HomeUncategorizedHow Gozo became one of the greenest islands in the Med

How Gozo became one of the greenest islands in the Med

IIn a stone cave on a metal-blue shore, Alfred Attard waits through the winter with boxes, bags and messy salt piles, just as he has for the past 48 years. At Xwejni on the north coast of Gozo, Malta’s smaller sister island, the waves gnaw at ocher limestone cliffs and a salt cellar. On an island defined by the tide, nothing is more important than salt, but Alfred is just one of two people left harvesting the island’s sea salt by hand – the last keepers of a millennial tradition. year old. These salt pans have been here, in one form or another, since Phoenician times.

“This is the best salt in the world because it’s 100% natural,” says Alfred, a mustached, weather-defying man with mischievous blue eyes. His little dog, Kiku, curled up in a blanket on his lap, and his cap-wearing wife, Mary, sat beside him on a plastic chair. “I learned this art from my stepfather. No machines – just heat, hard work!” Alfred laughed, holding the old-fashioned yoke that he used to carry two barrels, each containing 20 kg of salt.

“From April to October – or until the first storms arrive – I wake up at 5 a.m. and follow the sun. First, I put the pebbles in the pan, then I filled them with salt water, which I left to dry for seven days until crystals formed. Then I made a pile of salt, put it in a bucket, brought it to the cave and let it dry naturally,” he said, proudly pointing at the salt heap in the cave’s foyer that looked like a giant snowdrift.

Traditional Gozo Salt Pan

(Kerry Walker)

Alfred is living proof of the benefits of a simple, happy life, living in harmony with nature and its rhythms. And while the future of hand-harvested salt may be uncertain, Gozo is returning to its verdant roots.

The driving force behind the island’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2030 is Eco-gozohas many ties to its project bow, from planting trees to restoring crumbling walls against erosion, organizing cleaning, sustainable water management, promoting renewable energy, removing plastic debris from the sea and encourage the use of free bus island public transport.

Read more about Malta tourism:

While many islands in the Mediterranean succumb to mass tourism, Gozo remains verdant and peaceful. Rejecting tall buildings in favor of a lighter, more sustainable approach, the island’s trump card is year-round outdoor adventure, with some of Europe’s best scuba diving , as well as kayaking, surfing, e-bikes, deep-water canoeing, Segway tours, and stand-up paddle boarding. Nine coastal trails have recently been completed, including a memorable 13-kilometer trail that runs along unspoiled cliffs from Mgarr to Xlendi on the south coast. Surrounding the island 50km Gozo coastal walk present more challenges. And much more…

Gozo has an electric tuk-tuk

(Kerry Walker)

“There are big, exciting projects underway,” said Ronald Sultana, the Gozo Ministry’s tourism director, as we wandered along the sandy, wildflower-lined streets at Family Park Qortin in Xagħra. “This was the island’s main dump 10 years ago, stinking and smoky, but now it’s been rebuilt into a park where families and dog walkers go. We planted 23,000 native shrubs and let nature take its course,” he says, as we wander through blooming wild fennel, crown chrysanthemums and prickly pear cacti where lizards swarm .

“Plans are also underway to recreate the barren seafloor with an underwater sculpture garden and an artificial reef to attract fish and marine life. It will provide divers and scuba diving enthusiasts to visit the island culture beyond the museums,” Ronald told me. “Experts are in the process of determining the best location,” he said as we walked along the rocky trail, spring flowers fragrant in the air.

Suddenly, Ronald stops and leads me into an easily overlooked crevice in the rock that expands into a cave, Tal-Mixta, perfectly framing the red-gold crescent-shaped scenery of Ramla Bay and the blazing blue sea. glow below. It was silent except for the murmur of the waves and the chirping of birds. For the first time in 70 years, Ronald explains, the beach is seeing the return of nesting turtles during the 2020 pandemic. This is the kind of repeat visitor that Gozo wants.

While many islands in the Mediterranean succumb to mass tourism, Gozo is still green and peaceful

Although only a few miles from Malta, Gozo moves to his own soothing rhythm. In one of the island’s palaces tuk-tuk, I talk to expat and British driver Joe McGinn, as we rumble through terraced fields and countryside planted with almond, carob, citrus and olive trees where roosters crow . We stopped at an observatory at Il-Qala on the east side of the island, with a view of the little spot Comino, where the two cousins ​​lived an almost self-sufficient life, Joe told me. . The most famous of the two, Salvu Vella, is a farmer, fisherman, beekeeper, self-taught engineer and organic environmental pioneer who is always working on his next invention, possibly are cars that run on hydroelectric power or non-chemical pesticides.

All this talk about this remote island makes Gozo’s main town, Victoria (population: 6,900), seem positively cosmopolitan, but only until we get to the fortified walls. thicket of its ostentatious citadel, Ċittadella, inhabited since the Bronze Age and once the Punic stronghold of the Roman city of Gaulos. From the honey-colored fortresses that surround the network of alleys, lush valleys pour into the sea.

Down a small alley behind the baroque church, I came across by Richard, a rustic restaurant serving homemade cheese and wine platters, run by the owner of a small local ranch. The shelves are lined with their own organic produce: prickly pear liqueur and carob, sun-dried tomatoes and cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. But I’m here to try and buy a dish that every Gozitan is nostalgic for: Ġbejna, small hand-made lamb cheese balls that are great with bread or soup. Rikardu rummaged upstairs and appeared with a plate of various fresh, sweet, creamy and panna cotta-like varieties, and the dried, soaked, peppered varieties, which were pungent and nutty. I took two boxes.

There are many walking paths along the rugged coastline of Gozo

(Kerry Walker)

You are never more than a whisper from the sea on Gozo. The wind whistled around the cliffs crisscrossed with caves and creeks and on the shoreline rippled fossils of the extinct sand dollar sea urchin in Dwejra Bay on the east coast. Its once famous Azure Window – the setting for Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding in season one. Game of Thrones – no more, but the setting is still purely dramatic.

The power of the sea here is ubiquitous, in the emerald depths of the Blue Hole and lagoon-like inland waters, a favorite of divers, and in the peculiar rock formations. The most notable of these is Fungus Rock, a 60-meter-tall limestone formation that gets its misleading name from the Maltese fungus (Cynomorium), which is actually a parasitic flowering plant. The knights of St John considered it a miracle plant, using it to bandage wounds and cure dysentery. Any member of the public caught stealing a number is given a three-year fine of navigating their gallery.

The power of the sea here is omnipresent, in the emerald depths of the Blue Hole and the lagoon-like inland sea.

But the Medieval Knights weren’t the first to succumb to Gozo’s charms. In the verdant center of the island, atop a plateau, sits Neolithic Giant temples, were built from coral limestone between 3600 and 3200 BC, making them older than the pyramids of Egypt. How the giant megaliths got here is a mystery that has entered local legend – Ġgantija comes from the Maltese word giantsnodding to the legend that they were built by a race of giants.

As I wandered into the beehive-like cavities, worn down by time, my guide, Audrey Bartolo, pointed out the fascinating details: altars for animal sacrifices, holes for drinking substances liquid (milk, honey, blood), fertility rites for a mother goddess, imported traces of obsidian, alabaster, flint and red ocher showing temple builders went very far. Some are facts, some are speculations. But one thing she is sure of: the people who built these temples on Gozo 5,000 years ago were peaceful and nature-loving people. Not much changed there after that.

Neolithic gantija temples are older than the pyramids

(Kerry Walker)

travel essentials

Arrive there

Ferries operate every 45 minutes between Cirkewwa on Malta and Mgarr on Gozo. The journey takes 25 minutes.


Gozo has a wide range of enticing and sustainable sleepovers, including Il-Barraġ Farm B&B in Nadur.

There is also the eco-certified Duke Boutique Hotel in Victoria, with stunning views of the citadel.

Read more of us Malta best hotel reviews

More information

For a bit of romance, order a gourmet picnic to a beach of your choice with Gozo picnic.


latest articles

explore more