On the northern coast of the Maltese island of Gozo, mounds of snow-white salt sparkle under the summer sun in salt evaporation pans. About 300 of these pans cover a section of Gozo’s northern coast, called the Xwejni Salt Pans. It’s believed that such pans have existed here since Roman times.
When we visited the Xwejni Pans last month, three of the family members who manage them were carefully sweeping the moist salt. Like gardeners raking the pebbles of a Zen rock garden, the men and women methodically moved the salt crystals to ensure the water evenly evaporated.
Not far away, a mammoth mound of prepped salt was cloaked with a black tarp. With the family’s salt shop just across the road, housed in a wind-swept cave, we were guessing they’d soon be carrying it away to be bagged and sold.
I’ve read that about 24 liters (just over 6 gallons) of sea water is needed to produce about 1 kg of salt (roughly 2 pounds). During the peak summer months, this family might be able to produce as much as 3 tons of salt each week!
Video of this Experience:
Where in the World?
The Xwejni Salt Pans were recently featured on the Netflix series, Restaurants on the Edge. You can see the Malta episode (and salt pans) in season 1.
How to get to the Xwejni Salt Pans:
The Xwejni Salt Pans are located on Gozo’s northern coast, not far from the tiny resort town of Marsalforn.
When is the salt harvested?
The Cini family generally harvests salt from May through September. June and July are typically the peak-harvest months. However, this is all dependent upon what the weather is like in a given season.
How you can buy the family’s sea salt:
When the Cini family is working at the salt pans, you can buy salt from their tiny shop, which is housed in a wind-swept cave across the street.
A bag of salt sells for €2 to €5. Some of the salt is packaged in burlap bags, lending them even more character.
If you’d like to purchase some salt, but don’t live in Malta, you can contact the family at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if they will ship it to you internationally. As of 2020, they have also created the online Xwejni Salt Pans shop.
And if you want to learn more about the harvest, visit the Xwejni Salt Pans Facebook page or the Xwejni Salt Pans website. I’ve corresponded with Josephine, a fifth-generation harvester (via her mother’s side of the family). She very responsive to my inquiries about the salt harvest.
Getting to the island of Gozo:
Gozo is one of the islands making up the Maltese Archipelago; it’s about a 20-minute ferry ride from Malta’s ferry terminal in Ċirkewwa. See the Gozo Channel website for ticket prices and a timetable of Malta to Gozo ferry crossings.
Getting around Gozo using mass transportation:
Given how small the island of Gozo is, it’s rather easy to get around using its bus system. Just know that buses might not run as frequently on Gozo as they do on the island of Malta. Use Malta Public Transport’s Trip Planner or Route Map to plan your excursions.
Accommodation on the island of Gozo:
Gozo offers a mix of self-catering apartments and hotels (affiliate link), even many opportunities to rent a converted farmhouse.
Looking for more Malta trip-planning inspiration?
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. The video is a creation of my husband, Shawn.