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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Malta - Day 12: The Azure Window and the Saltpans Walk

After eating a simple but nice breakfast at the San Antonio Guesthouse in Xlendi, we then walked down to the Xlendi Bus Stop. There we took bus 306 using our convenient 7-day-bus pass and ten minutes later, we arrived at the main bus terminal in Victoria.

We changed buses there into bus 310 to get to Marsalforn, which is a popular beach resort area. But there is just a jump-off point for a hike - the 12 kilometer-"Saltpans Walk", a hiking suggestion from "Visit Gozo". Actually, we wanted to do a variation of it, as the suggested walk starts in Victoria and ends there. But we thought, it would be nicer to start in Marsalforn and to walk along the coast and then get on the suggested way back to Victoria, Gozo´s capital.

First, we missed the Marsalforn Bus Stop, that was no problem, as the Xwejni Bus Stop, where we got out, was in the direction where we wanted to walk anyway. It was already at the nice Qbajjar Bay. From there we walked westward and then made a short diversion to explore the rock formations, the first saltpans, and the deserted Qolla I-Bajda Battery. It's a scenic and interesting area. 

We walked further along the coast on the Triq Ix-Xwejni, coming to Xwejni Bay.

Further along the way, the salt pans appeared. I was rather excited as it reminded me the salt pans we visited in Aveiro, Portugal and last year's visit to a Salt Museum, where we climbed a Salt Mountain in Taiwan.

The salt pans are said to be 350 years old and there´s a huge space covered by them, where the evaporating water leaves behind the salt, which is harvested. They are still working and you can actually buy sea salt there (we would have loved to buy, but we didn´t want to be dragged down by it on a strenuous walk on such a hot day...). 

We walked along the salt pans for a while and we really felt the difference between Gozo and Malta´s main island - here in Gozo at the street there was barely a car, just some vans with tourists on a guided tour, once in a while. That was much different to the main island, where walking on a street can be rather stressful, due to the traffic. We came along more salt pans. 

The road started to turn southwards, away from the ocean, and we followed it to the next sight, the Ghasri Valley (Wied I-Ghasri), where you can walk down a set of stairs. We sat there a while watching the divers and the waves.

From the Ghasri Valley, we followed the Triq Is-Saghtrija to the small town Zebbug, which is one of Malta´s oldest town. It was quite on a hill, so we were pretty exhausted when we arrived, given the heat. Unfortunately, the town seemed to be rather deserted and we didn´t find a cafe for a short rest. But we were really happy, to find at least a vending machine with drinks, nearby the Zebbug Parish Church. We decided there, that we just take the bus from the Zebbug Bus Stop at the church back to Victoria, instead of walking further.

This wasn't the end of our sightseeing, however. In Victoria, we just boarded bus 308 to Pinu Bus Station, which is the stop for the Basilica Ta'Pinu. It took just ten minutes and was easy to navigate, as all bus stops are announced on an electronic display inside the buses. The Basilica is huge with an impressive Bell Tower and located in the open countryside, in the middle of nowhere. 

We decided to walk from the Basilica to the nearby village Gharb. After a short stop at the Gharb Church (closed) and the Gharb Folklore Museum (just a letter, that you could call someone, if you wanted to visit it) and a chat with a nice, older local, we walked further to Ta`Dbiegi Crafts Village, where we had finally (late) lunch at a nice restaurant and bought some stuff like cactus jam, nougat and the sea salt from the local specialty food market inside the village.

It was just about two kilometers from the Crafts Village to the Azure Window, so we skipped the bus and decided to walk, passing the San Lawrenz Parish Church and taking a path, where we hoped to come out at the top of the Inland Sea, following the Triq Wied Merill. It actually worked and we enjoyed the fantastic panorama from there before we slowly descended to one of Gozo´s most famous attractions, the Azure Window.  

The Azure Window proved to be well worth the walk. It actually reminded me of the beautiful rock formations in Arnarstapi, Iceland

We were kind of done and one of the last buses (Bus 311) was just leaving to Victoria, so we called it a day and decided to return the next day. Back in Xlendi we relaxed a bit, cooled down in the nice pool at the guesthouse and then walked down into the city for another nice dinner at the ocean.

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