Written by Juan Dingli
Time for another trip to a well-known locality on Malta’s (sexier) sister, Gozo, a place where the sea meets the sky and the salty sea-breeze would instantly remind anyone of summer. Nestled between Żebbuġ (zebb-uwcc) and Xagħra (xaa-raa) lies the little seaside village of Marsalforn (Mar-Sal-Forn). Technically speaking, this highly sought after touristic resort is actually part of the nearby town of Żebbuġ but the two are completely different from each other so I decided to split them accordingly. Żebbuġ merits a whole article to itself in the future. Marsalforn is estimated to have an area of around 1.20km2 which is mainly taken up by guesthouses, hotels, restaurants and rental units. There is also a great deal of farmland just beneath the Salvatur hill. Marsalforn should definitely be on your list if you’re planning to visit Gozo soon. There are so many things you can do in this village. For starters, a dip in one of the various beaches around Marsalforn, lunch or dinner at one of the amazing restaurants and the obligatory stroll along the promenade.
Marsalforn was always quite a sought after place but for different reasons. The oldest recorded evidence of settlement in the area are a collection of Punic tombs in the Qbajjar (ǝbay-yar) area of Marsalforn. During the time of the Romans in Malta, the natural inlet was used as a port to receive goods from Sicily and beyond. It is also said that after St. Paul’s accidental visit to Malta, St Paul himself had embarked to Sicily from this exact same spot. In fact, the village church is dedicated to St Paul’s Shipwreck. During the time of the Knights, plans were made for a new fortified town to be built in Marsalforn. The idea behind this was to replace the Ċitadella but the move never materialised due to lack of popularity from the locals and lack of funds in general. A great deal of coastal towers were built along the coast of Marsalforn and Żebbuġ though, of which only one survived. The Qolla l-Bajda (ǝoll-la l-bay-da) Battery currently lies in a state of extreme disrepair and it is feared that this 18th century battery will eventually succumb to the years of neglect. Throughout the years, the popularity of this port decreased with the construction of other major ports around Malta and Gozo. Only the fishermen and farmers had remained in the area. Salt production featured quite prominently in the Marsalforn as can be noticed from the high amount of salt pans in the area, most of which are still in use. The oldest salt pans in the area date back to the 18th century. During the 20th century, most locals started building property and summer residences in Marsalforn seeing that the area itself was like something out of a postcard. In a short span of time, Marsalforn became the touristic sea-side resort we know and love today. Hotels, restaurants, bars, high-rise apartments and so on. Boats still populate the outskirts of the inlet here but these just add to the atmosphere of this lovely village.
My favourite spot in Marsalforn has to be Salvatur Hill overlooking all of Marsalforn. Conveniently placed on this hill is a novel twelve metre statue of Jesus Christ with arms open. Rio de Janeiro anyone? Hiking up this hill can be quite arduous but once you reach the top, you’ll realise that it was all worth it. Fresh air and a view like no other. Apart from this hill, a couple of other smaller hills are scattered around such as the Qolla l-Bajda hill situated in the Qbajjar area above a sea-cave and the Qolla s-safra (ǝoll-la is-saf-ra). The literal translation for the names of these hills would be “the white hill” and “the yellow hill” respectively. Aptly named after the colour of the rock they were naturally formed with. The coastline itself is quite interesting, here one can see various interesting geological features such as sea caves and rock formations. Of course, these are best admired from the sea though and Marsalforn is definitely not lacking that. Come summer time, you definitely would want to have a swim in the sea here. The main bay is Marsalforn Bay located in the inlet of the former port, this bay is probably the busiest one in Marsalforn since it is located quite close to the centre of Marsalforn. Sand, trees and clear blue seas, what else would you want? Close by one can find a little pebble beach next to a man-made pier known as “Iċ-Ċavetta” (ich-chav-ett-ta). Further on around the bend is a rocky swimming zone called “Għar Qawla” (aar ǝaw-la) and on the other side of Marsalforn is Qbajjar Bay, a little beach located on the outskirts of Marsalforn. This bay takes the name of an area which is a smaller extension of Marsalforn populated by a couple of summer residences and a restaurant or two.
As you can imagine, Marsalforn is also worth visiting during the colder months of winter. This is the best time to see the rough waves crashing against the shore whilst enjoying a cup of tea at one of the various bars located close by. Winter or spring is also a good time to explore the various valleys located in the area. The greenery of springtime really contrasts well with the colour palette of Marsalforn; Blue, Green and Yellow. You might also be lucky enough to see the water stream coming from Rabat straight through the Marsalforn valley. This is what we Maltese would consider a river. Another good reason to come during winter time is the higher availability of accommodation with off-peak prices. The area is generally quieter and life takes on a calmer pace.
Last Saturday I decided to go to Marsalforn for a walk-about by myself. Seeing that the weather was very summer-like, despite not even officially being spring yet, I decided to go for a walk to the nearby clay-slopes. The time I spent basking in the sun whilst allowing the sea-breeze to detoxify my lungs was simply heaven on earth. I then proceeded to walk down to the village for lunch followed by a quick break on one of the garden benches located in the middle of Marsalforn. I really felt like swimming but the water was still a bit too cold for my liking despite seeing brave swimmers doing laps in the sea. All of the restaurants were quite packed with like-minded people who took advantage of last Saturday’s surprisingly great weather. With my camera in hand, I then set off for the nearby village of Żebbuġ, taking the scenic coastal route. A tiring but satisfying little adventure.
Why not try to do something similar yourself?
A good number of amenities can also be found in Marsalforn such as grocers, supermarkets and even a well-stocked pharmacy. This means that your upcoming stay here at the various rental apartments would be an easy and enjoyable experience. Whilst you’re here, I also recommend booking a diving session at one of the various diving schools located in Marsalforn. There are a couple of good diving sites in the area which the diving instructors would be more than happy to show you. And for the kids? There’s a massive playground/garden overlooking Marsalforn at the back of the village. A great way to spend a summer evening with all the family. I hope this article helped to give you a better idea of what Marsalforn has to offer. Feel free to comment below if you have been to Marsalforn or if you are thinking of doing so. Till next time island explorers.