An Iconic Harbour Hike: Mġarr, Gozo

An Iconic Harbour Hike: Mġarr, Gozo

Photo by Joseph Caruana

There is something about arriving on the island of Gozo that has incredible appeal. Maybe it’s sailing into Mġarr harbour perhaps it’s the majestic Chambray fort overlooking the harbour; maybe it’s the quaint Lourdes chapel on the hilltop that graces the view, or it could be simply the case that the place, has retained the authentic feeling of living on an island.

Maybe you’ve already been to the island, and Mgarr harbour was simply the point of arrival and departure. If that’s been the case, you’ve missed a significant landmark on the island of Gozo. One overlooking item on most travellers’ list of things of what to do in Gozo is a serious exploration of Mġarr harbour.

The Fishing Port and Yacht Marina

Mġarr is the fishermen’s place. Today many Gozitan fishermen berth their vessels here, and you can see their fishing boats in the port.

From the modern-day schooners to the smaller craft and the traditional luzzus painted in jewel-tone colours, the dock in the harbour is always a picturesque place to visit and capture splendid photos of the water and light reflections. Further in, you’ll also see the mooring decks and pontoons for sailing boats and yachts. Naturally, Gozo’s yacht marina welcomes sailing parties who choose to visit the island while cruising the Mediterranean Sea.

Seafood bonanza at Mġarr’s Seaside Restaurants

Make plans to stop for lunch or dinner at one of the seaside restaurants. There’s no doubt you will be to enjoy the ‘freshest’ seafood dishes. Try the traditional fish soup (aljotta), grilled swordfish or tuna steak, spaghetti with octopus sauce, Gozitan whitebait fritters (pulpetti tal-makku), octopus in garlic or stuffed squid. Of course, if you’re here during the lampuki season, you will have more typical delightful dishes that these seaside restaurants offer. If you’re short on time and cannot feast on seafood, you need to find time to indulge in a pint. Head to one of Gozo’s oldest bars down in the port.  It is an iconic place to stop for a drink and enjoy magnificent views from the terrace.

one 80, mbar

The hilltop Lourdes Chapel 

Climb up the steep staircase from the port to the quaint chapel on the hilltop. You will undoubtedly notice the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes in an alcove on the cliffside. The story has it that back in the 19th century, some twenty years after the Lourdes apparitions in France, an unknown traveller to the island remarked how the cliff face reminded him of the Lourdes grotto. That was enough to inspire the devout locals to erect a statue and later build the Gothic-style chapel with its pointed roof and steeple, which now has become a landmark of Mġarr harbour. Taking a selfie while on the promontory outside of the chapel with the background of the port is a must! It’s nothing short of amazing in all sorts of weather and seasons. 

 The Fortress of Chambray

Take a second look at the Chambray fortress. The bastioned fort overlooking Mgarr harbour was originally built to protect the port. There were plans that this fortress would be another citadel or city on the island of Gozo. However, only a few people know that the Gozitans and their livestock took refuge in this fort when the French invaded Malta in 1798. Today it is a private residential gated community, but you can hike in the pine and conifer grove beneath it. The track in the woodland saunters around the fort, leading to a precarious path over the clay slopes to the beach known as Xatt l-Aħmar. 

fort chambray

photo by Kappa Vision

Ix-Xatt l-Aħmar 

The rugged stretch of the coast beneath the Chambray fortress is a lovely beach perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving. The zone is a favourite among divers who enjoy diving ‘wrecks’ as several ships have been scuttled in the area. Diving the wrecks is a must for divers when considering what to do in Gozo. Xatt l-Aħmar is an idyllic spot to be at sunrise. If you love nature and the coast, it should be on your list of things to do while in Gozo. One must take a winding and a rather steep country road to reach the beach. 

This challenge ensures the place is never really crowded. If you explore the area, you might even come across the fougasse in the area, which was meant to be filled with small stones to be fired at the incoming enemy. During the colder seasons, Xatt l-Aħmar is also a scenic spot for picnics and family outings. 

 Taking a hike around Mġarr and savouring the harbour’s colours and views is a must. It’s not just a picture-perfect location. Nor is it simply the welcome and goodbye view of Gozo. It’s also one of the best places to capture the essence of the island of Gozo.