I knew exactly where I was.  I was just outside Xlendi. When I got back, I told the receptionist where I had walked and she told me I had walked almost half of Gozo. Considering I was only going to walk to Dwerja, that was quite an achievement.

I’d love to go back and walk around the whole of Gozo.  In my opinion, walking around Gozo is by far the best way to experience this beautiful Maltese island.


You can trace my route on this map:

Center map
Google MapsGet Directions

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