The Maltese landscape has a unique kind of beauty, and walking is an excellent way to explore it. Try these easy themed nature walks in Malta and Gozo.
The Maltese landscape has a unique kind of beauty. The coast around Malta, Gozo and Comino is truly spectacular. Azure waters give way to golden, white and red sands, towering cliffs and curious caves. Teeming plantlife in woodlands may be relatively sparse, but offers the same respite of being surrounded by nature. Or perhaps you prefer the rural feeling of windy country roads connecting old hamlets, lined with rubble walls, teeny chapels and age-old prickly pears? Not to mention the likelihood of stumbling across some archaeological remains.
Winter leading into spring adds a green coat mottled with yellows, reds and purples to the earth, that bares all and turns brown in summer (much like the people that inhabit it!) Shaggy sheep and an old shepherd ramble the countryside while farmers here still toil it the traditional way.
The population is only dense in specific areas, and by contrast, in rural areas, you often find yourself completely alone. While it may not always see, like it, just one-fifth of the Maltese Islands is developed, while much of the rest remains wild and pristine. The entire north of Malta from Mellieha down the west side and towards the south at Delimara Point is mostly undeveloped, and makes excellent fodder for day hikes. Gozo seems to be made for walking, while Comino offers some truly jaw-dropping views.
1. WATER: Marfa Ridge walk, Mellieha
With sparkling clear waters surrounding it, the Marfa Ridge walk features hidden pools nestled in rubble, an open cave leading to the deep blue and several beaches. It is also where the seas are phenomenally rough when the prominent north-easterly winds bash against the cliffs.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The open cave
Known as L-Ahrax tal-Mellieha locally, the area of Marfa Ridge remains largely untouched. While campers take to the trees, hikers hug the coast along L-Irdum L-Ahmar. Few stretches of Maltese coast can boast such a dramatic effect. Bits of the cliff have flaked off into free-standing independent pieces, with gaps several stories high. See if you can find your way to Slugs Bay, a miniature turquoise bay amidst the rubble below. Don't miss the spectacular open cave on the northernmost tip of the fish's tail. The north coast will bring you to the White Tower, Little Armier Bay and Armier Bay. And when you're done, it's time for a cold beer!
The route: start at the roundabout and walk along the road until you can head right into the trees until you reach the coast. Follow the coast in an anti-clockwise direction to the north side and around; or return to the road that runs along the middle at any time. The road beyond the Red Tower and the one leading to Paradise Bay are also interesting walks in the area.
2. EARTH: Xemxija Trail - Mizieb walk
With its ancient relics from the past, past a 1,000-year-old carob tree and through one of the largest pieces of woodland in Malta, the Xemxija-Mellieha Trail is also where Punic Tombs were dug, standing stones rise from and cart ruts mark the earth.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The old Roman road, apiary & other relics
1,000-year-old carob tree
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Along the old Roman road to Mellieha, look out for carvings on the rock face made by pilgrims from bygone times. Past the historic Roman Apiary and ancient carob tree, you'll find more relics from the past. Expect standing stones and Punic tombs. Head into il-Mizieb woods on the left. Simple, beautiful and rather wild, you can still expect to come across the odd hunter's lodge. Careful, you might even catch a glimpse of a hedgehog! Walk through the woods to the edge of the treeline, where the trail carries on for several more kilometres to and along the coast to Mellieha. The views of the surrounding area from the treeline are magnificent – you can see the sunset over the sea from here. If you decide to stay for the sunset, hurry back afterwards, because the woods look very different in the dark.
The route: from Xemxija Bay, head up the steep road by the Porto Azzurro Apartments. At the top on the left, where the tarmac veers right, veer left instead onto the old Roman road. Try to make time to also see the Roman Baths, the cart ruts and the underground mill in the area.
3. AIR: Dingli Cliffs walk
High above all else, right there on the highest point of the Maltese Islands is the Dingli Cliffs walk. At 250m elevation in some areas, the cliffs fall sharply to the sea below, making you feel as if you're standing on the edge of the world.
WHAT TO EXPECT
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Sun, sky, sea and me
A long stretch of coast will take you north and south along the south-west-facing Dingli Cliffs. Expect glorious sunsets set in miles of blue sea and sky. The view is breathtaking when the horizon is sharp and, in a haze, one gets the feeling that there is nothing but a void beyond the cliff. Either way, it is a wonder that a land called Africa lies beyond the horizon. The walk is much about the spectacular views, which includes the islet of Filfla. The cliffs themselves change features from time to time, with land sprawling below and even fields. Find the little chapel that stands solitary in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the cliff. The building that looks like a golf ball perched on pillars is the Dingli Aviation Radar Station. After your walk, you can enjoy a meal al fresco with a panoramic view at The Cliffs Restaurant.
The route: arriving at Dingli Cliffs is easy and, as one might expect, through the village of Dingli, near Rabat. Walk or drive towards the cliffs, you'll know it when you get there. Walk in any direction and then back to the other way - it looks different! I recommend you leave your last walk heading northwards to catch the sunset.
4. STONE: Ghar Lapsi - Temples walk
The remarkable landscape of this rocky coast is what makes the Ghar Lapsi to the Temples walk dedicated to Stone. Where previously we saw Earth as a keeper of Life and her stories, here we see Earth undressed to her bone. Here, you'll also find standing stones.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Ghar Lapsi (Lapsi Cave)
Mini Azure Window
Have a snack at the bar at Ghar Lapsi, and check out the cave and the beautiful swimming spots in the area. Now head south along the coast, towards the massive caves up high on the cliff. You may meet climbers, and you will find a path you can follow all the way to where you'll see a stone arch on the sea. The (now fallen) Azure Window certainly stole the limelight from several other similar features on the islands. Meanwhile, from this vantage point, the islet of Filfla simply looks like a big flat rock out at sea. Above, on the cliff, are the standing stones of Mnajdra and Hagar Qim temples. The 5,000-year-old megaliths are among the oldest man-made structures in the world. You can gain admission to the temples and the visitor centre with a single ticket.
The route: you can begin at Ghar Lapsi and return from the Temples. A road also connects the two. Zurrieq and Qrendi are the nearest towns. If you are ready to walk further, see if you can find il-Maqluba at Qrendi, where legend has it that a small village of evil people was sunk into the earth, and only a maiden in the chapel was saved.
5. TIME: Marsalforn - Wied il-Ghasri walk, Gozo
The passage from present to past in the story of these islands is the theme of this Gozo walk. Follow the coast from a town with ample human activity through a place where the results of human activity are etched in stone to where the landscape was marked in an age before the existence of mankind.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Xwejni Salt Pans
Relish the slower pace of activity with an ice-cream at one of the seaside establishments before leaving from Marsalforn, a modern but quaint seaside town. Walk along the coast to even quainter Qbajjar Bay, where time seems to have stopped a few decades ago. Move along to Xwejni salt pans, which are literally the results of human activity etched in stone. Three kilometres of coast has been shaped to collect sea salt and the 350-year-old salt pans are still in use today. Further akin, a marvellous sight to behold is the winding valley of Wied il-Ghasri. The deep narrow valley was etched by the current of torrential rain during the ice age, and still welcomes the sea for several metres. Walk back along the upper coast and see if you can find the ladder leading down to the mouth of a massive sea cave formed millennia ago by the raging seas.
The route: Arriving at Marsalforn is easy from the ferry and through Victoria (Rabat). Then simply follow the coast all the way to Wied il-Ghasri. This is quite a long walk, but a very interesting one! You can always hitch a ride back with a friendly local coming your way.
BONUS: Guided walks
You may also like these guided walks by Visit Malta – the official website of the Malta Tourism Authority. Also try these Gozo Walks. Enjoy the nature!