Gozo, Malta’s Sister Island

Għawdex, as Gozo is referred to in Maltese, is just 25 minutes away by ferry from Malta’s northernmost point. When compared to Malta, Gozo is quite different, mainly because it is more rural. Although small in size, it offers a lot in terms of natural beauty. It is a place to relax, enjoy nature, hike and a great spot for diving too. If you are in Malta for a couple of days, I believe it is a must to pay a visit to this smaller island.

When visiting Gozo, I suggest you rent a car as it would be easier and more efficient to explore the Island’s beauty. (Remember that in Malta and Gozo we drive on the right side!)

As you arrive in Gozo, you will be welcomed by the beautiful view of Mġarr harbour with the parish church of Għajnsielem towering over the area.

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Mgarr Harbour. Photo credit: Andrea Puggioni (CC BY 2.0)

Here are some interesting places I recommend you visit while in Gozo:

Rabat, or Victoria, is Gozo capital’s and is located right in the middle of the Island. All other villages are connected together through Rabat. Here you can visit the Cittadella, a tiny fortified city towering over Rabat. The Cathedral of Gozo is situated here as you enter the Cittadella. From here you can see most of the Island and admire its charm, especially on a lovely sunny day.

Stroll around the winding streets of Rabat to appreciate the life of the locals. Stop in the main square in front of St. George’s Basilica for a coffee or beer and chill out.

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The Cittadella. Photo credit: Federhirn (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Mġarr ix-Xini, a beautiful valley ending up with a bay. It is good for swimming if you are up to it. I suggest a walk up on either side of the bay for a breathtaking view of the Gozo-Malta Channel. One thing if you are driving there, the road leading to the bay is quite narrow and steep and it is a two-way road.

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Mgarr ix-Xini. Photo credit: wvllvam (CC BY 2.0)

Xlendi is a tiny seaside village, popular with locals and tourists alike. You will find restaurants all the way around the bay. The sea here is beautiful for a swim and you can also rent out kayaks and explore the caves underneath the cliffs. From here, you can also admire an amazing sunset.

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Xlendi Cliffs. Photo credit: Josef Grunig (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the most popular sites in Gozo is definitely the Azure Window, situated in Dwejra on the outskirts of San Lawrenz. This natural rock arch has been featured in Clash of the Titans, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Odyssey and more recently in Game of Thrones (Season 1). Other geological sites in the area include the Blue Hole, the Fungus Rock and the Inland sea. If you are in the area by the evening, you can also witness a fascinating sunset from here.

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The Azure Window. Photo credit: whereisemil (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One of the best beaches in Gozo is Ramla il-Ħamra, best known for its red sandy beach. In Summer, it is very popular with both locals and tourists. However, it is deserted in other months. A great spot overlooking the bay is Calypso Cave. According to Homer’s Iliad, Odysseus, the hero of Troy was shipwrecked on the island of Gozo, where he was held captive by the nymph Calypso in a small cave situated here. The cave itself is not impressive but the view over the beach and the surrounding area makes a visit worthwhile.

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View of Ramla il-Hamra from Calypso Cave. Photo credit: Robert Grabczewski (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

San Blas Bay is another picturesque spot for beach lovers. It is a tiny sandy beach on Gozo’s northern coast. If you plan to visit this beach, keep in mind that there is quite a steep road to go down the last bit to the bay (and then to go back up!). During off peak season, there are no facilities, so you might want to take some lunch with you.

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San Blas Bay. Photo credit: Joomla Freak (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Marsalforn is another seaside village, popular amongst locals as a location for summer residences. While certainly not the prettiest village in Gozo, there are a variety of restaurants to choose from for a relaxed lunch/dinner. Additionally, a stone’s throw away you will find Qbajjar and Xwejni Bay, where the coastline is full of salt pans, which are still in use.

 

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Salt pans at Qbajjar with Qolla il-Bajda in the background. Photo credit: Tim Proffitt-White (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If you are interested in a lovely walk in Gozo’s countryside, I suggest heading up to Il-Fanal tal-Ġordan. This lighthouse stands on a hill on the outskirts of Għasri, from where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the island. From here, you can walk to Wied il-Għasri, and Wied il-Mielaħ, two picturesque little valley both ending in the sea.  At the end of Wied il-Mielaħ, you will find Gozo’s less famous rock window.

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Wied il-Ghasri. Photo credit: Kevin Cauchi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If you are more into history, then it is a must to pay a visit to Ġgantija Temples. This complex of megalithic temples date back to Neolithic era and are some of the oldest freestanding structures in the world, older than Stonehenge and the pyramids in Egypt.

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Ggantija Temples. Photo credit: damian entwistle (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Another popular site in Gozo is the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary, a shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu. It is popular with both locals and tourists alike, and is open to visitors who wish to pray or those who would like to admire its architecture. Pilgrims to Ta’ Pinu often return to leave ex-votos, offerings of gratitude for their prayers being heard. These offerings are displayed on the walls inside the sanctuary.

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Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary. Photo credit: Lawrence OP (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

You will find various restaurants around the island which can offer a variety of good food. I suggest Maxokk Bakery or Mekren’s Bakery for a traditional Gozitan ftira.

This post forms part of my series of posts about visiting Malta. To check out my other posts, please click here.

Note: Cover photo – Sunset at Azure Window. Photo credit: Bill Richards (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

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