Anyone that knows me personally, knows that I love my motorized sports. Dirt bikes, street bikes, ATV’s, snowmobiles…I love it all.
I knew I was heading to Gozo while in Malta, so I started to research what to do over there. When I came across an all day tour of the island on ATV’s, I may have squealed a little bit out of pure joy! SOLD! I booked my spot and my ATV and waited impatiently for the day I get to rip around Gozo. Brrraaap!
For those that don’t know where Gozo is, it’s actually the second largest island that makes up the three Maltese islands. Gozo is the smaller, greener and quieter island off the main island of Malta. The coastline of Gozo is made up of blue waters and large stunning cliffs that protrude out of the sea.
Ok, back to the epic ATV tour…
My driver picked me up from my hotel around 8:15am and we continued to pick up a few other people that were going to be joining me on the tour. My group consisted of a few Americans, a group of French people and even two people from Ontario that lived only about two hours north of my hometown! Small world!
We drove along the beautiful curvy roads of the main Maltese island until we came to the ferry port at Cirkewwa, Malta. As we climbed out of the vehicle, I couldn’t help but notice the shift in weather. The famous unpredictable temperatures and wind conditions of Malta were showing their true colours. It went from bright and sunny, to dark, windy, cold and rainy. NOT good ATV weather. UGH! We all headed inside to the building, grabbed our tickets and waited for the ferry to arrive.
Once the ferry arrived, everyone boarded and got comfortable, since the trip was about an hour to Gozo from the mainland. The clouds grew darker and darker, but the high winds were pushing them overhead at a fairly quick rate, so I was hoping it would blow over. The ride to Gozo was fairly smooth, minus a few nauseating moments due to the high winds and rough waters.
As we approached land, the clouds parted, the rain stopped and the sun came out! YES! Dreams do come true! We were met outside the ferry port by our guide, Ray from Gozo Pride Tours and we jumped into the back of his little truck bed and headed to the spot where our dirt stallions were waiting for us!
When we arrived to the ATV’s, we all got a safety rundown, helmets and the keys. I had brought my own motorcycle gloves and naturally, wore my Fox jersey. I was raring to go. As I struggled to get the 1980’s style helmet on, I hear Ray ask, “Who here has ridden motorcycles?” I raise my hand, still struggling with the helmet strap. “Ok, you ride behind me up front.” Sounds good to me. This way we could keep the pace of the group, which I was more than ok with. Being stuck behind someone that is slow, or inexperienced is the most annoying thing ever. So, off we went.
As we made our way through the streets of Gozo, I had to keep reminding myself that they drive on the left hand side of the road. It made for an interesting journey, that’s for sure, especially navigating through the ton of roundabouts that were placed everywhere on the island. As daunting as it seemed at first, once you get going, it’s honestly fine and not intimidating at all. I was having way too much fun to care about that anyway. Then all of a sudden, it happened…a downpour! Grrreat! Cold winds and relentless rain came out of nowhere, but luckily it only lasted for a few minutes until our first stop to a lookout that had panoramic views of Gozo and the sea. It was the most greenery I’ve seen during my travels through Malta that week.
Our next stop en route was a stop at Ramla Bay. Ramla Bay is located at the bottom of a rich and fertile valley on the northern side of Gozo and is the only sandy beach on the island. The sand had a reddish/golden hue to it as the sun shone down on it. Locals often refer to this beach as the “Ramla il-Hamra” – the Red Sandy Beach. Ramla Bay is also home to some astounding history. Over 2,000 years ago, a Roman villa was built on the scenic beach. You can still see the remains close to the water’s edge, and there are still portions of the Roman ruins beneath the sand.
After taking in the surreal beauty of Ramla Bay, we hopped on our ATV’s and made our way to Marsalforn, which was once an old fishing village, but is now a sprawling resort town. Even though Marsalforn now boasts condos and high end resorts, it still manages to have a low-key vibe to it. We took a quick break for a photo stop and to admire the insanely bright turquoise water. No wonder they built resorts here. It was gorgeous!
We were now on our way to the salt pans of Gozo in Reqqa Point. Here, hundreds of salt pans indent the the soft limestone near Marsalforn, which form a surreal, lunar like landscape of natural beauty. There are man-made salt pans, as well as salt pans that date back over 400 years ago. It’s almost mesmerizing to watch the waves crashing into the shore, while the salt pans collect the water. The production of sea salt has a long tradition in Gozo and the salt pans found near Marsalforn are still used very actively to this day. If you arrive early enough in the morning, you can witness the salt being collected.
Once we were done admiring the salt pans, we headed off to a quick lunch, then stopped off at a local store to sample some local honey, syrups and liquor. Carob is used often in Maltese foods and especially over in Gozo. I purchased some Gozitan honey with carob, and also a carob syrup, which is great for suppressing coughs if you mix it with warm water and lemon. Good to know!
After the incredible tasting, we were heading to the infamous Azure Window, located on Dwerja Bay. The Azure window is a natural arch that looks like a table over the sea. With two perpendicular vertical rocks holding a huge horizontal mass over them, the Azure Window is a result of extensive fault-ins, as well as the wind and wave action on the rocks. It attracts a huge number of tourists every year. As beautiful and magnificent as the Azure Window is, it is unfortunately subject to extensive damage over the years due to the battering waves and lack of responsible tourism. The top portion of the Azure Window is in extreme trouble and may fall down in the next few years. Locals say they’ll be lucky to see it last THAT long. Many tourists are told not to walk along the top portion, as it helps speed up corrosion, but of course, people still walk along the top to get that “perfect photo for Instagram.” It pisses me right off. There are signs everywhere telling people NOT to walk on the top, but they still do. Many tourists have also fallen into the water, or have been dragged out to sea for getting too close to the cliffs edge and as the extremely strong winds (The winds were SO strong that day, I kept my helmet on to protect my ears, as it was almost deafening) and forceful waves come crashing over the edge, they have been known to drag people out to sea. Some people get retrieved, battered and bleeding from the extremely sharp and jagged rocks, some are never to be seen alive again. It’s a sad reality, but being able to see this site in person, still intact felt like a privilege to me. I’m extremely grateful I had the chance to see the Azure Window in its full glory before it’s too late.
After fighting the harsh winds at the Azure Window, I ventured off to the almost hidden cave on the other side of the cliff area near some fishing huts. On calm days, fishing boats can pass through the cave and emerge on the other side and into the open sea. Boats are used to take visitors through the archway and then tour the nearby cliffs from a lower and up close viewing standpoint. Unfortunately, the day I was here, the winds were so strong, that boats were not even able to attempt to go through what I dubbed as the “Death Tunnel” because of the waves crashing through the opening. If you look close, you will see the opening to the sea in one of the photos below.
The tour was coming to an end and we were about to head back to our starting point. I honestly had the best time doing this tour and was taught so much about Gozo and met some of its great people. As we rode back into town, we had some open road and I was wondering if Ray was going to open the throttle and pin it…he did and I obviously followed suit, keeping up with him in the process. When in doubt, throttle out!! Brraap!
If you really want to experience Gozo and appreciate its beauty and rugged terrain, I highly suggest doing an all day ATV tour with Gozo Pride Tours. They are a group of local people that know the land, know the sites and know how to show you a good time. You’ll be able to see and drive on areas of the island that you cannot access with a tour bus, or car. It’s definitely for the adrenaline junkie and something that shouldn’t be missed!