1. The north
Salt pans - Viewing Malta
Length: 12 km; Time: 5-6 hours; Start/finish: Marsalforn/St Lawrence; Grade: Moderate
Start the journey in Marsalforn, and take in the sights and sounds of this popular holiday resort, once a small fishing village, before heading along the coast road. “As we walk along the coast road, we soon find ourselves in the midst of a unique and surreal landscape,” Cornil Wambergue, the director of Gozo Adventures, describes. “There are wave-like cliffs sculpted by the power of the sea and wind, and you can see a low limestone pavement containing hundreds of square and irregular hand-cut salt pans.”
These are the Xwejni saltpans, which have been the source of the mineral since Roman times. Follow the pans until you emerge at the hidden gorge of Wied il-Gharsi, continuing along the coastal path to Wied il-Mielah to view the limestone arch which still stands (though its bigger sister in Dwejra succumbed to the waves in 2017). Head inland and up the pathway to the chapel of St Demetrius, where the eponymous saint is said to have ridden magically out of the painting and saved a local boy from pirates. Experience the lazy Mediterranean sunshine in the small village of Gharb before ending your journey in the village square of the neighbouring San Lawrenz.
2. The west
San Lawrenz's Inland Sea - Viewing Malta
Length: 10 km; Time: 6 hours; Start/finish: San Lawrenz/Xlendi; Grade: Moderate
The Azure Window at Dwejra would have been the highlight of this walk, but there’s still plenty to see, even if the limestone arch is no longer there. The route starts off from the village square of San Lawrenz, and heads towards Dwejra, where you can experience a taste of salty Mediterranean coastal life with boat houses surrounding the inland sea – a lagoon formed through the collapse of the roof of a cave. Follow the coastline path past Fungus Rock, a small turf-covered islet of limestone. Cornil says, “the undulating coast path continues to a headland at Wardija Point, where there is a small cave which was a Roman-Punic Sanctuary.” Head inland into the village of Kercem, and follow the steep road into the lush Lunzjata Valley before taking the short walk down the popular holiday resort of Xlendi.
3. The south
Xlendi watchtowers - Viewing Malta
Length: 14 km; Time: 6-7 hours; Start/finish: Xlendi/Qala; Grade: Moderate
Starting out from Xlendi, this route takes ramblers past more saltpans and gorges tucked into the cliff faces. Heading towards Sannat, the walk will take you into the annals of Kantra Valley, a crystal-blue hotspot in the form of a bow, where a watchtower overlooks Xlendi bay. Past Sannat, the ancient garigue rock of Ta Cenc etch a story of human habitation stretching back thousands of years. Cornil guides groups to trekk down into Mgarr ix-Xini, a gorge opening up into a bay which has even made it onto the big screen in Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea. After that, “we climb back up to follow the coast, past another watchtower and the site of a fougasse - a mortar made in a circular hole in the rock and filled with gunpowder and stones,” Cornil explains. Past Fort Chambray into Mgarr, walk along the promenade and along Hondoq ir-Rummien, a popular bay just north of the bustling ferry harbour you’ve just passed, ending your trek in the quiet village of Qala.
4. The east
Ramla l-Hamra - Viewing Malta
Length: 14 km; Time: 6-7 hours; Start/finish: Qala/Marsalforn; Grade: Moderate
Qala is the starting point for this trek, which will take you into Gozo’s iconic red-sand coloured beaches, where you’ll even have time for a short swim. Starting in the village, the route rounds into the old fishing bay of Dahlet Qorret and takes the rugged cliff path into Wied ir-Rhan, a verdant valley bristling with the sounds of scrubland. Cornil guides his groups out of the garigue landscape before heading into San Blas valley, “where we walk through the sweet aroma of citrus trees down a steep road, to the beautiful red sands of tiny San Blas Bay,” he says. It’s harder going up than it is going down, so take a deep breath and persist up the steep hill out of the valley and back down on the other side. Ramla Bay’s golden beach will stretch out before you. Slip off your walking clothes and dive into the crystal-blue bay before heading back to Xaghra, and Marsalforn.
5. The island of Comino
Comino - Viewing Malta
Length: 7 km; Time: 3-4 hours; Start/finish: Blue Lagoon; Grade: Easy
Comino may only be a rocky tear in the Mediterranean expanse, but its honeycombed limestone and cliff arches offer a glimpse into a geological past we’ve only read about. After the customary swim in the Blue Lagoon, Comino’s claim to fame (as the number of people clawed onto the rock can testify), walk upwards following the cliff towards the Santa Marija tower – otherwise known as Chateau D’If in Kevin Reynold’s 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo. The view from that lookout is breath-taking. When you’re done, turn back towards Il-Palazz (the Palace) and follow the road towards Santa Marija Battery, continuing to climb up the cliff for another spectacular picture. Once you reach the top, head down into Wied l-Ahmar (the red valley) and towards Santa Marija Bay, with its views of Gozo, before heading back to your starting point.