Let’s face it, Malta is a very tiny country. In about an hour, a person driving a car could make it from the south end of the island to the north. This leaves little room for some sort of rural area to even exist. Believe it or not, Malta actually does have a countryside teeming with melodic birds, fishermen, and steep slopes. If you decide to travel outside of Malta’s bustling towns and villages, you’re sure to discover a wonderland of opportunities. With stunning coastline and landscapes to experience, you can count on having hours of fun and discovering places that you would definitely love to visit a second time around.
The Ras il-Qaws Trail
Tips for hiking the trail
For an amazing view near the village of Rabat, I highly recommend hiking the Ras il-Qaws Trail. I had an awesome time backpacking this path thanks to Experience, a tour program created in Malta for people who wish to wander the country and its surrounding islands to discover their own sense of adventure. A person must be prepared to hike this trail, however. The hike itself is about 7.4 kilometers or 4.6 miles depending on where or which way you decide to walk. Due to the harsh heat almost year-round, be sure to bring plenty of water and a light snack. Also, don’t forget to stretch your legs and wear a pair of shoes you can really hike in. For my last tip: wear appropriate socks. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself. Unaware of how steep the slopes on this nature trail would be; I wore short socks thinking that it would be okay. As I was trying my best not to descend the slopes with rocks rolling under my feet, my socks decided to follow suit and slid down my ankles. I was constantly pulling them up during the two and a half-hour hike and even had blisters from the socks rubbing on the backs of my ankles afterward. My lesson: never take your socks for granted.
The journey and the view
Before I started my tiring gallivant along the Ras il-Qaws Trail, I arrived near the Mtahleb Chapel where other people were gathering to start the trek with the Experience tour program. At nine in the morning, I and sixty other backpackers began the journey. We ventured along the side of a couple countryside roads lined with prickly-pear cactus plants until the group reached the rugged coastline. There, we steadily climbed a hillside with hidden caves and caverns dug into the sandstone along the way. To my surprise, there were also a bunch of Maltese fisherman sitting along the high edges of the rocky coast casting the longest lines I’ve ever seen into the Sea. Holy crap, were those fishermen brave!
The farther we went, the steeper the hills became and the trail less clear. Toward the Migrah il-Ferha peak, many people (including my clumsy self and a woman who decided to bring her dog on a trek like that) were tripping and trying not to tumble down the side of the hill. Luckily, no one did. After about forty-five minutes, we stopped momentarily to see the view of the Mediterranean Sea and hills surrounding us. It might have just been a rock-strewn landscape, but God, was the view incredible.
The hike from then onward was treacherous. Already weary from the easier first half of the trek, every incline we experienced seemed harder than the last. Not only that, but since it was closer to noon, the temperature was even hotter than about an hour before. Nonetheless, I finished the hike red-faced and sweaty. Even though it was exhausting to say the least, I’d do this hike just to see the beautiful Maltese countryside and smell the salty breeze coming off of the Mediterranean Sea one more time.
Ghajn Tuffieħa and Golden Bay
Another experience I had and would recommend to travelers who visit Malta would be to go to Ghajn Tuffieħa near the villages of Manikata and Mellieħa. Ghajn Tuffieħa was once a military base on top of a hill overlooking the Sea, but it now stands as a place for the Maltese and tourists alike to catch a gorgeous view of the horizon. I got to witness this sight myself when I hiked with about twelve other people who are international students like myself at the University of Malta. Bathing suit in hand, my group and I started our adventure by the outskirts of Għajn Tuffieħa Bay, a beach separated from Golden Bay by a natural rock formation that the tower stands atop of, and walked around the coast. The hillside trail following the beach is a lot shorter than the Ras il-Qaws trail, but is even steeper in a few other parts of it. I would recommend wearing the proper shoes for this trek even though part of it can be walked wearing sandals.
After hiking a couple of kilometers, we reached the other side of Ghajn Tuffieħa to Golden Bay where we spent the day soaking up the rays of the sun, swimming, and working on our golden brown tans. The beach located in Golden Bay is an extremely popular destination because it is one of the few beaches in the northwestern region of Malta to have actual sand. For this reason and the fact that it’s the perfect place to cool down on a hot day (or after a rigorous hike) makes it a very attractive place for tourists all around the world to visit. Expect a lot of people to be there if it’s during the summer months of Malta. A beachside restaurant is available to those who are hungry during the day. There many food choices to choose from, but my personal favorite was the chicken mango panini with a refreshing, Maltese-brewed Cisk beer. Several clubs and a hotel are also located by the beach for those who wish to stay close and have some fun. For a quieter experience, Għajn Tuffieħa Bay is just as nice, but doesn’t offer any opportunities for food or means of transportation if one doesn’t feel like hiking after a day on the beach.
As the day is coming to an end, you’ll get the chance to watch the sun dip along the Mediterranean horizon. The sunset oranges and pinks reflecting off of the water are truly a sight to behold and I would stick around long enough to witness it. Although there might be other things to do, you’ll never see a sunset like that anywhere else.