Harvesting Sea Salt on the Maltese Island of Gozo
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!
On a Mediterranean island where snow is almost unheard of, it’s initially jarring to see these sparkling mounds of white glistening under the sun’s scorching rays!
Pumping water from the sea into the pans (left) and tiny mounds (right).
To protect the integrity of the salt, it’s important that visitors not walk inside the salt pans (left)! On the right, one of the brooms used by the family to ‘rake’ the salt crystals.
I haven’t yet been to Japan, but seeing these family members gently sweep the salt brought to mind imagery of gardeners methodically tending to rock gardens.
The islands of Gozo and Malta are known for their dramatic, wind-swept stone formations.
The family sells their hand-made sea salt – either beside the pans, or in their shop across the street.
Video of this Experience:
Where in the World?
- 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.
- The Xwejni Salt Pans are located on Gozo’s northern coast, not far from the tiny resort town of Marsalforn. The family generally harvests salt here from May through September, with June and July being the peak harvest months. Some of the salt is packaged in burlap bags, lending it even more character; the bags sell for €2 to €5. I wanted to purchase some, but couldn’t given our limited luggage space! Visit the family-run business’ Xwejni Salt Pans Facebook page for more details. (I contacted Josephine via Facebook after our visit, and she was very responsive. She is a fifth-generation harvester, on her mother’s side of the family!)
- Given how small Gozo is, it’s rather easy to get around the island 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.
- As for accommodation options, Gozo offers a mix of self-catering apartments and hotels (affiliate link), even the chance to rent a converted farmhouse.
- Visit Gozo’s official tourism website for more information about the island.
- Do you need more trip-planning inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Malta.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. The video is a creation of my husband, Shawn.