A trip to Gozo should be on everyone’s bucket-list. Our little sister island, known for its magnificent three hills, is a natural splendour, still very much raw and unspoilt. The Gozitans are friendly and welcoming (albeit being somewhat quieter than their Maltese neighbours), and the island offers a totally different feel than Malta does. Even if you can visit for just a day, it is still worth the while. A rental car/jeep is a must if you want to see as many sights as possible, and you will be surprised to find that Gozitan roads make for a far smoother ride than Maltese ones! The island is just begging to be explored, so buckle up, map in hand, and begin your journey!
You can reach Gozo either by sea, or by helicopter. There is no airport on this teeny island, so a plane is out of the question. The ferry to Gozo departs every 30 minutes from Cirkewwa Harbour, which is the northernmost part of Malta. The harbour offers some great views of both Comino and Gozo (great for some photos while waiting for the ferry!), and there are several small boats which depart from here as well, some which can be hired for a private day tour, and some which can take you to Comino. The Gozo ferry takes about 20 minutes to cross the waters separating both islands. This gives you plenty of time for more photos (you are on holiday after all!), and also allows you to admire the beauty of our beloved islands from a nautical point of view.
Landed at Mġarr
As soon you see the Ferry heading into the Harbour, head to your car, and make your way off the boat and onto Gozo. You will be greeted by a Gothic looking church, which looks over the Harbour giving you a sense of protection from above. This church is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, and has been welcoming sailors and visitors to the Harbour since 1888. The ride from Mġarr is a steep uphill, and there are some breath-taking views to take in as you go along (Driver safety first and foremost! Drivers should not take their eyes off the road!).
All roads lead to Victoria! Or Rabat, as us Maltese call it. Gozo’s capital is easily reachable; all you have to do is drive straight on from Mġarr. The Gozitan capital is the busiest part of Gozo, and the most commercial one as well. But don’t let the shops fool you; there is a hidden gem among the narrow streets of Victoria. The Ċittadella is a fortified city situated on top of the highest hill of Victoria, reminiscent of Mdina. Until 1637, the island’s inhabitants were required to spend each night inside the Citadel walls, as there were frequent pirate assaults and kidnappings. There is the magnificent Cathedral which is well-worth a visit, as well as several Museums to see, such as the Museum of Archaeology and of Folklore. Take a look from the Citadel’s walls to behold all of Gozo beneath you!
Interesting fact: There are also fields in the Citadel, which were designed to provide nourishment should the island be kept under siege inside the Citadel for a long time!
Dwejra and the Azure Window
Going on straight through the small village of San Lawrenz, you will behold what is perhaps one of the most recognised images concerning the Maltese Islands. The Azure Window is one of Gozo’s landmarks, forever present on postcards, adverts and brochures. The world-famous window is regrettably falling to its demise, as more and more rock is eroded every year – making the bridge over the window more of a hazard as time goes by. However, admire it while you can, and take as many pictures as you can! The Window can be viewed in all its splendour from a cliff just in front, it is quite a climb; however it is worth every step. Dwejra, where the Window is located, is also famous for its Inland Sea, which is a natural phenomenon occurring when the sea-water from the open sea passes through a small, cave-like crack in the cliffs, and forms a clear-water lagoon just a few minutes away from the Azure Window. The Sea is worth a visit, as there are some boat tours departing from it as well. For a few Euros, you can pass through the small cave like opening and take a tour of the caves of the area, as well as see the gigantic Window from sea-level (Prepare yourself, this will make you feel very, very small!).
While going back to your parked car, don’t forget to take a look (and maybe a photo or two!) of the Fungus Rock, an isolated rock in the middle of the sea, which is home to a sporadic plant which the Knights used in many of their medicines.
Interesting fact: The Knights guarded Fungus Rock day and night to prevent theft of the plants, which is said to have been punishable by death! It is still today illegal to climb the Rock, as it is protected for its wildlife.
Regaining your breath after the spectacular views at Dwejra, you can head over to the village of Xagħra, home to the neolithic temples of Ġgantija. These temples are the earliest of their kind on our islands, are older than the pyramids of Egypt and are the second oldest manmade religious structures in the world! Walking through, and seeing a structure built more than 5500 years ago, has a way of humbling one somehow. The tickets are a bit on the pricey side, but it is well worth the money. The temples were constructed before the invention of the wheel, so the builders used stone spheres to transport the immense blocks to their desired place. These spheres are still visible today!
Interesting fact: The word ‘Ġgantija’ in Maltese is a derivative of the word ‘Ġgant’ meaning ‘Giant’, as the Gozitans used to think that the temples were built by a giantess who lived on a diet of broad beans and bread!
Ramla l-Ħamra Bay
Just a few minutes’ drive away from the majestic temples, down a winding country road, is one of the most beautiful bays of the Maltese Islands. Ramla l-Ħamra Bay is a beautiful stretch of beach, characterised by its striking red sand. The water itself is sometimes dangerous to swim in, as there are a lot of strong currents in the bay – however you can check whether it is safe or not with the Information Centre just off of the bay. If you have kids, they will love building sand-castles in sand that seems like it was made for that purpose. Also, red sandcastles make for some lovely photos! This beach is the perfect place to unwind and relax to the sound of the crashing waves.
Interesting fact: There is a cave near this beach which is said to have been the home of Calypso, the beautiful nymph who held Odysseus with her for 7 years, while he was on his way home from the battle of Troy!
What better place to end your jam-packed Gozo tour, than Xlendi Bay? The bay is a perfect spot to watch the sunset, as the sun seems to melt into the sea just between the two cliff-sides of Xlendi. The bay itself is a quaint little thing, not that great to swim in, especially if you like your beaches sandy. There are some lovely restaurants along the water though, and there is an astonishing walk way, which leads to the edge of the cliffs. The colossal cliffs plunging into the sea make for a great backdrop for a photo as well! The path winds on into a small creek between the cliff faces, where the sea-water makes its way, creating a lovely valley called Kantra.
Interesting fact: The Tower on top of the opposite cliffs over Kantra valley is the oldest freestanding watch tower in Gozo. It was built in 1650 to warn the island of any incoming pirates!
Back to the Motherland
Take a deep breath and inhale all of the beauty that Gozo offered you during this day. There is still much, much more to see, however, we’ll leave that for another day-trip in the future. Our sister island may be small in size, but she is great in character. It is an island full to the brim with hidden splendour, and not-so-hidden gorgeousness as well. Please do your best to keep this untarnished natural beauty as you found it, so that we can visit again and be in awe of all things Gozitan once again. Until next time!