Xerri's Grotto in Xaghra, Gozo
The Maltese Islands might be (relatively) small, but don't think for a second, that there is nothing to do and you'll get bored after a week! Malta and Gozo have many secret places just awaiting to be discovered. One of these hidden treasures is definitely Xerri's Grotto in Xaghra, Gozo.
Living in Malta for over 10 years, I sometimes think that there is nothing left to surprise me, but every time this crosses my mind I discover something new! This time, thanks to my work colleague Giuseppe, I got to know about this unique Grotto hiding just underneath a private house in a small village in Gozo!
And what's the story of this place? The Grotto was discovered by Mr. Anthony Xerri from Gozo, in 1923. He was digging for a well to find water, exactly where the stairs are nowadays. And he met with the Grotto. Everything that you will see was dug by hand by Mr. Xerri himself who had some help from his sons.
There is a constant temperature of 19 degrees, which was actually very pleasant, as it was pretty cold and windy on the day we visited.
As you may know, the stalactites and stalagmites are all formed by drops of water, because every drop leaves a deposit. Some of the stalagmites that you will see during the tour took thousands of years to grow. In other countries they might grow faster as they have more rain, but Malta doesn't have that much rainfall throughout the year and therefore the process is so much longer.
If you look at the stalagmites and stalactites carefully they might remind you of animals. :-) On our visit we saw a lion, a turtle, a turkey, a giraffe or even a baby elephant! Like a little zoo, full of harmless animals. :-)
Even though it's not very clear to see, there is a path underneath the stalagmites and stalactites on the picture above. Mr. Xerri didn't want to damage them while making the pathway, so he decided to lower the passage by three steps at this point, so one can walk underneath it and couple of meters later add three more steps to get on the original level.
When walking through the Grotto you will find yourself 7 meters below the ground. The pathway is 17 metres long and the tour takes approximately 15 minutes. If you are suffering from claustrophobia (after taking with a friend who is claustrophobic), you should be fine, it's not as small as it might seem and the worst part (in my opinion) are the steps at the very beginning, so if you can deal with that you are good to go.
As beautiful as the Grotto is, after all the hard work, the Mr. Xerri still needed water, so he had to start all over again. Above you can see part of the new well. Water was found another six metres deeper, 13 metres below the surface. As you can imagine, in those day, they didn't have any machines, they had to do everything by hand.
At the very bottom of the well he created a reservoir to collect water. To get the water he used a bucket and a hand-pump that you can see on the picture below with some examples of the tools he was using. The well is used until today, but it's powered by electricity.
Above is the portrait of the discoverer, Mr. Anthony Xerri from Gozo, who discovered this Grotto 95 years ago in 1923 underneath his house. Below you can find the exact location of Xerri's Grotto. The entrance is only €2.50 and your guide will he Mr. Anthony's granddaughter herself.