Written by Juan Dingli
Ahh there dear reader, you have just joined us on the ferry to Gozo for the second time with Island Explorer. This time round we’ll be heading to the place to be during the carnival season. If you still haven’t got it yet, our destination is none other than Nadur (Na-Duur). Located in the eastern part of Gozo, Nadur is a unique and quaint village with agricultural roots that is also home to many expats and easy-going locals. This colourful locality is spread out on an area of around 7.2km2 and currently has a population of around 4,700 and rising. Come carnival time, this village is transformed into a town wide party, though Nadur has much more to offer than simply being a carnival hotspot. Luscious green valleys, beautiful beaches, years of history and world famous bakeries serving delicious pizza all make Nadur a lovely place to visit all year long.
Although Nadur does not have much physical ancient history, it was reported that a number of roofed structures were found in the area closest to the coast. These were allegedly built as temples to the Gods in the ancient times. Legend has it that this was the work of giants since the pieces of stone were quite heavy and large in size. Unfortunately, this site does not exist anymore. There are still some sites definitely worth checking up on if you’re a history buff. The defensive Isopu (Ee-zo-poo) tower which was built during the time of the Knights of St. John’s rule over the Maltese islands is still standing till today. Strategically placed between two possible entry points, this tower was once a means of defense and lookout in case an attack from the corsairs. Further away overlooking the rest of Gozo is the Kennuna (Kenn-Nu-Na). This very distinct tower was built during the 19th Century by the British during their colonization of the island. The intended use of this tower was as a communications post, utilizing the now obsolete semaphore codes via either large mirrors or metallic plates. Today, this tower still serves as a good communications link using modern technology. This is thanks to the fact that the tower was constructed in a way that it had a clear sight of all the Maltese islands. Nadur is also home to a vast and carefully curated collection of maritime artefacts. The privately owned maritime museum is definitely worth visiting if maritime history tickles your fancy.
Nadur today is a bustling little village full of life, especially in the area closest to the recently renovated square. To really understand Nadur, you’d have to spend some good time walking around the town. The first thing that you would definitely notice would be varying styles of architecture. From houses that are hundreds of years old to 20th century abodes and even the modern ones. Somehow, the mix of styles blend nicely together. Also, since Nadur is populated by a percentage of expats, some managed to infuse their style into the Maltese architecture giving their house a unique twist. You’ll also come across a good number of narrow streets, a heavy Catholic influence and the occasional deteriorating farmhouse from a bygone time. The second thing you’ll notice would be the various coffee shops and restaurants that are scattered around Nadur. The highest concentration being in the main square and the surrounding streets as one would imagine. Most are populated by regular patrons and tourists alike, serving a variety of dishes including Maltese traditional cuisine. The old style coffee shops on the other hand are meeting points for many locals just like in other villages around Malta. Places where the community meets to share the latest happenings and rant about the latest football game. This scenario is very common especially in the old Maltese villages.
Before straying away from the village core, I’d like to point out the Nadur parish church. This basilica dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul is an architectural gem worth paying attention to. Construction of this church was commenced in the year 1760 and was consecrated about a hundred years later in 1867. This might seem like a lot of years but one has to appreciate the fact that back then technology was more limited and funding was also restricted. The feast of St. Peter and St. Paul is celebrated on the 29th of June every year. Now that we got most of the village core covered, we’ll start walking to the outskirts of the village. You might encounter a couple of bakeries and old-style pizzerias along the way. These bakeries are famous nationwide if not internationally. You’ll always find masses of hungry and eager customers waiting for their delicious homemade pizza or a Gozitan ftira (ftee-ra) to be ready. The reason why is quite simple. Quality ingredients are used and the pizzas are cooked in traditional stone ovens. Attention to detail is quite high as well and best of all the prices are very reasonable. Whilst you’re in Gozo make sure to stop at one of Nadur’s bakeries, do book your order in advance as well. For those that are still wondering what a Gozitan ftira is, imagine a pizza with a sourdough base, thin and harder than usual, topped off with Mediterranean ingredients such as capers, sundried tomatoes, sliced potatoes and Maltese goat’s cheese. I suggest you try one next time you’re in Nadur.
Another place you must definitely visit in Nadur is the promenade overlooking Qala (ǝaa-la). The view from this spot is more than breath-taking and you can also see the ferries crossing to Malta and back all throughout the day. The playground on the promenade makes for an ideal summer evening with the kids. If you had to walk all along the promenade, you’d reach the Kennuna tower I mentioned earlier in this article. This tower is located in a garden with various species of plants marked with name cards. The view from this garden is also amazing, from here you’d be able to see most of Gozo easily. The most prominent landmark visible from this spot is the Xewkija (Shew-Kii-Ja) church standing tall in the distance. Quite the vista.
During winter, Nadur becomes a paradise for hikers and ramblers alike. The country paths take you along old farms, into valleys and around impressive cliffs. You might also encounter a cave or two such as the hidden Tal-Mixta (Tal Mish-Ta) cave overlooking the Ramla bay. In summertime, the story is completely different. Nadur becomes a haven for swimmers and sun chasers. One is spoilt for choice here as there are some good options to choose from. My favorite has to be Ramla bay, which is split between the neighboring town of Xaghra (Xaa-Raa) and Nadur itself. A truly picturesque beach in Nadur has to be the small bay of San Blas. Reaching the beach is quite an arduous task since the only access is on foot down a steep slope. The problem is walking back up but it’s definitely worth it. Another beach in the same village is known locally as Dahlet Qorrot (Dah-let ǝorr-ot) beach. This beach is not as well-known as the other beaches which is always a plus when it comes to find a good place to swim. Then again, all these three sandy beaches are rarely fully packed making it easy to find a good spot to relax.
Am I forgetting something? Ah yes, the carnival in Nadur. Although the Nadur carnival is a big part of the town’s crowd-pulling factor, I tried to focus on the other aspects that this lovely village has to offer. Carnival time in Nadur is always a blast. The spontaneous carnival, the grotesque masks, the group and community effort in each float and costume design, the high amount of dedication and creativity all serve to make the Nadur carnival a weekend to remember. Make sure to stay on the lookout for the Nadur carnival special if you want to know more about what happens in this lovely Gozitan village during the carnival period.