Dwejra is a small location on the West coast of Gozo, known for its “inland sea” (small bay surrounded by high cliffs) and 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 that 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 rich and diverse wildlife and underwater features and has a very rugged feel.
It’s one of my favourite places to spend time in Gozo and is listed on my list of 25+ Things to do in Gozo.
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Although you can reach Dwejra by public transport (bus route 311 from Victoria Gozo), it’s far easier to reach with a rental car, which is recommended anyway if you’re looking to discover Gozo as a whole.
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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 the 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 the open sea and the nearby Fungus Rock.
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 their 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:
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Fungus Rock, known locally as Il-Ġebla tal-Ġeneral (The General’s Rock), is a 60-metre high rock feature that 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. The 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 parrotfish, bream, Moray eel, lobster, octopus and much more
Dwejra Tower, one of the Knights’ watchtowers 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 1652, during the reign of Grandmaster Lascaris.
The purpose of the watchtower was to give warnings of enemy approaches, such as pirates and corsairs. When such approaches were sighted, the men inside could signal other watchtowers by using fire at night or smoke during the day.
The Dwejra watchtower was built on a square base with two floors and a turret on the roof from where you can admire the fantastic views of the surrounding area. Before the steep external steps were built, the only way to get into the tower was via a retractable ladder through the top floor–this offered security to the men inside in case the enemy managed to make a landing.
The top floor served as a guardroom and living quarters for a garrison of up to four men. The basement was used for storage while a small gunpowder store was kept on the roof. A water reservoir was dug into the rock underneath the tower.
During the times of the Knights, the salt pans in front of the Tower served to raise money to cover maintenance costs for the tower.
After the period of the Knights, the strategic position of the tower ensured that it was not abandoned. It was used during the 18th century and later manned by the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery between 1839 and 1873.
During the summer of 1914 Maltese troops from the King’s Own Malta Regiment and the Royal Malta Artillery were dispatched to the coastal watchtowers and Dwejra Tower was manned by No. 3 Company.
During the Second World War, the Tower was used by the British as an Observation Post.
The tower is accessible to the public all year round, from Mon-Fri from 9 am-3 pm and on weekends and public holidays from 12-3 pm. It’s easy to confirm that the tower is open to visitors with a flag being flown atop the structure during opening hours.
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