Hiking to Calypso’s cave – Gozo, Malta

The walk to Calypso’s cave and around the Ramla beach headland provides an interesting cross section of Gozo life. This trail is unmarked and varies from strolling along roads to rambling around farmland. Depending on your sense of adventure it is easy to get lost among the farm terraces. This walk loops back on itself making transport easy.

Situation and history

The trail is located on the eastern side of the island of Gozo, the northern island of the country Malta.

Malta is steeped in history stretching back to Greek times. The trail takes in Calypso’s cave which was written about in Homer’s Odyssey around 800BC. Whether the cave on Gozo truly is the one described in the Odyssey is the subject of some debate but don’t let this spoil the lustre of your adventure.

Trail notes

Xaghra to Calypso’s cave 1.5km (15min)

Start at the village of Xaghra. Walk northwest along the road down the ridgeline towards the coast. Follow the signs to Calypso’s cave. The interior of the cave was accessible to tourists but it has been closed for some time now. If you feel a little under whelmed then you should feel some solace that you haven’t been trapped here for 7 years like Ulysses. The view across the bay is enchanting.

Calypso’s cave to the trail end 1km (25min)

Walk 150-200m down the road from the cave entrance and around the hairpin bend. Leave the road and follow one of the trails down the scrubby hillside. These tracks join the larger trail heading north. From this junction you can detour south-east and visit Ramla beach or continue north along the trail. This section of the trail is the most impressive providing a taste of remote Malta and a birds eye view down the slope into the bay. Continuing onwards for about 800m the trail thins considerably.

Trail end back to Xaghra 2.5km (40min)

As the trail peters out you have the choice between the easy option of returning back along the same route or the more confusing option of heading uphill. If you choose the more difficult option then proceed up the scrubland and pick a way over the rocks onto the plateau of farmland. The farmland here provides a close up insight into Malta life. There is a trail along the top of the cliff-line that leads to a simple farm road heading directly inland. The farm road runs for 300m before re-joining a sealed road. From here simply head uphill along the roads to return to Xaghra.

Planning your trip

This walk takes a little less than 2hrs as a return trip from Xaghra. This really is a choose-your own adventure style ramble so keep an open mind and don’t feel bad about turning back if the trail becomes too confusing. Whilst walking around Malta is a common past-time for visitors remember to respect private property.

Trail grading

The trail has some ups and downs and the later parts require scrambling.

Gear

Sun protection is recommended. Boots or sturdy trail shoes would be an asset on this trail.

Access to and from the hike

Access is straightforward by bus, car or taxi. The number 307 bus takes you from the main town of Victoria across to Xaghra.

Navigation and facilities

There is no signage on the trail and it is easy to get lost. There is a basic kiosk and tourist facility outside the cave.

Safety

Hazards along on the trail includes some steep ledges.  The farmers of Malta have a penchant for firearms and whilst their interest is typically centred on the local birdlife it is wise to stay vigilant.

Flora and fauna

The coast here is buffeted by the weather so scrubland is prevalent. Malta has four types of snakes and a variety of Mediterranean lizards.

Other resources

We used an out of date guidebook to plan our walks in Malta and Gozo which resulted in a lot of dead-ends and navigational issues; for example we expected to complete a linear walk from Calyspo’s cave to Marsalforn but found this not be the case as the trail petered out.

Although not tested by ourselves on the ground these two guidebooks may be useful for planning for hiking on Malta and Gozo:

Walking in MaltaGozo 10 great walks

Our experience

We caught the 307 bus from Victoria and hopped off at Xaghra. It was a quick and easy walk down to the cave. The cave entrance was pretty touristy with a kiosk but it was fun to visit a fabled relic of the ancient world. We headed downhill from the cave and followed a track through the scrubland. The weather was cold and windy so we decided not to visit the beach and instead headed north along the coast.

The trail through the coastal scrub was interesting and you could see schools of fish boiling off the shore. We met a few other walkers along the way. Eventually the trail became obscured in the scrub and we headed uphill. It took some time to pick a safe scramble route up onto the top of the shallow cliff-band. It took slightly more time to figure out how to find a sealed road. We were elated to arrive back on the tarmac roads.

Your Experience

Comment below to share your experience or any changes in conditions

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