Dwejra, Gozo (the Inland Sea and Azure Window)
Dwejra is a small location on the West coast of Gozo, known for its “inland sea” (small bay surrounded by high cliffs) and the as the site where the Azure Window (naturally formed rock arch on the coast) once stood proudly.
The name Dwejra comes from a small house which once stood on top of the cliffs surrounding the inland sea. With its unique features, the bay is a popular destination for tourists and local snorkellers and divers. The bay is home to a rich and diverse wildlife and underwater features and has a very rugged feel.
Inland sea and small beach
The inland sea at Dwejra is a relatively small bay surrounded by high cliffs and connected by a 60-metre long cave that leads you out to open sea. It’s truly a place that evokes awe and that leaves an impression.
Several small boathouses can be found along the shoreline, housing the locals’ fishing boats. You can take a boat trip through the cave, out to open sea and the nearby Fungus Rock.
- Unique location with stunning views
- Clean, clear water and great place for snorkelling
- Rarely gets busy, so great if you like peace and quiet.
- The beach itself is pretty small and is pebbled rather than sandy. You can lie down on a towel here but don’t expect it to be a good spot for sunbathing
- Not the easiest place to swim without a snorkel mask, since it’s rocky and rather shallow in most places it’s tough to gauge what’s under the surface.
- All in all, not very family-friendly – great for couples who are looking for something a little bit different, however.
The “Inland Sea” at Dwejra is one of the best beaches in Gozo (in my book at least! 😉 )
The Azure Window was one of the most popular tourist attractions that Gozo had to offer, until March 2017. Since the early 2000s, it became more obvious that rough weather and natural erosion were taking a toll on the structure. Several pieces had broken off and the top of the arch looked increasingly fragile.
Several geological studies concluded that there was no feasible way to keep the Azure Window from eventually(partially) collapsing, with the top of the arch being the primary reason for concern.
As we learned in March 2017 during a spell of bad weather and very rough seas, its column turned out to be the weakest part, with the whole structure collapsing into the sea.
The day will be remembered by many locals and I will myself as well. Sure, it was just a rock formation and its days were numbered, but somehow the Maltese and particularly the Gozitans grew up with the Azure Window being an icon of Malta and had grown very fond of it.
Considering the events, there are a few positives:
- No one was injured or lost their life. Despite the warnings and threats of fines many tourists insisted on climbing on top of the arch and had timing been worse there would have been more reason to be sad for the events of that day
- From early diver footage, it seems the diving community (who already enjoyed the location as a dive site) may not be as mournful about the collapse of the Azure Window.
Fungus Rock, known locally as Il-Ġebla tal-Ġeneral (The General’s Rock), is a 60-metre high rock feature which is known for a particular type of flowery plant that was thought to possess medicinal value in the times of the Knights of St. John and was therefore considered to be precious and of high value. Unauthorised access was punishable by death or life on the galleys and to make climbing the rock more difficult, Grandmaster de Pinto ordered the sides of the rock to be smoothed over.
Despite its common name (its Latin name being Cynomorium coccineum), this rare species of plant isn’t actually a fungus, although its shape would easily have you believe it is. Because the plant is found mostly on Fungus Rock, the location is a nature reserve nowadays.
The Blue Hole refers to a natural, 10-meter wide inland sea pool right in front of the former location of the Azure Window. The Blue Hole leads into a deep crevice that opens up into the open sea, making it a popular dive site for local and foreign diving enthusiasts alike. The site is home to several species of fish and other underwater fauna, such as parrot fish, bream, Moray eel, lobster, octopus and much more
Coastal Watch Tower
Dwejra Tower, one of the Knights’ watch towers sits on a vantage point overlooking Fungus Rock. Used as a method of guarding the coast of the Maltese islands against attacks from the sea, this particular tower was built in 1651, during the reign of Grandmaster Lascaris.
When it was recognised as a site of great value to the Knights, the watch tower was also used to guard Fungus Rock to prevent any unauthorised access and theft of its indigenous species of plant used as herbal medicine for diseases such as dysentery
The tower fell into disuse in 1873 and despite serving British troops as an observation post during the early 20th century, it was left largely neglected until in 1997 local NGO and caretaker of sites of heritage Din l-Art Helwa invested in its restoration and is under its protection now. The tower is accessible to the public all year round, from Mon-Fri from 9am-3pm and on weekends and public holidays from 12-3pm. It’s easy to confirm that the tower is open to visitors with a flag being flown atop the structure during opening hours.
Getting to Dwejra
Although you can reach Dwejra by public transport, it’s far easier to reach with a hired car, which is recommended anyway if you’re looking to discover Gozo as a whole.
- Scenes from the first series of Game of Thrones were filmed nearby, with the Azure Window as a backdrop.
- There are a number of locations around the Maltese islands where you can witness the most beautiful sunsets, and Dwejra could easily be a favourite among such locations.
- Close to the watch tower there are remains of salt pans carved into the rock that was used to raise money to fund the building of the watchtower itself