The water is splashing. The caves sparkle. A metal ladder shines. The wind caresses your back. You turn around, throw a t-shirt over your face, and continue to bask in the sun. Welcome to Gozo.
As Europe’s peak tourist season heats up, many people are looking for alternatives to the busiest booze and sunburn spots. But with some swapping Magdaluf for Malta, Lagos for Lipari, Ibiza for Interlaken – you get the idea – could we suggest another alternative? Swap Malta for Gozo. It’s true: while Malta is a nice quieter alternative to somewhere like Magaluf, Gozo is even quieter than Malta (and it’s right next door).
With that in mind, here’s your ultimate guide to Gozo – Malta’s cooler sister. Where to go when it’s windy, where to go for a fancy dinner (or a more casual pizza by the beach), plus advice on the best mode of transportation (so you don’t end up spending hundreds on Ubers or a 10km walk in the hot sun, like me), here’s your bottom.
What is Gozo?
Gozo is an island. It is 13 km long and 7 km wide. It is to the north (and a little to the left) of Malta. It’s a great place to relax and has an amazing history. The main languages spoken are Maltese and English. It is separated from Malta by water. Between them is Comino, an even smaller island with an incredible Blue Lagoon.
History of Gozo
The history of Gozo dates back to 5000 BC. AD when a group of Sicilians crossed on a kind of boat or raft. These people are believed to have lived in caves around Il-Mixta on the Ghajn Abdul Plateau, on the outskirts of the village of San Lawrenz, northwest Gozo. Since then, various people have taken over Gozo, from the mysterious who built the Ggantija temples, which are documented as the oldest freestanding structure in the world, to the Bronze Age people, Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines , Arabs, Europeans. , the Knights of St. John, the French and the British.
Malta and Gozo officially became a British crown colony in 1813 and the island became a fortress colony, now known for its resistance to Axis bombardment during World War II.
According to Gozo Tourism Association“Malta and Gozo became a sovereign independent state within the Commonwealth on September 21, 1964 and were declared a Republic on December 13, 1974.
The website adds: ‘Although governed from Malta since time immemorial, Gozo has had semi-autonomous governments several times in its history, the last being Gozo City Council between 1961 and 1973.’
“The island is now governed like any other part of the Maltese Islands. The executive functions of central government are carried out by the Ministry of Gozo, which was established on 14 May 1987.”
How to get to Gozo
Gozo can be reached via a Fast Ferry or a (slower) car ferry from Valletta (Malta’s main port). The fast ferry takes 45 minutes. The car ferry takes a bit longer. The fast ferry operates 63 times per week, departing approximately every hour. It stops working occasionally if the wind is extremely strong. But that’s pretty rare (and in those cases you can just take the slowest ferry). Basically: to get to Gozo, fly to Malta and then take the fast ferry to Gozo from the port of Valletta.
Best places to visit in Gozo
Gozo is home to incredible sites of natural beauty, as well as stunning historical monuments. There are also great places to eat and drink. Here are the best to visit.
If you enjoy sunbathing, cliff diving, drinking pineapple with booze, people watching, kayaking or water skiing, this is the place for you. It is also a place from which many scuba diving and boat trips depart. Tip: If you walk (or swim) around the rocks to the right (looking at the ocean), you’ll find a much less crowded area where you can swim and snorkel away from the crowds. There are also cool caves to swim carefully inside.
Calypso’s Cave is a cavern on top of a cliff, overlooking Ramla Bay. He was mentioned in Homer’s Odyessy and featured in thousands of Instagram posts (like the epic photo above, taken by @rhystthehuman_). You can get there by walking about a kilometer (first across the beach, then up the cliff path) from the Ramla Bay beach entrance. Or you can drive to the top (which I realized after going up) and descend through the rear entrance at the cave. From inside the Calypso cave you have a breathtaking view of the beach and the coast.
The Inland Sea
An inland lagoon at Dwejra in Gozo is connected to the sea by a breathtaking canyon almost 80 meters long. It’s a great place to have a coffee, sunbathe, swim, snorkel and jump off rocks. A bit of a microcosm of the rest of your trip to Gozo, probably.
The Azure Window (what’s left of it, anyway) and the Blue Hole
Around the corner from the Inland Sea, in Dwejra, was one of the most famous natural attractions in the world – the Azure Window. Unfortunately, it collapsed in 2017. It is now a collapsed natural arch, which you can still visit. The nearby rock pool (The Blue Hole) is also a nice spot, if the waves aren’t too big. Oh and did you know that part of Game of Thrones was filmed near here? Once you visit you will understand why.
Bonus tip: If you want to see an uncollapsed arch, head to Wied il-Mielah, located about 15 minutes from The Azure Window.
The Xlendi Salt Pans are another must-see part of Gozo. A popular wedding venue during the evening, they’re great for checking out during the day (and there are also a few beach kiosks a bit nearby for drinks and pizza afterwards). They make you feel like you’re in Tatooine from Star Wars… if Tatooine had an ocean next to it.
If you want to experience the city from above or are a history buff, this is a great place to visit. Oh, and there’s free wifi everywhere in the nearby bars and cafes. Bonus points if you buy a postcard (there is also a post office nearby).
This World Heritage Site is a bit like Stonehenge. They are among the first freestanding stone buildings in the world and, UNESCO considers them “remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration”.
According to UNESCO: “Each complex [of the Megalithic Temples of Malta] is a unique architectural masterpiece and a witness to an exceptional prehistoric culture renowned for its remarkable architectural, artistic and technological achievements.
The Blue Lagoon
Although technically not on Gozo (the Blue Lagoon is on Comino), you cannot currently stay on Comino, so Gozo is probably your best bet for visiting the Blue Lagoon. You can do this via a boat or kayak (or jetski) tour. The Blue Lagoon felt a bit like a party spot when I visited (think: boat slides in the water, music, etc.), but there are also quiet areas around Comino Island where you can swim and dive in peace.
Top tips for visiting Gozo
Rent a quad or a scooter
Although Gozo has some pretty terrifying drivers, if you’re happy to try your luck with a quad or scooter, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle. I tried to get around on foot the first day, walking 10km from my accommodation to the Azure window (and getting sunstroke in the process).
I then got an Uber house which was slow to get to Dwejra (Uber had just been introduced to the island) and was expensive. Second day I used public transport which was ok but slow (and still meant to get me to many places I wanted to go, had to walk a bit as the bus rarely drops you off right to the beach).
Then on the third and fourth day I took a scooter and had a blast. If you have just visited the island for two days, I highly recommend that you take a quad from where you arrive on the ferry. You’ll save a lot of money on taxis, and it’s much easier to get to the coolest attractions than on public transport (and means less walking up hills).
Download eCabs and Bolt
Uber has only just been introduced in Gozo (in June 2022), so your best bet for carpooling is to download all three (from what I understand Bolt and eCabs are slightly cheaper than Uber, and significantly cheaper than hailing a taxi).
Go to restaurant Qbajjar Gozo
By far my favorite restaurant on the island.
Stay on the north side of the island
Save your money by staying on the north side of the island, where it’s a bit cheaper than the center or south, then use that money to hire a scooter or quad and explore everywhere. Also, if it’s very windy on whichever side of the island you’re on, if you cross over to the other side, you’ll likely find a sheltered cove somewhere.