Bahrija Walk: A Peaceful, Verdant Hiking Trail In The Northwest Of Malta
by Karl Azzopardi
Flourishing valleys, delicious food and historical relics; the Bahrija Walk is a hiking trail you should take on this spring. There's honestly no better way to spend a warm sunny day than going around the peaceful countryside in the northwest of Malta.
Though called the Bahrija Walk, this hiking trail follows a circular route sandwiched between Bahrija and the neighbouring area known as Mtahleb. And while a 10km walk may seem like an arduous task, the beautiful scenery and incredible pitstops make it all worthwhile. Here's all you need to know about the Bahrija Walk including the major landmarks you should visit.
The Starting Point
The hiking trail starts half an hour's walk away from Bahrija in an area known as il-Fiddien. Just look up the bus stop called 'Fiddien' and that's where you need to be! You'll know you're there when you see il-Gibjun tas-Sentini (the Sentini Reservoir). This gigantic water reservoir was built in the 1950s to collect fresh water from the surrounding area and feed two major water systems in Malta — Wied il-Qlejgha (Chadwick Lakes) and the expansive Wignacourt Aqueduct. Nowadays, it supplies the Ta' Qali Reservoir in Attard which follows the same route as the aqueduct.
All you need to do from here is follow the rubble wall up the road towards Bahrija and take in the verdant countryside adorned with white willows, prickly pears and mulberry trees. You may even catch a glimpse of farmers making the most out of the fertile soil of Ta' Koronja Valley. After a while, you'll find yourself at a crossroads where you can choose to go off the trail to the right and explore il-Kuncizzjoni area where you can bask in breathtaking views of the Victoria Lines and visit the Tal-Kuncizzjoni Church. On the other hand, you can stick to the path on the left and keep heading towards the humble village of Bahrija.
The Home of St Martin & Good Rabbit
As you enter the quiet Bahrija streets and walk towards the village square you'll be welcomed with rich, aromatic smells emitting from the many family-run bars and restaurants. This is a great time for a pitstop where you can sit in the sun and indulge in some heartwarming homemade Maltese dishes like the traditional fried rabbit which is a Bahrija speciality. And if you're hiking with your kids, there's a public garden with a playground just across the square waiting for them.
Once your tummies are full and your legs are rested, you can head towards the 16th-century chapel of St Martin, the village's patron saint, on the right of the square. This chapel was used for Sunday mass and St Martin's feast before the Bahrija Parish Chruch was built much later in the 1980s. It is open to the public from 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 6pm on Sunday. Next to the chapel, you will also find a 'girna' (a corbelled hut) standing on top of Punic tombs, alluding to Bahrija's rich historical value. Unfortunately, this area is not accessible to the public.
However, there is one site along the Bahrija Walk you can visit if you wish to get a glimpse of this village's and Malta's history.
Aside from its delicious rabbit dishes, Bahrija is also known for the Bronze Age settlement that can be found further down the coastline. All you need to do is go back to the playground and start walking down the road on its right. Once you're past the Bahrija primary school take a left turn and keep making your way down to il-Qlejgha. Here you will come across a rocky outcrop which you can easily scale to get a gorgeous view of the terraced fields and marquis in the area.
The Bronze Age settlement can be found behind the outcrop, just a few meters to its right. You'll see a rock face full of natural shelters and rubbled structures that date back to 800 BC if not more. It is believed that this area was used for raising livestock due to the abundance of fresh water and vegetation, and the protection that the cliffs offered from the sea. The pottery and clay utensils that have been found here, and are now on display at the Museum of Archeology in Valletta, also suggest that the settlers came from Italy or Sicily.
Down To Migra l-Ferha
Ok, let's walk a few meters back to the rocky outcrop and walk straight ahead. For the next half an hour or so of the Bahrija Walk, you can just leisurely hike along the coastline and take some rests every now and again so you can take in the majestic sea views and the island of Filfla. Soon enough you'll reach a fork in the road once again where you can decide to keep on the Bahrija Walk trail by turning left.
However, we highly recommend going down the road to the right first and paying a visit to one of Malta's natural wonders Mirga l-Ferha. This is thought to be the place where the Norman Invasion of Malta in 1091 started as it is the spot from which Count Roger I of Sicily and his army infiltrated the island to sneak into the old capital city Mdina and ambush the Arab rulers. This event seems to have given the area its name Migra il-Ferha, meaning 'the joyous arrival'.
Just keep walking downhill and appreciate the centuries-old pine and eucalyptus trees till you get to a massive ravine that leads to the sea. It's the perfect place to take a few moments of peace or maybe even go in for a quick swim before you head back to the Bahrija Walk trail.
The Last Stretch
With that refreshing dip in the Mediterranean Sea, you're now ready to take on the final stretch of the Bahrija Walk which is a rather straightforward road through the magical hamlet of Mtahleb. After a while of walking through verdant valleys and farmland, you'll come across a tiny cluster of buildings at the edge of a cliff with a chapel towering in the middle.
This is truly a sight to behold, as are the views from the Mtahleb Chapel which is dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The structure that stands there today was built in 1656 on the same foundations as the two chapels that came before it. The chapel is accessible to the public but the surrounding area is actually private property, alluding to the chapel's noble past. The Mtahleb Chapel is considered to be a Juspatronati — the name given to private chapels built by aristocratic families on their estates. The coat of arms of the family that owns the land can be seen at the top of the portal that leads into the hamlet of Mtahleb.
All that's left from here on out is to keep heading straight through the countryside till you find yourself back at the starting point.
Getting to the start of the Bahrija Walk is pretty easy considering it starts at a bus stop so all you need to do is catch the 109 bus and hop off at the stop called 'Fiddien'. Otherwise, you can just take a cab or even walk to the stop from Rabat if you don't mind a bit of a longer walk.
Best time to hike
There's surely no better time to explore the Bahrija Walk than spring so you can get to experience the valleys and countryside in full bloom. On the other hand, if you want to make the most of your trip to Migra l-Ferha, summer would be a better option for you.
Another great option is visiting in November if the weather permits and attending the Bahrija fair that is set up annually for the feast of St Martin.
But really and truly, it's always a great time to take on the Bahrija Walk — just avoid days when strong winds are forecasted as you'll risk getting blown off a cliff!