One of the charms of the island of Gozo is that each village has its own unique features waiting to be discovered. Beautiful churches, quaint wayside chapels, historic places, squares and alleys imbued with a typically Mediterranean vibe, scenic valleys and photogenic hilltops that simply await to be noticed by the visitor who dedicates time to absorb the authentic Gozo experience.
Words by VISITGOZO / MINISTRY FOR GOZO | Extract taken from November's 2022 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Xagħra is one such place ideal for a hiking village tour. Located on the hilltop plateau on the northern side of Gozo, the village is a real gem. There are various routes that you can follow to hike through it, but make sure you’re checking out these landmarks.
Ġgantija and the prehistory annals
Most of the visitors to the island of Gozo make a stopover at Xagħra and drop by at Ġgantija Temples, which are world-renowned landmarks. This UNESCO World Heritage site includes a museum and it is famous for its megaliths and the gigantic boulders that were used to erect this temple. Another prehistoric site to explore is the Xagħra Stone Circle or the Brockdorff Circle which is a series of underground burial chambers some 400 metres away from the Ġgantija complex. The lesser-known Santa Verna Temple is another prehistoric site, but one over which time has not been so clement and thus here, one can only see the remains of what was once a temple.
A collection of Caves and Grottos
Xagħra’s geology is one dotted with caves and caverns. Two interesting spots which you want to hunt out in the village of Xagħra are Ninu’s Cave and Xerri’s Grotto. These are two caves that are located within private residences. Both Ninu’s Cave and Xerri’s Grotto were discovered when the respective owners wanted to dig for water and stumbled upon these caverns with stalactites and stalagmites. Beyond these caverns, there’s the vantage point of Calypso’s Cave. Considered unsafe because of geological movements, this cave is closed to the public but its location brings in an evocative view of Ramla l-Ħamra. With such a magnificent view worthy of the gods, it is easy to believe that this was indeed the abode of the nymph Calypso.
Ta’ Kola Windmill
Xagħra has a bit of everything. Away from the geological wonders of stalactites and stalagmites and the mystery of the megaliths, Xagħra is also the home of Ta’ Kola windmill. The windmill is like a nostalgic touch of rural Gozo and once you enter you can delve into how the miller and his family lived in times gone by when grinding flour for bread was part of everyday life.
Museum of Toys
Another particular place to check out is the Pomskizillious museum of toys. The toy museum is a private collection of toys from all over the world. The name of the museum is a nod to Edward Lear, the artist and writer who visited Gozo in 1866 to satiate his wanderlust and went on to describe Gozo by coining a new word - Pomskizillious – which essentially means that “no words can describe its magnificence”.
Basilica and churches
In Xagħra, one finds three churches, the basilica, the church of Jesus of Nazareth and the church of St Anthony the Abbot. There is no doubt that the baroque basilica dedicated to the Nativity of Our Lady (Marija Bambina) is worth a visit. The interior of the church is an amazing kaleidoscopic work in marble and gilding, and it is also enriched with prestigious paintings. The older chapel dedicated to St Anthony the Abbot dates back to 1520 and has a close connection with the story of the plague in Gozo. Today the chapel is popular in January for the feast of St Anthony the Abbot and the traditional blessing of the animals.
The Village Square
Take a lull from your village hiking tour at the main square. It is the perfect place for lunch or a quick snack. The main square in Xaghra is not only a delightful meeting point and hub for the village, but it also offers a variety of restaurants and cafés.
Xagħra is the quintessential Gozitan village. There is no doubt that it rings with sempiternal vibes that it has been there since the beginning of time and that it has been tessellated with a myriad of historic attractions and legends that make any hike or tour worthy of your time.