The Maltese archipelago is made up of three islands two of which are inhabited. The first and main island is Malta, which is the biggest of the two and is home to the majority of the population. The other one is Gozo, a much smaller island with a very small, ageing population.
The true charm of Gozo comes in its size. It’s a beautiful, small island with incredible beaches wherever you turn. Cliffs and small hills make Gozo’s natural environment an even greater adventure for those who visit Malta for a holiday. It’s beautiful in summer as it is in winter. With lots of things to see and do, spending a couple of days in Gozo is definitely worth it.
In this article, we will do our best to guide you through all you need to know on this true gem of the Mediterranean with useful tips and tricks from locals so you can make the best of your stay.
Let’s start with the basics, shall we?
Where is Gozo Located
Gozo sits on the northern part of the Maltese archipelago of islands. It is the smallest of the two main islands which make up Malta. It sits one mile away from the closest Maltese shore, right after crossing, next to Comino.
Why stay in Gozo
If you are a tourist looking for some quiet time, this is the place to stay. If you want to avoid the crowds and looks for some beautiful hidden beaches, this is the place to be. If you want to experience the Maltese culture in its authentic, perhaps a little less modern aesthetic, Gozo is ideal for you.
Being small, even smaller than Malta means that wherever you stay in Gozo is close enough to the beach. This is probably the most amazing thing about Gozo. It also has less traffic and fewer people living in it.
Rent in Gozo is also generally cheaper, although we must warn you that things can get expensive in the peak of the summer season.
History of the island of Gozo
Landing in Malta you would be immediately surprised as to how much rich history this part of Europe has to offer. Gozo is no exception. It has seen wars and invasions throughout many bloody centuries. But what makes this island unique in its historic value are the pre-historic temples which date back to millennia.
Perhaps it’s better if we start with the name. Gozo comes from the Spanish verb ‘to enjoy’ and the locals know it as Ghawdex. Don’t worry about trying to get this name right. The huge majority of the population still know it as Gozo.
Some of its temples like the Ggantija, are among the oldest standing megalithic structures in the world. According to research, Gozo has been inhabited since 5000 B.C and the first islanders came from neighbouring Sicily.
The Neolithic times saw the magnificent temples of Ggantija being built. This incredible structure is still considered to be the oldest religious structure in the world, so they sure have to be on the list of things you need to see. The name of the temples ‘Ggantija’ refers to a myth which says that these huge rocks were moved around by giants.
Bronze coins found to suggest the island saw the invasion of Romans while history books tell us that the Ottomans also invaded the island and enslaved most of its people back in the 1500s. For a short period, the French also set foot in Gozo. Now, thanks to such rich history, you’ll be able to find relics and pieces of architecture of all shapes, ages and sizes.
For you not to miss out, we’re listing the places of historical interest for you here:
Ggantija Temples: A huge complex of temples. Check their website here for prices and opening hours: https://heritagemalta.org/ggantija-temples/
Museum of Archaeology: This unique place holds relics from the time of the Phoenician, Roman, Arab and Medieval Christian eras on the island. Get your tickets here.
Cittadella Visitors Centre: This incredible visual experience is housed in two old water reservoirs built in the 1870s in part of the Cittadella Ditch. It promises visitors a unique view of history in Malta and Gozo with stunning visuals and sound. You can book your tickets (5 euros) on their official website here.
Cittadella: Similarly to Mdina in Malta, Cittadella (the Citadel) is an incredibly beautiful fortified city which is also practically one big museum. The construction of this city started in the late 1500s. There are beautiful buildings in this Unesco World Heritage site which you cannot miss such as the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Ta’ Pinu Basilica: The square in front this magnificent church has been recently renovated and a beautiful mural now welcomes you in the area. No one really knows when it was built exactly, but the first records show that in mid-1500 it was in a bad state. Check out the back of the sagristia and look at some relics of people who believe they were miraculously cured by the virgin Mary.
Ta’ Pinu Basilica, Gozo
Where to stay in Gozo
As noted in previous sections, Gozo is very, very small. This means that wherever you decide to stay, you’re never too far from anything. If you are driving in Gozo, you can pretty much go round all the island in an hour or less. So with regards to where you can stay in Gozo, the answer is pretty much anywhere.
Your decision to stay in one place and not the other will be affected by other factors. For instance, if you want to stay right in front of the b
each, places like Marsalforn or Xlendi are the best options. These are good places to stay but can be a bit crowded in the summer months and rent can be more expensive.
If you want to stay somewhere quieter, you have to go inland more towards the centre. Look for places like Nadur, Gharb or Qala. Here you can find beautifully restored farmhouses for relatively good prices.
Tip: Renting a farmhouse in Gozo is a very popular thing for locals and tourists alike. Most of them come with a pool and the rooms are big and spacious. In some cases, you can also rent individual rooms with a common kitchen and swimming pool area. Some farmhouses are so well kept and nice, that people spend full days lying lazily outside in the swimming pool area, enjoying the peace of the island.
Gozo for all seasons
This gem of an island is the perfect destination for both the winter and summer months. While in summer the obvious thing to do is to jump into the beautiful sea, winter offers exceptional opportunities for nice walks and incredible scenery.
Things to do in Gozo in summer
- Go swimming: Having some of the most beautiful beaches in this part of Europe, you’re only spoilt with choice. A lot of beaches are Blue Flag beaches which means that the European Union has recognised the place as clean and with good amenities. Check out our article on the best beaches in Gozo.
- Diving: Gozo is home to one of the most prominent diving spots in the world. In the area known as id-Dwejra, you can find an incredibly beautiful round hole, home to thousands of sea creatures. The place is known as the Blue Hole and it’s a thing of real rarity. No wonder divers from all across the world come to take a dip here.
- Beach hopping: Get a motorbike or a car and go round the coast to do some proper beach hopping. Beaches are so close to each other that you can easily visit four or more beaches in one day.
- Go cliff jumping: Thanks to a unique rock formation, a lot of beaches in Gozo also offer a fantastic spot where to jump off into the crystal blue waters. If you are going to do this activity, do it responsibly and make sure the water is deep and safe to swim in.
Things to do in Gozo in winter
- Trekking and hiking: Gozo offers some amazing walks and, differently to Malta, it still has virgin untouched land which you can enjoy with a nice walk. Check out the official website (https://www.visitgozo.com/what-to-do-in-gozo/escape/country-walks-rambling/) to discover all the tracks you can choose from.
- Rock Climbing: Rock climbing is an emerging sport in Gozo. Places like Imgarr ix-Xini or Wied il-Mielah offer some amazing spots where to climb.
- Quod-biking: Renting a quad bike is also really popular in Gozo and the island sure offers some great places you can ride through.
- Rent a jeep and go round the island.
A lost icon – The Azure Window
Up until 2017, the number one tourist attraction in all of Gozo was the famous Azure Window, a huge rock formation in Dwejra. Due to constant erosion from the battling sea, the ‘window’ collapsed in May 2017. There’s no way to go around it, but this was truly a national tragedy. The place also featured on Game of Thrones, check out the first season when Drago marries Daenerys Targaryan.
Shopping in Gozo
Gozo is not renowned with shoppers. However, if you really need to include some shopping on your holiday in Gozo, you can go to Arcadia or the Duke. These are two shopping malls, not huge in size when compared to other countries, but of decent proportion and you can find all the necessities you might need. Both malls are in Victoria.
Also, watch out for the open-air market (is-Suq) in Independence Square in Victoria. Here you can find some great souvenirs of local traditional stuff made by Gozitans.
Annual activities you should watch out for
Carnival of Nadur: If you want to experience a truly amazing, perhaps a little absurd side of Gozo, you should visit the village of Nadur during the carnival holidays. It’s crazy, to say the least, but fun. People of all ages dress up in these complex, amazing costumes. On most of the occasions, some get arrested either for playing the roles of priests or police officers, which is, of course, illegal. Some costumes are a bit barbaric and brutally honest, too. But hey, it’s all part of the experience.
Bethlehem f’Ghajnsielem: As the name implies, it literally is a small version of Bethlehem in the time of Jesus’ birth in a small town called Ghajnsielem. The set up for this nativity town was built purposefully for Christmas. It’s a unique experience and if you’re on the island around Christmas time it’s definitely worth a visit.
Local village Festas: Practically every weekend during the summer months, you will find a local village feast going on in one of the villages. The villages might be small and with a limited population, but the participation here is high. Watch some of the most amazing pyrotechnic works on the islands showing off incredible fireworks.
L-Imnarja: The last two days of June, Malta celebrates the feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In Malta and Gozo, the feast is known as L-Imnarja. In Victoria, Gozo’s capital, this feast is celebrated widely. They even organise a short horse race which attracts thousands of people every year.
Where to eat in Gozo
Truth be told, Gozo’s tourism has grown so much in recent years that restaurants are sprouting out on every corner. Without going into much detail of each and every locality, here are the most famous eateries on the island from different towns.
- Ic-Cima: A beautiful restaurant in Xlendi offering some amazing food. The chef specialises in meat and pasta and they are delicious.
- Country Terrace: Has an amazing view of the port of Mgarr (the place where you catch the ferry)
- Pulena: A restaurant in Marsalforn with a good selection of fish, among other items.
- Maldonado Bistro: A unique place in the middle of Victoria hidden underground offering amazing pasta.
- Ta’ Rikardu: A local delight specialising in Gozitan traditional food like the gbejna and other cheeses. You can find this place in the middle of the magnificent Cittadella.
Tips and tricks you should know about Gozo
- Popular beaches like Hondoq ir-Rummien, Xlendi and Marsalforn can get crowded in the summer, especially during the weekends.
- Better explored on a motorbike. The place is small and the traffic is not too bad. Jeep rental is also very popular in Gozo and prices are often competitive.
- Walking in the sun can be exhausting, especially in spring and summer. So put on sunscreen and drink lots of water.
- If you’re driving in Gozo and ever think you’re lost while getting from one town to another, just head to Victoria (Rabat, Gozo) which is the capital of this island. All roads lead and start from here.
How to get to Gozo
Getting to the island of Gozo is easy and not too expensive. Here’s a step by step approach on how to do it:
- Get to Cirkewwa which is exactly at the furthest northern tip of Malta.
- There you’ll see a terminal (recently renovated) and get yourself tickets from inside. You can check on the hours of the ferry rides from and to Cirkewwa here: https://www.gozochannel.com/ferry/schedule/
Now for the prices, it varies on what means of transport you’ll be using.
- ‘Walking’ passenger is 4.65 euros.
- Children pay 1.15
- Driver and car pay 15.70
- Driver and motorcycle pay 8.50
If you have more specific denominations, you can check the website https://www.gozochannel.com/ferry/fares/ for details.
Good for you to know that the authorities have been debating on whether to build a tunnel to connect the two islands. The majority of the public seems to be against it and hopefully, some common sense prevails.