The last part of our trip in Malta was to the little island of Gozo. After exploring the prismatic Popeye Village we finally drove towards the Cirkewwa port to take a ferry to Mgarr seaport in Gozo. We parked our car in the ferry and climbed up to the deck for amazing vistas of the perpetual blue Mediterranean waters.
Once out of the Mgarr Harbour the first striking landmark we remarked was the Ghajnsielem parish church perched high on the hill. The aura of the city with the beige bathed buildings and colorful boxed windows were charmingly alluring.
Xewkija Rotunda Church
The Xewkija Rotunda Church in the historic village of Xewkija has the third-highest unsupported dome in the world. The 20th-century Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist is inspired by the Santa Maria Della Salute church of Venice. The interior is embellished with finely sculptured columns and exceptional paintings.
Once we drove past the bustling capital city Victoria the terrain was mostly desolate punctuated with grass rolls against the sloping hills. We decided to take a break to stretch our legs and breathe in some fresh air. And we spotted a flock of ducks waddling towards the bushes to save themselves from the scorching midday sun.
We spotted several elegant small churches all along the way.
We could soon see a stretch of cerulean waters receding into the blue skies at the horizon. We parked our car and walked towards the shore scanning for a glimpse of the famed window. And, there it was, the spectacular arch towering over the shimmering azure waves lapping at its base. The amazing rocks formations along the coast had cavities making for natural salterns.
Tourists were ubiquitous looking for vantage points to pose for the best possible picture with the window. The crystal clear calm waters of Gozo makes for an ideal location for adventure activities like sailing, windsurfing, diving, and snorkeling. Sadly, the famous ‘Azure Window’, the photographer’s delight collapsed into the lap of the sea early this year(2017). We find ourselves lucky enough to have visited this wonder while it was still there magnificent and stunning.
Inland Sea or Qawra
Inland Sea or Qawra is a bay surrounded by high rocky cliffs and connected to the Mediterranean Sea through a narrow tunnel. Tours can be arranged with the fishing boats that take visitors through the tunnel cave to nearby natural spots, the Azure window, and the fungus rock.
Yet another wonder around the Azure window is the Fungus Rock. The Fungus Rock is a massive limestone rock in the Dwejra bay. It gets its name from the Malta Fungus growing on the rock which was believed to have medicinal properties. We could, unfortunately, make to neither of them and had to drive back satiated with the beautiful Azure window.
We stopped uphill for a final glimpse of the scenic vista and stood raptly. Spellbound. The bright rays of the sun piercing through the clouds looked like spotlights all over the glistening tranquil blue sea. And the Dwejra Tower dominated the dramatic arid landscape.
Basilica of Ta’ Pinu
The 20th-century Basilica of Ta’ Pinu built in the Romanesque style is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and stands in the midst of the rustic landscape of Gharb Village. It is a prominent pilgrimage destination.
The interior has elegant carvings on the pillars and remarkable stained glass windows. A room in the church holds offerings from the pilgrims who have been cured miraculously from their prayers to Virgin Mary. The 61 meters high bell tower stands as a campanile to the magnificent basilica.
Across the street opposite to the entrance to Ta’ Pinu, a path leads uphill dotted with fourteen remarkable marble statues depicting the Way of the Cross. The stations represent the journey of Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion.
We drove through more of the countryside and farmlands dotted with grass roles.
We spotted a gigantic statue of Jesus on the top of a hill. The statue of Jesus stands atop the Tal-Merzuq Hill or the Ray of Light. The twelve meters tall statue is supposedly inspired by the famous statue of Jesus the Redeemer found in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
On the way to the Calypso Cave through the village of Xaghra, we found this marvelous Xaghra Parish Church. This was actually one of the numerous red domed Baroque churches dominating the skyline of Malta.
The cave located in a cliff is believed to be the cave Homer referred to in his poem`The Odyssey’ where Calypso imprisoned Odysseus for seven long years.
The Calypso cave was unfortunately closed when we visited and we could only get a stunning view of the Ramla Beach from the cave entrance.
The route back from the cave winded downhill through a steep road which continued into the sprawling city below. A cemetery on the slopes of the hill looked impressive dotted with several marble sculptures.
Sunset at Xlendi
Initially, we were dispirited by the sun obscured by the overcast sky. But then swiftly the bright orange ball popped out of the cloud. We captured the awe-inspiring pictures of the sunset till the sun disappeared behind a large rocky cliff.
There is a small watchtower Xlendi Tower near Xlendi Bay dating from the 17th century which offers some of the remarkable vistas of the surrounding cliffs.
The 16th-century fortress atop a hill in Victoria was built in the late early 17th century. The narrow alleys winding through the fortress are marked with several museums and an old prison. Within the ramparts of the citadel is a splendid cathedral. During the ancient times, the Gozitans took refuge in the defensive walls of the fortress for protection against invaders and eventually settled down building a city.
On the way back to the port we spotted the Xewkija Rotunda Church illuminated with a reddish orange glow.
We had one last look at the Ghajnsielem parish church lit with the golden lights and proceeded towards the port to head back to Malta.
Gozo can be easily covered in a day if you have your own car and can maneuver through narrow alleys of the city. As per the reviews on the internet, the public buses are less frequent and the waiting time for the HOHO buses can seem like forever.
Our trip to the wonderful country Malta teemed with culture had come to an end. The slow pace life, the rolling countryside, and the gorgeous coastline will be etched into our minds for a long time to remember.
Have you been to Gozo or Malta and explored its natural gems? Do share with us in comments.
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