Gozo is one of the three islands of the Maltese archipelago situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, just 95km south of Sicily. It is smaller, more remote and less built-up than its sister island Malta, but it is a popular destination in its own right, particularly for more mature British and German couples and those who wish to immerse themselves in the culture of the place. With its pretty countrysides, beautiful sunsets, spectacular coastlines and a high concentration of churches, alongside historic fortifications and megalithic temples it makes a good excursion from Malta and an even better destination for a peaceful and relaxing short break.
- Victoria – Still known as Rabat by the locals, is the island’s capital city. Here lies the ancient Citadel, the island’s fortress which was used as a safe haven when the island was frequently raided and people were taken by pirates and sold into slavery in the 15th and 16th centuries.
There are also a number of small villages on the island:
- Ix-Xatt tal-Imgarr – Not to be confused with Mgarr, Malta, this is where the Gozo ferry docks. The areas has plenty of seaside restaurants specialising in fish and seafood.
- Ghajnsielem – A sleepy village that is on the hill above Mgarr which is mostly residential and boasts a healthy village life.
- Xaghra – where the Ġgantija Temples, Ninu’s Caves, a Toy Museum, the Calypso Caves and Ramla Bay are located.
- Qala – where ‘Ġebla l-Wieqfa’, a prehistoric dolmen is located. Other interesting things to do in Qala besides immersing oneself in the colourful village nightlife, are to visit Ħondoq Bay, go to the panoramic Belvedere which offers a breathtaking view of Malta & Comino and walk to the small local fortress which is presently being restored.
- Nadur – the largest village in Gozo. Situated on one of the island’s highest points, it boasts two Watch Towers and a Maritime museum, as well as the beautiful sandy San Blas beach and Dahlet Qorrot beach.
- Xewkija – featuring an impressive large rotunda church, the Mgarr ix-Xini watch tower and the beautiful Mgarr ix-Xini beach.
- Għarb and Għasri are 2 small villages in the western part of Gozo between which lies the ‘Ta` Pinu’ basilica, a Marian shrine built on the spot where on 22nd June 1883 the Virgin Mary was heard by Karmela Grima calling for prayers.
- San Lawrenz – where ‘Dwejra’, the Azure Window, the Blue Hole, the Inland Sea and the Fungus Rock are located.
Some settlements are used primarily as summer residences and will be mostly deserted during the winter months are:
- Marsalforn – A popular seaside resort north west coast of Gozo. The famous Xwejni salt pans are located here as well as the Qbajjar watch tower, as well as numerous bars and restaurants.
- Xlendi – Another popular seaside resort located south west of Gozo. The beach here is small but enclosed between high spectacular cliffs which make Xlendi one of the best spots in Gozo. Xlendi has its own watch tower as well as a club and some bars and restaurants.
- Ramla il-Ħamra is arguably Malta’s (Gozo’s) finest beach. The name means red sands, referring to the beautiful reddish colour of the sand. The bay is completely spared from development, and thus the beach remains relatively uncrowded. This site also claims to be where Calypso’s cave is, the cave referred to in Homer’s Odyssey.
One sometimes gets the sense that Gozo is how Malta could have been in years gone by. With the exceptions of Marsalforn and Xlendi, it has been largely spared from over development, the traditional way of life has been largely preserved, and the land has been maintained better, thus giving a more fertile ground. Buildings and houses in Gozo are mainly constructed with natural materials, as opposed to many of the concrete and breeze-block constructions on the mainland.
Gozo is at its best from October to May. The average temperature in this period is around 18C, ideal for rambling around the island. While exploring the island you will see a wide variety of amazing views due to a large number of valleys, hills and small beaches. There is an abundance of abandoned hidden ancient temples and shrines in the countryside. If you are pressed for time and do not have much time to explore, but also want to see the best hidden places, it is best to hire or join a guide that specializes in country walks. Although Gozo is small, once you go to the countryside you will feel that you are alone on the island since you can walk for hours without meeting anybody. During the winter storms, Gozo’s seaside is often totally deserted but spectacular with the big waves exploding on big boulders and lofty cliffs.
Gozo‘s history is intimately linked to Malta. It shares its megalithic culture, and with the Ggantija temples, it is officially home of the oldest structure on the planet. Interestingly, Gozo up until the end of medieval times was inhabited in a manner the same as Malta, with Mġarrand Victoria/Rabat being to Gozo what Vittoriosa and Mdina are to Malta: the main port and the main settlement consisting of a citadel and surrounding suburbs. The inhabitants of Gozo were, in medieval times, required by law to return to the Citadella each evening to spend the night there to prevent corsairs from abducting them. These measures were proven to be necessary when, in 1551, the Turks tried their first invasion of Malta. When they failed, they attacked Gozo and took the entire population off in ships to sell them into slavery.
The language spoken in Gozo is Maltese, although there are different dialects throughout different parts of the country. The Gozitans speak Maltese with a slightly different and quaint accent, people from the different Gozitan villages each have their own different dialect. Like the main island, English is also an official language of Gozo and most of the locals have a good grasp of the language.
There is the ferry from Ċirkewwa on Malta to Mġarr, Gozo’s main harbor. It departs every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter. A round trip costs €4.65. Services run till late in the evening. Last buses through to Malta inland stop around 2230. To get around Gozo, and to visit the best sites have a look at the ‘Get Round’ section, underneath this paragraph. One can take a ‘Hop On Hop Off Bus which starts outside the ferry terminal and this service is synchronized with the ferry arrivals and departures. One can also take the public bus, a taxi or hire a car.
Hop-on Hop-off Bus – sightseeing
This is simply one of the ways to see everything that Gozo has to offer in a day. Seeing Gozo from an open topper bus is a great way to appreciate the ‘Calypso’s island’. The open top bus tour of Gozo starts from the harbour of Mgarr. One can ‘Hop on and Hop off’ at his or her leisure at conveniently located stops along the route. In Gozo, there are a number of hop-on hop-off providers which offer a practical tour service linking all the most popular places of interest on the island and more. Each tour includes an audio commentary in 16 languages.
Start Point: Mgarr
Frequency: 45 mins
Season: All Year Round
Ticket Length: 1 day – from around 09.30 a.m. to 05.00 p.m.
Price: around 18 euro
For information about this service, please contact one of the following companies:
City Sightseeing Gozo
City Sightseeing Gozo is the franchisee with City Sightseeing which is now the world’s largest open top Hop On Hop Off tour operator with sightseeing tours in 100 locations.
Commentary: Maltese, English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Hungarian, Danish, Bulgarian, Dutch, Russian, Polish and Hebrew pre recorded commentary
Operates with a new fleet of air conditioned double decker buses.
Tickets are available at the Mgarr ferry station and on the ferry itself as well as online. Tickets bought online are slightly cheaper.
The Tallinja tickets purchased in Malta are also valid in Gozo, including the 7 day Explore card for 21 euros and the 12 single journeys card for 15 euros. Alternatively, individual tickets can be purchased directly on the bus where a 2 hour ticket costs €1.50 in winter and €2.00 in summer; these Cash Tickets are Single Journey tickets that can be used to get to any destination within two hours, including interchanging. The buses operate less frequently than in Malta. The Malta Public Transport website covers both Malta and Gozo, and has detailed information about schedules and ticketing..
It is a nice way to get around, make new friends and discover new places. Cycling is also a good option, but keep in mind that most of the roads are hilly and there are no clearly marked cycling paths.
If travelling on foot, many of the distances within villages are negligible and most of the roads are fairly quiet and pleasant to walk along. There is also a footpath network, though the paths require good shoes and a good map (they are not always clearly marked on the ground). However, be prepared to walk for longer distances if travelling between different villages, with distances ranging from 1 to 5km from one village to the next.
If you need complete flexibility and want to spend more than just a day in Gozo, one of your options would be to rent a car. You need to be over 21 years old and hold a valid driving license. It’s fine to travel to the mainland Malta with a hired car and the only extra charge incurred for doing so will be a pricier ferry ticket at €15.70.
- Xlendi Tourist Services Car Hire Gozo
You will find white taxis also on the island of Gozo however these tend to be more expensive than other means of transport. Some taxi drivers are unscrupulous and will try to charge the unsuspecting tourist as much as they can. There is an approximate price list posted at the taxi stand at the boat dock, and another at the bus terminal in Victoria. Don’t accept a price that is unreasonably higher than the suggested price. If you end up taking more than one or two taxis a day you are better off if you chose something else.
- The rotunda church in the village of Xewkija is a wonderful spot to visit. The church was built in honor of St. John the Baptist (each village has a saint that they honor) and is the largest in Gozo.
- Among the numerous sites and attractions worth seeing which are present in the citadel, is a section of the bastions which consists of a gunpowder Magazine, a lower battery, three silos and some air-shelters. The former three were added in the early 17th century, after the disastrous siege of Gozo by Turkish pirates in 1551. Graffiti on the walls are evidence of the French occupation of Gozo as well. During the English occupation, the grain silos were modified into stores for water. Some air raid shelters were dug by Gozitan families. These sites are managed by Wirt Għawdex – an environmental non-governmental organization.
- Wirt Għawdex organisation also manages Mġarr ix-Xini tower, one of the coastal towers built by the Knights in Gozo. Entrance to the tower can be arranged upon appointment.
- At present, one can also view the Gozo Boat, known as id-Dgħajsa tal-Latini, which has been restored by the Gozo Channel Company and is now managed by Wirt Għawdex Organization. This boat is now exhibited to the public at Mġarr Harbour, Gozo’s main harbour. This boat was used to ferry Gozitans and Maltese between the Islands.
- The Azure Window, the Inland Sea and the the Blue Hole all make going to the spectacular west coast of Gozo very worthwhile. The Azure Window is a cliff outcropping with a hole in the middle. The Inland Sea is a typically Maltese name in that it slightly exaggerates its size (Mdina is referred to as a city with its 400 inhabitants). It’s actually a small lake connected to the sea by a tunnel about 100 meters long through the cliffs. In contrast to Xlendi and Marsalforn this place has been spared from development and makes an unusual and picturesque place to swim. The beach surrounding the lake is unfortunately made of pebbles but there are a few piers and terraces in front of the fishermen’s boathouses one can also use. The Blue Hole is not a true blue hole in the geological sense but still makes an amazing spot to dive, having won awards as one of the most beautiful diving spots of Europe. Unfortunately, on Wednesday 8th March, 2017, the Azure Window collapsed after its outer column crumbled down as a result of typical gale winds and strong waves at this time of the year, natural processes which have and are still continuously eroding the coast, mainly on this side (west coast) of the islands. A stump is all that is left to be seen.
- Ta’ Pinu Basilica, situated in open countryside is an important place of pilgrimage as miracles are claimed to have occurred here. The interior of the Basicila is rich in decoration. One can enjoy views of open countryside from outside the church.
- If one only has one day, it is recommended to spend the morning in the Citadella of Rabat, have lunch there, in the cafe next to the cathedral, and spend the afternoon either at Ramla il-Hamra or The Inland Sea. At least one week is needed to visit in detail the main attractions the island has to offer.
- With two days one can spend the second morning visiting the Ggantija temples and having lunch on the beautiful central square of Xaghra, and the afternoon at the swimming spot not chosen the previous day, bearing in mind that Ramla il-Hamra beach is very close to Xaghra and the Inland Sea closer to Rabat.
- Diving Gozo has some very impressive dive sites, one of the most popular being the Blue Hole. The Gozitan underwater geography is very interesting, and so is the sea life. Dive centres in Gozo vary from garage operations to fully equipped 5-star IDC centres.
- Outside the busiest areas and outside the high season, hitchhiking is easy here and can lead to unexpected social interactions and changes to one’s plans.
- Gozo boasts one of the most remarkable churches on the archipelago, situated at Ta’Pinu, which was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1990. A record of his visit is situated at the rear of the church.
One of the most popular places to go shooting in Malta is at Gun Blast Shooting Range. The Organisation is authorised for training and to organise and supervise shooting competitions on the local and national level. In order to realise these goals its certified and qualified instructors hold courses on such subjects such as pistol safety, pistol parts and operation, shooting fundamentals, ammunition, skills for operating a pistol, shooting positions.
The range is open for Pistols on Saturday and Sunday.
The open hours for winter are: Saturday – 8.30 till 16.00. Sunday – 8.30 till 16.00.
Bookings to shoot at the Gun Blast Shooting Range can now be done by sending an email on email@example.com or through its website: http://gunblastshootingrange.com/booking/.
There are several treks for hiking with lenght between ten and twenty kilometres. There are official guides with map and trek description avaliable. As anywhere in the world – best time to start is early in the morning.
As Gozo is the breadbasket of Malta, the ground is more fertile, and the place is more rural. Therefore there is more fresh produce to be had. One should definitely try Gozo’s own cheese: Gbejniet. This cheese is lovely when had fresh, but also nice when cured with pepper and vinegar. Being an island there is also a lot of great fish dishes, and both potatoes and tomatoes are grown locally on the island.
Gozo is popular with highest levels of hospitality and kindness. The visitors may choose between variety of accommodations, from big international chain of hotels like “Kempinski” to family run self-catering holiday apartments like “Seafront Apartment Gozo”
As on Malta there are vineyards on Gozo, one can often buy unlabeled local wines cheaply but be sure to ask to taste them as quality can vary widely. The shops near the citadel in Victoria/Rabat usually have a good selection.
Gozo is safer than Malta , there is less petty crime.
There is occasionally a strong current on the northern shore, so caution when swimming is advised.
The residents of Gozo are called Gozitans and will be annoyed if you refer to them as Maltese.. .