Southern Coast - A walk



The collapsed cavern at Qrendi popularly known as il-Maqluba is certainly the most known geological feature of the island. Solution Subsidence Structure( SSS ).This is the geological term which describes karst phenomena like Il-Maqluba. These three words describe the formation of an underground cavern, usually through the percolation of water, which at a later stage sustains a roof collapse. Several of these structures are found across the Maltese Islands and each may be classified according to the geological period in which it was formed.


Dwejra (Gozo) - The area around this part of the coast is formed by the remains of four subsidence structures. The structure’s collapse occurred below sea level by the accumulation of deposits on their roofs.

Citadel (Gozo) - The area on which the Citadel stands was formed from a deposit filled SSS. The containing structure later on was eroded and left the in lying deposits in the form of the present hill

Other SSS include the area near Xlendi’s Chapel and two depressions near Ras il-Wardija, Gozo.


Il-Maqluba, a depression near il-Qattara and a small valley which contains the Bingemma Catacombs all belong to this category.


A number of legends abound around the formation of this large depression. The legends describe a small hamlet inhabited by wicked people living on the site where il-Maqluba lies today. Their sinful behaviour provoked the wrath of God. Despite the advice of a pious woman, who warned the people and invited them to change their way of life, the inhabitants persisted in their life of leisure and vice. One day a violent storm hit the village and the earth beneath the village blew up, overturned and dropped to form what today is Filfla. When sex education was still a taboo, young children from the nearby area were told that when they were born, they were collected from Il-Maqluba


While the remains of a well found to the side of il-Maqluba depression indicates that collapse of part of the structure occurred after this well was constructed, this conclusion cannot be extrapolated to the whole structure. The nearby street name and various historians date the formation of Il-Maqluba to November 1343. In the past, Malta was thought to be part of an earthquake belt which spanned several countries and included Malta, Sicily and Italy. It was postulated that the well documented earthquake of 1343 which effected Italy, created a similar havoc in the Maltese Islands. Medieval historians thus came to the erroneous conclusion that the formation of Il-Maqluba was secondary to an earthquake in 1343. Today we know that several earthquakes that hit the Italian peninsula did not reach the Maltese Islands. Thus the conclusion that Qrendi’s main karst structure was formed by an earthquake in 1343 is a medieval fabrication. In fact there is much to indicate that the collapse of the Maqluba cavern occurred in the early quaternary era possibly after the great ice age.

Chapel of St. Matthew

 St Matthew consists of two contiguous chapels, the older one dating from the thirteenth century. The larger chapel was commenced in the second half of the seventeenth century and consecrated in 1683. It possessed a titular painting by Mattia Preti. During the last World War, parts of the chapel were damaged. During the chapel’s repair, structural changes were made to the larger chapel which amongst other things included the addition of the two belfries.

Wied Babu

 The pluvial periods of the Pliocene and early Pleistocene gave rise to a number of rivers which flowed over the ‘Maltese’ land mass from a northerly direction. Wied Babu, together with other well known valleys such as Wied il-Ghasel and Wied il-Kbir, are the remains of the tributaries of these now extinct rivers. At Wied Babu the axis of the valley lies along one of the several faults in the area Wied Babu is the type locality for the Maltese National Plant Palaeocyanus crassifolius. Of suggestive scenic beauty, this valley is a favorite spot for climbers

Blue Grotto

 Blue Grotto is only one of several coastal caves found in the area. The Arch overlying it is however a remarkable geological feature formed through erosion and faulting.

Torri ta’ Xutu ( c. 1640 )

 By differing from the other four earlier towers built during the time of Grand Master Lascaris, this building became the prototype for the well-known thirteen coastal towers of De Redin. The building consists of two rooms one above the other. The lower room is barrel vaulted with three rib arches supporting the ceiling. A staircase built in the thickness of the wall leads to the roof.

Torri Hamrija ( 1659 )

 This tower was the twelfth to be built of the De Redin towers, and was the furthest coastal work from Valletta.

Maghlaq fault

 The Maghlaq fault is considered to be the northernmost part of a complex intercontinental graben extending from Libya to Germany and is the easternmost master fault of the Pantalleria Rift system.. Like many other faults on the islands it is not one fault but a system of faults. It is more recent than the Great Fault and is described to be still active In fact rifting that originated in the Late Miocene/ Early Pliocene time still continues to the present. On the Maltese Islands, the Maghlaq fault system strikes at 120° and on the Western Coast of Gozo at 80° - 90°. Interesting erosional features along the Wied iz-Zurrieq - Ghar Lapsi coast include Ghar ix-Xaghra, l-Ilsejjen, In-Niffied, u Harq is-Sigar

Maghlaq quaternary Deposits

 These belong to the youngest of quaternary deposits and consist of alluvial fan deposits and caliche soil profiles. The red colour of these remains are imparted by iron oxidation. The deposit, which reaches a height of 8 metres in some places, contains root casts and conglomerates

Flora and Fauna from Wied Babu to Ghar Lapsi

 This area supports a number of orchids including the endemic Maltese Pyramidal Orchid and the very rare Naked Man orchid. Other flora to be found in the area include the Crown Vetch and other rare plants such as Carex halleriana, Aristolochia clusii and Scilla sicula. Endemic or rare beetles ( Ischnodes schembrii ), ants(Leptothorax augustulus ) and snails ( Trochoidea sp. ) are also to be found in this region.


 Ix-Xaqqa is the best example of a Slickenslide on the Islands. Violent movements occurring along the Maghlaq fault system caused the Upper Coralline formation to be thrown down by at least 200m.

Rdum Dikkiena

 This is one of the best places to observe the geological stratigraphy of the Maltese islands. Above 200 ft of Lower Coralline Limestone, the blue clay is seen ‘flowing’ over the underlying Globigerina Limestone. This is covered by a boulder scree which was produced from the overlying Upper Coralline Limestone.

Wardija ta’ San Gorg

The crossing of the Maghlaq fault with a north-east trending fault in the area of il-Wardija ta’ San Gorg has resulted in a promontory which is certainly one of the best view points on the islands. Exposure of the junction of the Blue Clay and the Upper Coralline limestone resulted in a number of springs beneath this promontory. These springs together with the easily defensible promontory, were noted by the Borg in-Nadur folk who transformed the area into a Bronze age settlement. One can still note several features of this Village, namely the Silo storage pits, the remains of a cyclopean wall and the foundation of huts.


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