Words by Yolande Kleinjan
Four years ago I moved from the Netherlands to Malta with my husband and two sons (they were 6 and 9 at the time). The first summer I explored the island, together with my two sons. They had, after all, a never-ending summer of 3 months! As a semi – tourist we visited all the usual places. But I wanted to do different stuff, go out, feel nature, have long walks, go hiking, exploring beaches, sneaking through caves and looking for fossils. I wanted to discover the beauty of Malta, far away from the crowds and off the paved roads. Having said that, walking is surely the best way to explore. "The feel of a country under your fingertips, against your cheek, through the soles of your feet – this can only be done by walking".
Spring for me is the favorite season of the year. But be aware! Before even noticing it, hot summer is already around the corner. It can happen that you change your winter wardrobe into summer wardrobe within one week. So we have to enjoy spring as much as possible. Mtaħleb is for us the best place to enjoy spring, it is one of the highest points on the island and is situated by the cliffs at the North West of Malta. The area is covered with beautiful red, yellow, pink flowers. This is the perfect place for the kids to find amazing fossils. There are many cliff sites in Malta, but what is special about Mtaħleb is that there is a gorge (small opening in the cliffy rocks) from where you can descend down the cliffs by the sea.
It is quite exciting as you walk close to the edge of the high cliffs of Malta. Fishermen are trying to catch some fish with their long fishing lines all the way down to the sea. We love to have a picnic here. A picnic with an amazing view and a breathtaking sunset.
During summer we are most of the time enjoying sailing. But even in summer there are days when you prefer to stay ashore. This is an ideal time to explore Gozo. You don't need to walk far to find the path which leads you to Mġarr ix-Xini. The walk is truly breathtaking. Starting the walk from Mġarr fishing hamlet, past the Gozo ferry, you wlll find a path under Fort Chambray bastions. All the way towards Mġarr ix-Xini you find a really beautiful gem of nature, sea, flora and history. My boys love to play around the Mġarr ix-Xini tower and the gorgeous beach beneath it. In Mġarr ix-Xini you will find a lovely small restaurant where you can enjoy fresh fish, while the kids are exploring the valley or are swimming in the crystal clear blue water. When you still have some energy left you can continue going uphill to Ta' Ċenc wilderness. You can enjoy the breathtaking views of the islands and the highest cliffs in Gozo. It is full of lizards and even sometimes we meet a shepherd with his flock. The path will eventually lead you to Xlendi bay, where you can take the bus back to Mġarr.
In autumn when it is not too hot anymore and it starts to get a bit greener, one of our favorite spots is the area around Girgenti. In this area you will find so many aspects of beautiful Malta. Park your car at Buskett Garden, where the kids can play around. Then follow the road which leads to Clapham Junction. Here you can find the pre-historic cart ruts, which is quite interesting for the kids. Every time we try to figure out how they were created. And I can tell you they come up with some interesting theories! But so far no one has ever found the answers for these cart ruts, only questions. In this area we also found a big cave, where it is paradise for the kids to play around. From there you can walk along the Roman Quarries towards the beautiful green valley of Girgenti. A lot of food we eat on this island must come from this fertile valley. In autumn the air is drenched with orange fragrance. Oranges and lemons are all around you. When the kids are still not tired you can climb the Laferla Cross, which is situated on the highest hill in Malta. You can find our names next to thousands of other names marked at the base of the statue.
As we live in the South of the Island, we love to go out for an afternoon in the area around St. Peters Pool. One of Malta's best kept secrets is the Delimara area, just off the picturesque fishermen's village of Marsaxlokk. This swimming spot is the perfect example of an unspoiled beach and an excellent place for snorkeling. There is not even a kiosk where the boys can moan about snacks or drinks. It is called a pool because it looks like a natural swimming pool carved into the rocks. But the area is not only perfect for swimming, it is also great for hiking. When it is too cold for a swim we love to walk from Marsascala to Marsaxlokk and visit the famous market on a Sunday morning. The countryside between the two harbour towns of Marsaskala and Marsaxlokk, provides some of the most spectacular walking tours in the South of Malta. On our explorations we found the Tas-Silg archeological site, which is not accessible for the public, the Victorian Tas-Silg Fort, now a dogs' home, St. Paul's Battery, where we were able to make out where the large guns had once been placed to protect the bay and a very difficult to reach deserted (stone) beach, which is an adventure in itself for the kids.
I'm really honoured that I can share my favorite spots with you, but please promise me one thing when you visit them. Be mindful of these spots and keep them clean. Looking forward to meet you somewhere!