On our second day in Malta, we arranged to take a trip to Gozo, through our AirBnB host, with a tour guide who had a van, and some other tourists. In total, we went 47 miles and spent 5h 20m in the car and about 40 minutes on the ferry.
Van to Gozo
The man was due to arrive at eight-thirty in the morning so we ate breakfast in the AirBnb and awaited his arrival. Because there was a lot of traffic, he messaged us that he would be late, and we ended up getting into the van at about eight forty-five. The guy was super nice and seemed to be a very happy person. The van, however, had seen some better days. I thought that our seat would just fall over it was shaking so badly as we drove towards the ferry to Gozo.
We stopped along the way in Bugibba to pick up two other tourists who were a very nice couple from Belgium. While we stopped, the tour guide gave us a traditional Maltese sandwich on a ftria. He said that it is usually for lunch but that people typically are hungry early so he gives them out earlier. The sandwich was delicious, and something I would end up eating on multiple occasions during the rest of the trip. I continued to eat my sandwich as we proceeded to the ferry. I could probably go on about this sandwich forever, it was so flavourful.
The sandwich was on ftira bread, which is sort of like a circular bun shape, and a bit hard like a baguette. It had been cut in half so that we would be able to eat the sandwich easier. The inside of the bread was covered in an oil potentially from the tuna, and a tomato paste called kunserva which was complemented with pickled capers. I believe it had some other ingredients as well like onions, garlic, and olives but I can’t fully remember. The main part is I remember that it was delicious and I don’t even like tuna. I was amazed at how it did not smell or taste fishy at all.
This was the first time that I had ever been on a ferry, and it was very interesting. We first drove into a parking lot where we queued. We were at the very end and the tour guide told us that we would possibly have to wait another 20 minutes to drive onto the next ferry, but that if we wanted he would grab us some beers from the back of the van.
We all declined, and he got back in the van just in time for the queue in front of us to start moving, and for us to make the ferry. Once we had driven onto the ferry, we needed to get out of the van and go upstairs. I dropped my phone on the way out of the van on the van floor and then picked it up, immediately forgetting that I had dropped it in the first place. We walked up some stairs, through a cafeteria, up more stairs, through a hallway, and finally onto the outer deck.
My partner soon realised that he did not have his phone. The van driver gave him the keys to the van and he went back to try and see if his phone had fallen out on the floor. It was around this time that I realised I also had dropped my phone but had picked it up. I guess he didn’t realise that he also dropped his phone because he saw me picking up my phone and for a few minutes prior to him going to search for his phone, I assured him that I had not dropped anything. (Haha oops).
While he was away, an announcement came on saying that passengers are not to return to their vehicles while the ferry is moving, and this turned out to be true as when he returned, he did not have his phone, and was unable to even enter the area where the van was.
I was stressed. Great. We have been in Malta for less than twenty-four hours and we have already lost something important. I didn’t feel like taking photos as I worried over the missing phone. Here are a few of the photos I did take though, but it’s just mostly water.
After about an hour and twenty minutes from when we had left, we arrived in Gozo. We were allowed to go back down to our vehicle and my partner quickly found his phone safe within the van on the floor. I started to feel a whole lot better after that. I also learned that there is no charge on the ferry to Gozo, only on the way back.
From Gozo we started driving to San Lawrnez. San Lawrnez, located on the west side of the island, is known for having the Azure Window and the Fungus Rock. The Azure Window was a natural arch made of limestone that collapsed in 2017.
This area included a public toilet, a few souvenir stands, shops, and a couple places to get food.
When we got out of the van the tour guide offered us each a beer which I welcomed. I was hot, tired, and starting to get hungry. What he offered was a Cisk beer, which tastes in my opinion, closer to an IPA than the lagers I am accustomed to but nevertheless, that beer really hit the spot. It was the coldest drink I had had since we arrived in Malta, and I nursed mine from the Azure Window to the Inland Sea.
While there, our tour guide and another tour guide both happily told us that it did not collapse until after Game of Thrones was filmed in the area. I do not like Game of Thrones and it is somewhat of a running joke about how Game of Thrones somehow comes up in everything we do. Apparently though, for filming they needed to bring in a lot of sand to change how some of the landscape looked and were fined heavily. Anyway, Here is where the Azure Window previously stood.
In addition to seeing these lovely pieces of nature, there was a swimming area near where the Azure Window had previously stood called the Inland Sea. It is this little lagoon that has an arch that small boats or individuals can swim or zoom their boat through to get out into the Sea.
On the day that we went, they said nobody would be swimming through it because of strong winds, but there were plenty of people in the Lagoon.
Our tour guide told us that we would stay in this area for thirty or forty minutes and we could do what we wanted during that time. He said we could go swimming but we were unaware that this tour was going to provide any opportunities for swimming and as such, did not bring any swimwear. Regardless, we decided to head to the Inland Sea, took our shoes off, and put our feet in the water.
The water was slightly cold, but refreshing and I enjoyed having my feet in the water until my feet started to hit some slimy things. While sitting there, we watched this child in a motorized boat fish around people. I thought it was dangerous because he was really close to people swimming but the kid must have been a professional because he was easily navigating around the people swimming and also actually catching fish.
The thirty to forty minutes we had gone by quickly and we were soon back in the van heading towards Wied il-Għasri.
From San Lawrnez we drove to Żebbuġ where we saw Ta’ Pinu, Wied il-Għasri, and Salt Pans.
Above is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu, a roman catholic minor bascilica which Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2010.
The church was beautiful inside; however, photography was not allowed. There were also signs about being dressed appropriately which also stated that they had shawls located inside for those who needed to make themselves decent.
I understand why photography was not allowed inside but it was truly magnificent and something I hope I do not forget… I felt really welcome and comfortable in the church, something I certainly can’t say about most churches.
Wied il-Għasri is one of those places you will likely not visit if you do not have a car. It was absolutely frustrating to get to. It was only a four-mile drive from where we were in San Lawrnez but it felt like forever. The roads were completely awful and I thought we would blow a tire. I was glad when we finally stopped driving and thankful that my motion sickness medication was working. Our tour guide offered us another beer, this time it was a different brand and I gladly took it especially after the awful roads.
It was far less touristy than all of the locations we went to on our entire trip and looked like a wonderful spot to swim. Our tour guide told us if we wanted we could stay here and swim. We had the same problem as before though, not having anything to swim in so we passed as did the tourists who were with us. I actually thought it looked somewhat annoying to get into the water as the bottom was not sand but rocks and pebbles and was ready to find a beach with sand.
The majority of the people swimming in the area did have shoes on, so clearly they were prepared.
Since none of us chose to swim we walked up to the salt pans and it was a really awesome site. I can’t quite remember for certain if we drove a short distance or walked right from the swimming river area, but I do remember our run back to the car.
I think the Salt Pans might have been my favourite part of Gozo that I saw. It is so interesting to learn how salt was once harvested. Clearly, people were clever. ( I recently read a book about salt called Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky and that might be partly why I found this so interesting).
Basically, there were a bunch of square or rectangular shaped areas with small holes cut out in the corners to the other squares and once the water evaporated what was left was salt.
Seawater enters coastline basins and is left to evaporate, and then it is moved into smaller salt pans further away from the sea to evaporate more. This process continues until all of the water has been evaporated. Our tour guide did not say how many times the water was moved, but that it took a few weeks for it to evaporate, and he told us that it left lots of salt. In Malta, the majority of the salt pans are no longer used and I believe he said there was really only one or so still in use to make salt.
Unfortunately, it had started raining lightly on our walk up to the salt pans so we did not get to stay very long. That light rain also turned into a downpour very quickly and we were all 100% soaked by the time we made it back to the car.
The Belgium tourists were smart and had brought a towel, but they also brought swimming attire so it makes sense that they brought a towel. The tour guide and us though, were not as smart and we sat in the car just soaked. The tour guide found some tissues in the back of his van and offered them to us but we were all so wet that all that would have done would have been to get pieces of tissue stuck all over us. He asked us if we wanted to cancel the tour since we were so wet but none of us wished for the tour to end and so he headed into town to find towels for sale.
Ta Mena Estate
After getting some towels in Victoria, we headed over to the Ta Mena Estate to taste some wine. When we arrived at the farm we were able to go to the toilet and look around a small area for a few minutes. We saw some chickens and lots of succulent plants. I had thought we would look around it a bit more but at that point, we went inside to taste wines.
We tried two wines I think and I was a bit sad that that was it. The wines I remember trying were both white, a Sauvignon blanc and a Chardonnay. I love wine and I found both wines to be nice although I would have also preferred to have had the option to try some red wines.
With the wines we were given some crackers and dips to try as well. I did not like the citrus flavoured dips for whatever reason they seemed far too strong for me. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what they were called but one had a lemon flavour and one had an orange flavour, both of which I don’t think I’ve ever had on a cracker. The tomato paste we had on the crackers we ended up buying as well as the olive one. (I will add some photos and the names here once I have the time)
The shop was quite small and old looking. There was a dog that was just hanging out on the floor, and I did wonder without refrigeration how the wine was being properly stored on the shelves. We browsed the walls for things to bring back to England. I managed to find three wines that I wanted a few cheeses, some dips, and a decoration. It was at the point of buying the wine that we realised that they did not have any of the actual stock on the shelves for wine, just a display bottle for each type. Overall I enjoyed the trip to the wine place even though we didn’t get to do everything the tour video implied we would be able to do.
After the wine tasting, we headed to Victoria so that our tour guide would be able to get ingredients for the BBQ he was making us for dinner. He dropped us off at the Cittadella and told us that he would meet us back there in an hour and we could get some lunch.
At this point he left and the Belgian tourists asked us why we didn’t eat lunch at the vineyard. The promotional video for the tour showed people eating lunch at the winery and getting a tour to see all of the animals. One of the only reasons they joined the tour was because of this feature which we did not receive. This made me feel really annoyed. We had each spent one hundred euros for this day tour which was to last from eight thirty in the morning to eleven in the evening and we expected that to basically cover our expenses. Yet here we were, finding ourselves needing to buy lunch. We talked to the other two and we agreed that we would like to eat lunch together and we walked down to a place called Captain Spriss.
Captain Spriss is on the corner of a small building, and if you fancy a look at the interior you can view so on their facebook website. The four of us sat down in the corner and a man brought us four food menus, and four drink menus. They don’t have their drink menu online, but you can view their food menu here.
I got a Ceci, Zucchine E Melanzane which had chickpea cream, zucchini (courgettes), eggplants (aubergines) and tomatoes. Interestingly on their menu some items used the word used in the U.K. like aubergines, but the other words did not use the version used in the U.K. (courgette). The meal was cheap so I can’t really complain from a price standpoint, for €4.50 it was damn good.
Taste-wise, I also can’t really complain in terms of quality, I think it was just weird. I mean, how many times have you eaten eggplants and zucchini in bread? Maybe you have done it a lot but for me it was new. So I was happy with my meal and with my coffee that I had ordered, I just felt that perhaps I should have ordered something more similar to the taste and texture combinations I am accustomed to.
My partner had the Crudo, Asiago, Marmellata Di Fichi which had parma ham, asiago cheese, and fig jam. I think it sounds pretty disgusting. When was the last time you put jam or jelly on your ham and cheese? Maybe we are missing out ;). Anyway he gave it a 4/5 stars and said it was good.
We were sitting literally in front of the toilet door as well so while we ate, a lot of people tried to squeeze by to go to the toilet. Not the biggest deal, just not the most appealing location within the eatery.
While we ate we got to know the other two who were on tour with us, and we learned that the woman was a student, in her last year, and that the man had a job in business but wanted to be a fireman and had begun training to do so. They were really nice and it’s a shame that we won’t ever see them again.
Once we were done eating we needed to walk back up to Cittadella, where we had been dropped off so that our tour guide could pick us up and take us to Ramla Bay Beach where we were to going to spend the rest of our evening until the BBQ.
We actually did not get to see this and I was pissed off. We came all this way to Malta, then Gozo, then Victoria, and we didn’t have time to see this wonderful piece of history?
Cittadella is a citadel of Victoria and was first built in 1500 BC. People have been living there since the BRONZE AGE! It was thought to have been an acropolis (ancient Greece settlement/citadel on a hill or elevated ground) and then converted into a castle around 1274. Eventually, the area outside of the citadel began to be developed which is what the main area of Victoria was. This place has seen so much history and so much action, from the Ottoman Empire to the French invasion. It was even considered a military installation until 1868.
This was certainly a mistake to miss, especially since there are FOUR museums inside it. The reason we decided not to go to it was due to it costing about 5 euros and us not wanting to be rushing for the money. While I really regret not seeing it, I think if we were not going to be given hours to go through it, I would have still felt unsatisfied. This is something you could spend the entire day at.
In Nadur we went to two places, Ramla Beach and Tal-Mixta Cave where we had our BBQ.
Ramla beach was like a proper beach sand and all. I was so annoyed, I had no swimwear and here I’m told we will spend two or more hours here. I saw some stands selling towels and told my partner that hopefully, we would be able to go and buy a suit there. I was not looking forward to spending more money, but I didn’t want to sit in the sand in my clothes for two hours doing nothing either.
We walked over to a stand where a very nice lady told us that the price of swimming trunks was ten euros each. She kept suggesting me some swimming trunks that were clearly far too small. Eventually, she told me to go behind her truck and try them on. This is probably the first time I have ever got half undressed in public in my life. (I kept my underwear on though, like how many other people has she been having try on the swimwear behind the truck) I found a pair that seemed to fit alright and so did my partner and then we changed and headed back to the beach.
So I mentioned that it looked like a normal beach, umbrellas everywhere, people laying about, a lifeguard, but, well, the sand was really dark brown. Turns out, the sand was brought in from Africa, because Malta doesn’t have sandy beaches, they have rocky beaches, something we realised about five minutes later as we entered the sea.
Getting into the sea was kind of hard, the rocks were hard, they hurt my feet, and then the waves would come pushing me off balance making me want to take a hard step. I am sure we looked ridiculous trying to wobble or way in. Eventually though, we did make it in, and for some reason, I thought there would still eventually be sand? There wasn’t. I went deeper and deeper, further from shore and all I got was rocks, rocks, rocks, and more rocks with the occasional seaweed slime rock. I can swim and tread water but it was not fun to try to do that and then kick a bunch of rocks. Because of this, we basically stayed where we could stand and tried to keep from doing much that would allow for us to accidentally kick rocks.
I found a small bit of sand and told my partner about it; unfortunately, this ended up in him being angry because he ended up stepping on a sharp rock. After that, I didn’t mention any sand-like areas that I found. I kept them to myself and tried to keep my feet on them to not lose them.
It was a bit nerve-racking not being able to see the tour guide watching our stuff and so I didn’t want to go too far. I’m sure he was a good guy but what if he fell asleep? I had all my things in there, passport, everything. Eventually, the worry about that, and the rocks made me ready to get out of the sea. This, was quite a feat.
Getting Out Of The Sea
I thought getting in the ocean was hard; getting out..much harder. If you have ever gotten out of the ocean before, you know how the waves push you forward, and you can sometimes end up crawling out. This is not possible on rocks, it would just hurt. That meant we could not risk it, nor could we risk running and stepping on a sharp rock and losing our balance. I felt like a zombie; I was moving so slow. The waves must have hit me a good fifteen times before I was able to get out past all of the rocks and onto the sand. The worst part was when I was in water only about knee deep or less because I had the full weight of myself tho hold up. I would certainly recommend investing in those water shoes to anyone who tells me they are going to a rocky beach in the future.
After we managed to get out of the water, we went and sat on the beach to dry off. This was fairly uneventful with exception to the sand that kept getting on our towel. We had two towels from earlier that the tour guide had given us but we wanted one to be kept clean so that we would be able to dry off, and so, therefore, we sat together on one towel. This was fairly uncomfortable and I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m sitting there worried about my tan, half soaking wet getting sand stuck all over me, and trying to keep the sand out of my hair. Not the most relaxing beach experience. About twenty or thirty minutes later we were ready to go back into the van and see a cave and eat dinner so we packed up and left.
Once we got back in the van, we started driving to something called Tal-Mixta Cave. As I previously mentioned some bad roads, there were more, and these were complete shit. If there was an award for the worst road, this would win. I honestly have so much more respect for car markers after we managed to, in this crap van, make it to our destination.
When we got to the cave there were all these signs on the road we had turned onto that said private, and where we parked there were all these signs that said private on the land to the sides of the road. I found this weird and the tour guide said they were new signs and he didn’t know what they were about.
While the tour guide started getting the supplies out for our dinner, we went and explored the cave. The cave ended up being full with a bunch of people and some girl who was clearly trying to get her nice Instagram photos. I think that is the first time I’ve seen someone act like that in public and it is weird. Because there were so many people in the cave, we opted to go back up on top and see how our tour guide was doing with making our dinner.
Fire Starting & Private Land
The view was very pretty from up top and I feel like we got a lot of really nice pictures. A lot of the shrubbery appeared to be dead, and it was a pretty windy day. I think we were all a bit surprised when our tour guide decided to light the BBQ in-between two dead bushes. The flames were really high, and going everywhere. Meanwhile, this guy, presumably who owns the land, had been watching us from afar, and finally came over to tell us off. He told us we can’t BBQ here, it’s private land. The tour guide asked where could we BBQ and he told him he didn’t know. So obviously, the solution was to just pick up the lit BBQ and walk it over 10 feet.
So here we all are, cringing, hoping this guy doesn’t burn himself and doesn’t start a fire, wondering if that guy is going to come back and tell us off again, and wondering if this tour is legit. The tour guide successfully moved the BBQ without injuring himself or starting a fire so that was good.
While he cooked we ate chips with salsa and drank lots of wine and beer. He got us so many chips and salsas I was in heaven. We didn’t finish them all but I wanted to…
He had put up this foldable picnic table which was sketchy, I mean, like everything else on this trip, I thought it was going to fall apart or collapse with all of us sitting on it. “How did you get injured in Malta?” “Oh my picnic table collapsed and I broke my arm” No thank you, I stood for quite a while, at least until the wine started kicking in.
We chit chatted for a while, enjoyed the views, and hoped it wouldn’t rain. We noticed that there was a dog on the roof, something we would later refer to as roof dogs, as we learned a lot of dogs hang out on the roofs of houses in Malta.
So we are sitting there wondering if the guy who yelled at us owned the dog, or if the dog was a stray. Discussed if a stray dog would be that fat, and why it hasn’t gone inside if it wasn’t a stray, or if it was a stray how it would have gotten there.
Eventually, another dog came up and we concluded that the dogs lived there and just liked to be on the roof barking at things. The barking really picked up and we looked over and they were barking at some wild animal, like a fox. I was glad for the roof dogs, they scared away this animal that probably wanted to eat my dinner.
Eventually the dinner was done cooking and it was delicious. I don’t know what type of seasoning he put on the meat but it was superb. He made so much too, so much that we couldn’t eat it all. We invited him to sit with us but he kept cooking, eventually eating some of the meat for himself. We hung out here for a while, continuing to pick at our food, and decide that this rock/building was an OK enough place for us all to pee. We managed, but a collapsed small building / pile of rocks is not the most ideal of places. We sat a bit more chatted more, drank more, and then the tour guide told us he thought that it was going to rain and we needed to pack up quickly. He was probably right, and we had already gotten drenched earlier that day so we all happily helped him pack things away and got back in the van.
Van to Ferry
After dinner, I was quite full, and basically ready to sleep. It was only like eight in the evening, and we had been told to expect to be out till around eleven. I didn’t mind much at this point though and was ready to get on with it. It took us over thirty minutes to get to the ferry terminal and the road was so crap google thought I was on a bus.
On our return trip, we did need to pay, so we had to wait in line at the ferry terminal in our car. Apparently, they charge by passengers, not just by vehicle. I don’t remember the exact cost but it was more than I had expected. Soon enough, we were back driving into the ferry, parking, and heading up to the deck.
Ferry From Gozo to Malta
This ferry was different than the one we had taken previously and I found it disorienting. They had a cafeteria but like many other places, only took cash. (We didn’t have cash) Our tour guide told us that they turn the lights off on part of the ferry so that you can see the stars. We were not on the side that had the lights turned off so we had to walk over to the other side. There was just like a collection of seats, like at the cinema, or at a baseball game, or concert hall, facing some random parts of the boat.
We sat there in the section with the lights out along with a fair amount of other people. I spent the majority of this time sending videos to my mom on messenger of the ocean, and have no pictures that are not blurry. The weather was nice and I enjoyed the breeze. After about twenty minutes, we arrived back at the ferry terminal in Malta.
Ferry Terminal to Bugibba
From the ferry terminal, we headed to Bugibba, where the other tourists were staying, to drop them off. It was a pretty quiet trip and took about twenty minutes. We said goodbye to them and I think the tour guide gave them a bottle of wine or something to take home with them.
Bugibba to Sliema
The ride from Bugibba to Sliema was also fairly uneventful. The tour guide talked to us a little bit, and had the windows down while we drove. It was only about twenty minutes and by this time I was both glad for the day to be over, and sad that we had nothing else to do. We arrived back at our AirBnB around nine forty-five. The tour guide then gave us all the remaining beer and water bottles from the trip. We thanked him, paid him for the trip, and paid him the money we owed to the other guy from the previous day for our taxi ride since they knew each other. He was a really nice guy but had quite a drive back to his house so I imagine he was happy that we had finished a bit early.
Overall, while at the time I felt like the day was kind of crap, in retrospect we did do a lot and see a lot, and we certainly would have needed additional days if we wanted to really make the most and enjoy all that Gozo had to offer.