Enjoy this child-friendly hiking route on Gozo with Off D Island Family Adventure, this time off the beaten track.
Winter-hiking is guaranteed to make you feel on top of the world whilst surrounding yourself in the natural beauty of Gozo.
We’ve been following Therese, Joseph, and their small family otherwise known as Offdisland Family Adventure around the hidden coastlines and walks of Gozo over the last few weeks and you really seem to be enjoying the features! We have had some wonderful feedback from our readers who have also been inspired by their hikes and lots have responded with huge thumbs up. We too are in agreement that getting out in the weather is a game-changer when it comes to winter moods. If you missed our previous blogs, click here and here to catch up. This week we venture through Mgarr-ix-Xini.
If you had to ask a Gozitan to recommend a postcard-perfect swimming spot on the island, Mgarr ix-Xini is certainly going to be high on the list. This secluded bay has so much more to offer in winter as well. Today we’re guiding you to some off-the-beaten-path locations close to the bay which we’re sure you won’t regret!
Mgarr ix-xini hike part 1
Location: Mgarr ix-Xini Time: 30 minutes with return Distance: 1.3 km Difficulty: Easy
So, first things first: drive all the way to Mgarr ix-Xini bay. Once parked, walk towards the bay and facing out towards the open sea, right next to the building on your left lie a couple of stairs carved in the rocks. Whilst looking outwards, you should be able to see a tower at the far left. The stairs lead to the start of a level and easy trek towards the tower.
The walk is easy, scenic and straightforward (the path is clearly visible), being a total of about 1.3km to the tower and back. You won’t regret trying out this hike – you are guaranteed a great viewing point of the bay for the duration of the hike. Once at the tower, take a minute to admire one of the largest 17th century watch towers of the Knights of Malta on the Maltese islands.
Historical background of the area
This bay used to be a hiding place for the galleys of the Knights and was also used by the invading Turks to load captive Gozitans onto their ships in the worst-ever raid on the island in 1551 which took away nearly the whole population of Gozo. The Mgarr ix-Xini tower was built at the end of the 16th century under Grandmaster De Redin and by 1661 was fully functional to safeguard the bay from future invasions. It cost an estimated 857 scudi, which were financed by the Università of Gozo (the local municipal body).
The design of the Mgarr ix-Xini tower differed from other De Redin towers in that it’s the only one that uses a flight of steps and a drawbridge to get in; others used just a ladder. The tower has been recently restored and is taken care of by Wirt Ghawdex. Apart from the history, Mgarr ix-Xini is a popular bay with local bathers, ideal for snorkelling and diving. In fact, it’s shallow seabed makes it ideal for those learning how to dive.
Trail add-on: Depending on your energy levels and mood, you may decide to extend the hike up to x-Xatt l-Ahmar. This means an extra 2.6km (with return), taking approximately an hour. Mind you, if you’re carrying your baby/toddler or if you have older kids, you’ll make it in a shorter time. We always refer to the time it takes for a family with a hiking toddler, just like ours. If you choose to walk along this path, you can enjoy close views of Comino and the Northern part of Malta.
Once back at your starting point, we suggest you enjoy a refreshing snack on the pebbly bay of Mgarr ix-Xini. By the way, look out for wild ducks! Strangely enough, this bay is home to some ducks, which you’ll find swimming in the salty Mediterranean Sea or quacking on the bay looking for crumbs left behind by the few locals enjoying this quaint place in winter.
mgarr ix-xini hike part 2
Location: Bay to Pumping Station Time: 25 minutes with return Distance: 0.6 km Difficulty: Medium
Now, who’s up for a mini-adventure within the Mgarr ix-Xini valley?! A gorge of immense beauty lies hidden right behind you. We personally recommend exploring the valley as it is a unique experience in Gozo. During this time of the year, thanks to the dense vegetation present, it feels like you are somewhere in mainland Europe. Around 600 metres into the valley, following a few up and down climbs, you’ll get to the Mgarr ix-Xini pumping station.
The Mgarr ix-Xini pumping station was erected 1897 and kept operating till 1960, until another pumping station in Xewkija made it inefficient to keep the one at Mgarr ix-Xini running. At the beginning of its operation, the pump used to operate with coal, so its infrastructure included the building of shafts and chambers both to direct the exhaust upwards and also lower the coal downwards towards the engine room. The bridge visible across the valley supported one of two main pipelines that directed water towards a reservoir all the way to Nadur, given the high altitude of this village.
TIP: We did this with two toddlers in tow; the younger one was in a carrier for the whole duration, whilst we carried the eldest at points where there were dense bushes. This part of the hike is full of thorns and stinging nettles coming all the way up to an adult’s waist. Thus, we recommend you carry younger kids on your shoulders; this in our opinion reduces drastically the probability of your children getting stung and spending the rest of the hike grumpy or crying… and who wants that when you’re in such a wonderful location?! No need to say, make sure you’re covered from head to toe to avoid getting stung yourself!
What to wear?
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. This popular saying originates from Scandinavia, a region where extreme weather conditions are a daily occurrence. We’re lucky to live in a place with warmer climate; yet it can get very windy, making it feel chilly in winter! Although we do recommend you check the weather, do not give up if it is forecast to be a rainy and/or windy day. The probability of having a full day of rain in Malta is very low, with rain usually being in the form of isolated showers, and skies becoming clear within minutes.
On days like these, we still opt to go for a hike, but we are equipped with adequate gear. For the short hikes we’re proposing all you need are two pieces of gear; a water-resistant raincoat/jacket and water-resistant shoes/boots. You can also opt to wear waterproof trousers, but we have done without them. A waterproof jacket is a good option for windy days as well as air does not get through it. Multi-layering is important for chilly days, especially when the sun is nowhere to be seen. Ideally the base layer is made of merino wool or synthetic clothing to keep moisture away from the body. We tend to keep an extra set of clothes in the car for the little ones; it might not have rained a lot, but they will surely be on the lookout for muddy puddles!
We really hope you enjoy this adventurous hike. Winter in Gozo means stunning luscious views and the chance to breathe in all that greenery. Take some snaps and tag @githmagazine.
Hike Author and Images: Therese Galea
Did you find this article interesting? Follow the Galea family on Facebook, Instagram and their Website for more adventures, tips and ideas, and be sure to check out their other hikes in this winter walking series.
the galea family
Parents Therese and Joseph with Daughter Krista and Son Mattia. Meet the Galea family whose life mission is to inspire families to experience Gozo in all weathers and offer practical tips to make the most out of your island hikes.