We drove along the clifftop at Ta' Ċenċ, one of Gozo's many barren, desert like areas. Our friend pulled over and parked at the roadside, instructing us to get out of the car. In the middle of nowhere, with no notable landmarks in sight, we wondered why we had stopped. It was reminiscent of landscapes we'd seen in movies and suddenly we felt apprehensive. How well did we know our friend? We fully expected to be led away from the sandy track and shot in the head, our bodies left where they fell. In this desolate place nobody was likely to find them.
Thankfully our overactive imaginations were wrong on this occasion. We followed our friend towards the edge and peered over. The rugged limestone wall plunged over 100 metres to the slate grey sea below. Pearly waves fringed the rocks, gently eroding the base of the cliff, carving the way for the next big collapse. Further along the clifftop, we came across sizeable grooves in the rock, supposedly hewn by the frequent passing of carts in ancient times. The landscape of Gozo is defined by these coastal cliffs along with the bizarre flat topped hills found further inland.
Ta' Ċenċ Cliffs - where we didn't die after all
Victoria, the Capital of Gozo
All roads lead to Victoria, Gozo's capital, in the centre of the island. We had fun getting lost in the warren of narrow streets where many of the houses are decorated with statues of saints and other religious icons. However, the main attraction in Victoria is the Citadel. Heavily fortified and as far from the coast as it could be, this was the best place to hide from the pirates who repeatedly raided the island during the Ottoman period. Now it's an interesting place to explore and offers panoramic views across the island.
Dwejra Bay and the Inland Sea
As we worked our way around the hairpin bends descending down to Dwejra Bay, we spotted the aptly named Crocodile Rock jutting out of the sea. The larger outcrop of limestone next to the crocodile is known as Fungus Rock. This islet has been designated as a nature reserve as it's home to Maltese Fungus, a rare, foul smelling plant that's not actually a fungus at all. The Knights of St. John prized the plant for its medicinal properties, something which is still studied today.
The Azure Window now lies in pieces on the seabed
Fans of Game of Thrones may recognise Dwejra Bay as it featured in the TV series (the Dothraki wedding in the first episode). The Azure Window, the iconic arch that was visible in the background, collapsed during a storm in early 2017. Divers now inspect the remains below the surface. The broken chunks of arch have spiced up the underwater topography creating new swim throughs ripe for exploration.
Scuba Diving in Gozo
Many of Gozo's dive shops are based in Xlendi, a small seaside town with a well sheltered pebbled beach and a selection of accommodation options. You can arrange a trip to Dwejra Bay with any of the dive operations in Xlendi.
The adjacent Inland Sea is a shallow, clear lagoon well supplied with tiny motorised boats, known locally as luzzu. They chug slowly through the narrow tunnel in the lagoon's rocky wall taking the passengers on short cruises to the open sea beyond where they can enjoy close up views of the cliffs, caves and sometimes Fungus Rock.
Ir Ramla Beach
The beach at Ir Ramla is a beautiful stretch of pristine orange sand. It's a great place to swim, especially in the heat of summer. The cave visible on the hillside to the east of the beach is mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. According to the story, a nymph named Calypso lived there.
Ir Ramla Beach - Can you spot Calypso's Cave?
Gozo's Salt Pans
Mooching around on the shore before we dived the MV Karwela, we came across several salt pans, a common feature on Gozo. Most of these shallow depressions were cut into the rock centuries ago. They were full of seawater, which the hot sun had reduced to a thick, salty soup. In summer, local families harvest the crystals and produce sea salt for sale, a tradition that has been passed down through generations.
Diving the Karwela Wreck
The Azure Window was one of Gozo's most famous landmarks and its loss was mourned across the island. Tourists still visit Dwejra Bay expecting to see the arch. They are instead confronted with souvenir stalls trying to sell off the now obsolete stock of Azure Window keyrings and fridge magnets. This disappointment has led to the Azure Window receiving 1 star reviews on TripAdvisor. Perhaps a little unfair when it's no longer there.
There are however plenty of other reasons to visit Gozo, and Dwejra Bay itself. Even without the Azure Window, the dramatic coastline, beautiful scenery and rustic charm continue to make Gozo a delightful place to spend a few days.
Where to Eat in Gozo
The Hondoq Bay Cafe in Qala was our favourite cafe on Gozo. Sitting by the waters edge, we had clear views across to the tiny island of Comino and the Blue Lagoon, which remains a vibrant shade of turquoise even on a rainy day. We highly recommend the tuna ftira, huge filled rolls garnished with onions and olives.