malta valley hiking

Malta’s Limestone Valleys Lure Hikers, Rock Climbers & Nature Lovers

Written by Albert Fenech
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Those who have never been to Malta or Gozo will not only be impressed by the abundance of beaches, sunshine, and historic towns and sites, but also by the many verdant valleys. Coupled with Malta’s mild winters, these valleys invite active travellers and locals to see a different side of Malta.

So, lace up your sturdy shoes, pack your sunscreen, and check out these local  favourites.

About Malta’s Valleys

The word “wied” means valley and comes from the Arabic word wadi, and there are about 200 of them across the islands of Malta, Gozo and the small island in between, Comino. Their abundance is possibly because of the soft limestone formation of the Maltese islands, easily grooved during periods of heavy rain over the centuries.

These valleys house the most important strains of plants, trees, bushes, animals, birds and insects that are indigenous to the Maltese Islands yet over the years they have been overtaken by invasive vegetation such as wildly growing canes that choke off the indigenous varieties.

Thankfully, the Government has now vowed to take on the regeneration and renovation of Malta’s valleys and restore this environmental and agricultural lifeline to their natural beauty.  It is estimated that almost 30 percent of the landmass of the Maltese Islands is under the protection of Natura 2000, the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world, extending across all 27 EU Member States, both on land and at sea to safeguard the biodiversity and natural ecosystems of the Maltese Islands.

Malta valley hiking

Malta’s Chadwick Lakes Trail is a popular walk for locals and visitors ( Photo by Marika Caruana – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Wied il-Qliegha

One of the better and much-loved valleys is that of Wied il-Qliegha in the Rabat area of Malta. It is better known as The Chadwick Lakes, which is a bit of a misnomer because the “lakes” are miniscule, and named for the British engineer Sir Osbert Chadwick who designed a system of dams at the end of the 19th century to preserve rainwater for neighbouring agricultural fields.

Since the creation of Chadwick’s dams, the area became a magnet for family outings, admiring the stretches of water and the general wildlife of a bonanza of plants and ducks and tadpoles and frogs wallowing in the cool waters.

Unfortunately, this, and most other valleys, were neglected for many years and became a hotbed for invasive plant, animal and insect species, which destroyed most of the indigenous environment.Intensive renovation and regeneration have taken place annually to restore several areas around Malta, removing invasive plant species and replacing them with indigenous varieties. One of the most thorough was around the Chadwick Lakes and now has been placed under the management of Nature Trust Malta.

For visitors it’s a wonderful place to take a walk along the Chadwick Lakes Trail and enjoy the vegetation, the sound of water rushing through the channels and down the dams between Rabat and Mtarfa, set on a hill of fertile land just across the valley from Mdina. The walk is especially lovely during spring.

Malta Valley Hiking

Malta’s Mosta Valley/ Wied il-Ghasel offers spectacular vistas for hikers

Wied il-Ghasel

Also known as Mosta Valley, Wied il-Ghasel is Malta’s largest with a wealth of spectacular greenery. Legend has it that lantern lights can be seen at night and screams of anguish can be heard, dating back to Ottoman invasion times. And according to folklore, bees once produced so much honey, the rocks and cracks used to overflow with the golden nectar, earning it the name Wied il-Għasel (Għasel is honey in Maltese).

In addition to the numerous species of flora and fauna, the valley is home to a few chapels to check out including the Chapel of St Paul’s Shipwreck and Chapel of St Paul the Hermit.

The valley is also popular for rock climbers.

malta valley hiking

Gorgeous Wied il-Ghasri in Gozo is a paradise for hikers (photo by HasanK – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Wied il-Lunzjata

A valley that has always been one of my favourites is Wied il-Lunzjata (the Valley of the Annunciation) in Gozo. This is a deep fertile agricultural valley full of beauty and serenity that begins its descent in the vicinity of a small and ancient chapel Annunciation of Our Lady.

The valley gradually descends surrounded on both sides by stratas of well-kept terraced fields each with their impeccable stone walls to provide shelter from soil erosion in heavy rainfall.  Running freshwater is very common on the valley bottom during autumn and spring, and the sound adds to the serene ambiance.

Wied il-Ghasri

A marvellous place for a walk or bike ride, especially in winter and spring, this deep gorge-like valley is noted for its high cliffs carved from limestone. During late spring, the area becomes a carpet of red poppies.

The valley begins at Ta’ Dbieġi Hill before winding down through the village of l-Għasri, and on between iż-Żebbuġ and Ta’ Ġurdan Hill to meet the sea between impressive cliffs.

 

malta valley hiking

A hike in Malta’s Wied Babu leads to the crystal waters of the Blue Grotto

Wied Babu

Regeneration and renovation have taken place in Wied Babu, located on the outskirts of Zurrieq, about seven kilometres from Valletta. With a water flow that emerges in the area of the Blue Grotto, a complex of sea caves with crystal clear blue waters and rainbow coloured strips of sea bottom sands, it has become a minor tourist attraction. The valley is considered to be one of the lushest in Malta and is popular with rock climbers and trekkers, as well as those who want to go for a  swim after their hike.

 

Wied Għammieq

In the southern town of Kalkara lies Wied Għammieq, an oft-forgotten valley that’s off the beaten track. The valley hosts several historical buildings and is close to the derelict yet still impressive Fort Ricasoli, Built in the 17th century by the Order of St John, it is the largest fort in Malta.

 

Whichever valley you choose, you’ll enjoy fresh air, birds and small animals, and vast greenery under the ever-present Maltese sunshine

 

***

 

BeSeeingYou In: Malta’s green valleys

Good to Know: You’ll need is good walking shoes, sunscreen and water

WOW Factor! The fresh non-polluted air and green surroundings

Tip:  Carry a packed lunch and drink and enjoy the tranquillity

 

Author bio: Albert Fenech

salina46af@gmail.com

 

Find more travel inspiration at BeSeeingYou

Albert Fenech
Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management and Administration with a leading construction company building the Benghazi Hospital in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, Malta’s leading insurance Broker and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees and Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He was Publications Editor for the Malta Football Association for 25 years and has written for a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books.

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