There is something about arriving on the island of Gozo that has incredible appeal. Maybe it’s sailing into Mgarr harbour, or 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.
Words by VISITGOZO / MINISTRY FOR GOZO | Extract taken from April's 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
Maybe you’ve already been to the island, and Mġarr 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 overlooked item on most travellers’ list of things to do in Gozo is a serious exploration of Mġarr harbour.
The Fishing Port & 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.
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. 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 Mġarr harbour was originally built to protect the port. There were plans for this fortress to become 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.
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 venture to explore the area, you might even come across the fougasse, a large hollow in the ground rock 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 simply the welcome and goodbye view of Gozo. It is one of the best places to capture the essence of the island of Gozo.