“Dude, what the hell happened in here?” my friend Samy asked me nervously from behind.
We were trespassing and we knew it, however, we certainly weren’t the first to sneak into the abandoned hotel of Gozo. The place was trashed – like the last reservation made in the hotel was the world’s most notorious rock band that left every floor completely tattered.
Graffiti tattooed the walls that had all been partially torn down. Bathtubs were cracked in half, bed frames left without the mattresses, and carpet torn from the floors. It honestly looked like a halfway-finished demolition.
We had just finished a Gozo coastal walk around sunset and it was getting increasingly difficult to see. I didn’t want to step on anything unexpectedly. The infamous Gozo beach, Ramla Bay, was right outside. We had spent a majority of the day there and were now starting to think we’d be better off setting up our tent there instead of inside the abandoned hotel at the top of the hill like we had planned in the early evening.
Exploring the Abandoned Hotel
I didn’t anticipate the hotel being in a condition this bad and this creepy. I was scared, I’ll admit.
“Let’s just head back down to the beach. I don’t want to run into something I don’t want to see,” I said.
“No, man. Are you kidding? We are staying here. Our eyes will start to adjust to the darkness and it will become less scary,” Samy replied as he took the lead through the darkness.
Samy is my best friend. You’ll notice he is in a lot of my stories from my life abroad. From camping in abandoned hotels in Gozo to exploring forbidden parts of historic neighborhoods in Algeria; we’ve been through it all in our years of friendship.
He was the type of person who would go along with any completely obnoxious idea I had and only stop me when it started becoming idiotic. He didn’t think sleeping in what seemed to be a haunted insane asylum was idiotic. However, I had started thinking it was.
“We absolutely cannot sleep in here. I’ll hardly be able to close my eyes,” I pleaded.
“Dude, this is the best area to stay in Gozo – trust me on this one. Camping Gozo island is never normal,” he argued.
There was a perfectly acceptable beach only a few hundred feet below us at the bottom of the hill that the hotel looked out from. But it was just as illegal to camp on the Gozo beach as it was to be trespassing in the hotel, and we were much less likely to get caught hidden up in the former hotel.
There was also a cool cave at the top of the hill across the bay that we were exploring earlier in the day. We could have made it back to the cave if we started the Gozo coastal walk before sunset, but now it would take too much time and effort to get to in the darkness.
We weren’t smart enough to bring flashlights – or water. Like most of Samy and I’s plans, this one was sort of spur-of-the-moment and we went into it completely unprepared. But we did have five liters of boxed wine and a star-filled night sky. It was supposed to be a full moon, but the moon was hiding behind a few clouds. Walking in Gozo Malta at night under a full moon is unusually light out, normally.
Walking in Gozo Malta: A Gozo Coastal Walk
The scene from the hotel terrace was magical. It was mid-March and already the perfect camping setting on the Mediterranean island of Gozo. Samy and I decided to take advantage of the lovely weather so we took off from work and split from Malta late one weekday morning.
The journey from Malta to Gozo (the sister island) required only a short thirty-minute ferry ride, but public buses to get to the ferry terminal in Malta are a nightmare. By mid-to-late-afternoon, we had arrived in Gozo and we were ready to start a Gozo coastal walk on one of the most infamous Gozo walking trails.
The brief spring season was upon the island and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. It was as colorful as I had ever seen it. All over the land, wildflowers of fluorescent colors dotted the wide-open fields. Shrubbery that is normally a dead-yellowish color was painted in bright green. And farm fields arranged on rolling hills at the peak of their fertility seemed to stretch endlessly.
I’ve never felt the Mediterranean air feel so cool and refreshing. The sea breeze was just right; blowing just as a bedroom fan would but bringing with it the familiar saltwater smell. It never blew enough to call it wind, but just enough to keep you feeling refreshed. I could lounge around in the breeze for hours and not tire of it.
Gozo coastal walk to the best Gozo beach: Ramla Bay
After a full day of Gozo hiking, we ended at our planned destination; a Gozo coastal walk on Ramla Bay – the most popular Gozo beach. We had a picnic on the beach with pizza and wine at sunset but knew we should make our way up the hill to the abandoned hotel we planned to spend the night in.
Earlier in the day during our Gozo coastal walk, we had been tipped off by a local Gozitan about this hotel that he said is frequented during the sunlight hours.
“Hundreds of us here have been in that building – hell, I’ve spent afternoons in there tagging the walls with spray paint – but no one dares to go in there after the sun goes down. The place is too creepy, man,” the guy about our age told us.
The building was in awful condition despite being built only around 30 years ago. It was a failed experiment to bring tourism to Malta’s sister island. The old hotel was in the best place to stay in Gozo, but the Gozo walking trails just weren’t enough to bring tourism.
Gozo walking trails weren’t frequented by tourists, but that’s part of the excitement of being on the island, though. Gozo coastal walks just wouldn’t be the same if there were clearly worn footpaths and gobs of hikers. Part of Gozo’s beauty is the feeling of exploring the unexplored.
Not so alone, after all. . .
Even on Ramla Bay, the most visited Gozo beach, you never felt suffocated by people. Especially at night, the beach and surrounding areas were dead silent. You could hear a pin drop in the abandoned hotel which added to the eeriness.
That’s why we froze completely still and fell silent enough to hear each other struggling to breathe in and out quietly when we heard another voice. The voice was coming from inside the building, maybe on the floor below us – where we had to go to exit the hotel.
“Shit, we’re fucked,” I told Samy, “I knew we should have gone to the beach.”
“Shh! They’re coming closer,” Samy hushed me.
There aren’t any homeless people living on the island of Gozo, and yet, still, I worried we had invaded a homeless community of angry men. There was hardly any crime or violence in Gozo, and yet, still, I worried that whoever it was below us were armed with knives and drugs. My mind was racing in fear; I wish I had brought a flashlight at a time like this – or a weapon to protect myself.
The voice had reached the top of the stairs and it was accompanied by another voice. I could hear their voices, but I couldn’t recognize any words. As they got closer, Samy and I didn’t know what do to. Should we hide from them or should we confront them? We were caught in an awkward in-between action.
Now within twenty feet of us, I could tell they were speaking in German tongue.
“We have to do something,” I whispered to Samy.
Samy took a step out into their flashlight beam. I followed.
Immediately, their conversation stopped and they froze in place, flashlight directly on the two of us, wide-eyed and still. At first, we froze, too, as if they were police officers and we were running a drug operation out of the abandoned building.
For several seconds, none of us made a sound and we just stared. I think we were probably profiling each other from what we could see of each other to assess the level of danger we were in.
The guys behind the flashlight looked normal. They seemed about our age, clean-cut, and with large hiking backpacks on their backs.
“Hi,” Samy spoke up first.
“Hi,” one of them said back to us.
We were probably ten feet from each other now.
“You guys scared the shit out of us,” I said, “We weren’t expecting anyone to come here.”
“You guys, as well. We thought we were alone – you were so quiet,” the taller one of them said.
“Well, yeah, usually you fall quiet if you think there are unknown voices in a place like this,” Samy said sarcastically. They let out a laugh of relief and we all took a breather.
Camping with strangers
Robert and Maurice were two German guys who had been hiking throughout Malta for the past two weeks and they had just arrived in Gozo that afternoon. We determined they must have run into the same local guy that we ran into earlier that tipped us off about the abandoned hotel.
Being together, we agreed that the abandon-ness of the hotel wasn’t near as scary and they pitched their tent right next to ours in an empty room with no roof. Underneath the stars and still sleeping in the abandoned hotel, we proceeded to spend the rest of the night engaged in conversation and indulging ourselves in common music interests.
Samy and I shared our wine, they shared their beers. We got drunk underneath the full moon. It was actually a great thing that we met and spent the night together. They told stories of their travels through Malta and we talked about more things than strangers should.
“We saw you guys up here earlier from down on the Gozo beach,” Robert admitted, “But we thought after about an hour had passed that you’d be long gone.”
“I think we were more relieved to see that you weren’t the police more-so than anything,” Samy said. Maybe that was the case for him, but I was certainly more relieved they weren’t rampant killers on the loose and looking for opportunity.
In the morning, we decided to go on another infamous Gozo coastal walk together before parting ways and making plans later in the week to meet up for a beer. Robert and Maurice were good guys and ended up making the night more pleasant than I anticipated.
Things to do in Gozo; Places to see in Gozo
Ramla Bay; a place that hosts music festivals, hundreds of people daily, and even the best sunsets in the archipelago of Malta – is also the home of Calypso’s Cave. Calypso’s Cave is one of the largest and coolest caves I’ve ever been in. It requires a short hike (maybe ten to twenty minutes from the Gozo beach) up a hillside, but the trail is well-defined by trail markers – something that isn’t common in Malta. I highly recommend making the climb to Calypso’s Cave if you’re at Ramla Bay.
Malta is a very safe country and Gozo is even safer. Camping is common and there’s no need to worry about your safety. Just use common sense and never become too comfortable with your surroundings. However, I don’t think I will ever sleep in another abandoned hotel with strangers.
A Gozo coastal walk and Camping Gozo island for a night is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Malta. I don’t recommend camping Gozo island in that abandoned hotel above Ramla Bay, but if visiting Malta, you should certainly getting from Malta to Gozo and spending one night (at least) in a tent.