Gozo is the sister island of Malta, situated in the Mediterranean Sea. I had never thought about visiting Gozo Island until earlier this year. When I attended a travel show in January called ‘Destinations’ at EventCity in Manchester and I came across the Gozo Tourism Board. After chatting with the lovely team, who told me a visit to this beautiful island would show me a much more laid back lifestyle, where residents left their keys in the front doors and cars while they went about their daily lives, to which I witnessed whilst here in Gozo. I knew I had to make the trip for myself! Adam was quite keen to plan some travels too, so we booked up with Easyjet for July and did some research beforehand on what we wanted everyone to see and do, plus I was given a whole host of tips from my lovely Twitter, Instagram and Facebook friends (you know who you are).
Fast forward 6 months and we were sitting in the Aspire Plus lounge of Newcastle Airport waiting to board our flight to Malta. Three hours and thirty minutes later we landed in Malta, with a quick exit out of the airport we found our transfer and all was going swimmingly.. Or so we thought. Our driver didn’t know where we going or staying and confused us totally. After saying we needed to catch the ferry to Gozo he drove off, still looking at his papers. He said he would have to speed up, we said fine and it was like a ride at the funfair but not in a good way. An hour later we arrived at the ferry and all he said was ‘Get Out’, we looked at each other and asked him what we did now. He said ferry was there and get a ticket inside, off he went. It was ten thirty at night by this point and I was annoyed. The lovely lady at the desk told us we had missed the ferry and the next was in 45 minutes.. So we had to sit and wait, angry was not the word. After a smooth ferry ride on the Gozo Channel Ferry, which took 45 minutes and our first Cisk beer, we were met at the other end by Sonia, a very friendly lady who took us up the hill to our hotel, apologising for the drivers behaviour in Malta. The Grand Gozo was our hotel of choice and we had a nice, clean room with a side view of Gozo harbour and the pool was directly in front of us. We were perfectly situated, within walking distance to many restaurants and bars, with the ferry, bus links and boat transfers all down the hill. Bed beckoned before a new day to explore Gozo.
Up with the lark and breakfast eaten, we walked down to the harbour front and booked straight onto a boat to Comino, which is the island directly in the middle of Gozo and Malta. As we wanted to see the Blue Lagoon. More about this in my next blog.
Whilst on Gozo Island we wanted to see as much of the island as we possibly could do, I wasn’t sure how big or long it was. So we booked a private days tour for 65 euros through the lovely Sonia, who we rang a day before to book it with. Tony picked us up at 9.30 am and took us on the best tour ever.
We started at Rotunda Church in Xewkija, it is the biggest church in Gozo and it boasts the ‘third largest unsupported dome in the world’ wandering around this beautiful church taking in the intricate details on show, its first stone was laid in 1951 and it took twenty years to complete.
Next was a real surprise to me, Gozo has a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Ggantija Temples which is older than both the Pyramids and Stonehenge. The site is a megalithic temple complex, comprising of two temples dating back to 3600 BC and located in Xaghra. The name Ggantija comes from the name ‘Ggant’ meaning Giant in Maltese, as belief says that the temples were built by Giants. After touring the site for ourselves, we were amazed by the ruins and any history lover would be in their absolute element here. It cost 9 euros for a ticket, that includes the site, a museum and entrance to the Ta Kola Windmill which was over the road and we visited next.
Ta’ Kola Windmill is one of last few remaining in the Maltese Islands, it was built in 1725 and the name of the windmill is connected to the last miller, Zeppu ta’ Kola who was Joseph, the son of Nikola. You can go in and have a look at the working and living quarters, it certainly gives you a good insight into the ‘traditional’ rural life on Gozo in the past.
Calypso Cave was our next destination, which gave us the most beautiful views over Ramla Bay. The story of the cave is that it was home to the nymph Calypso, who bewitched Ulysses and kept him on the island of Gozo for 7 years, after a shipwreck occurred during the Trojan War. This is why they say now that this view from the cave over the bay has ‘bewitched’ thousands!
The Salt Pans are situated in Xwejni Bay and ran by the Cini family, who daily go through the process of harvesting and producing the Gozitan sea salt. At first glance it looks like large ‘chequerboard’, these salt pans have been in the family for years and they stretch right along the coast. We were lucky enough to chat to the family and listen to the process of how the salt is dried by the sun and collected each day by hand and then stored in the caves behind. I bought some Leli Tal Melh salt for home and I was recommended to have it with bread, oil and tomatoes, delicious and it sounds good to me.
Ta’ Pinu was our next port of call. This is a Roman Catholic basilica built in the 1920’s near the village of Gharb, is a ‘monumental shrine’ to Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu. I was wowed by this building and it certainly is an ‘architectural masterpiece’. Do go on inside and explore, you will see a wall within that shows you all the miracles that have taken place on people here over the years, this is why Ta’ Pinu is known as the ‘Church of Miracles’ and many have made pilgrimages here for that very reason. The Pope was one of those visitors.
Dwejra Caves was were we arrived after Ta’ Pinu, it was one of our highlights, we took a boat ride for 4 euros into the caves and through to where the Azure Window once stood, it was one of the most captivating places I’ve visited, I was entralled. The waters were see through and crystal clear, I was desperate to swim but as we only had hand luggage we had no room for towels, I went to buy one immediately. If I was to recommend anywhere, you have to come here! We vowed to return the very next day and we did.
Victoria is the capital of Gozo and this was where we explored after Dwejra, I fell in love with its vibes and feel. At the very time we visited, they were in celebration mode for the Feast of St George, all the flags were flying high and Victoria was dressed to impress. I was shocked at the level of patriotism and it was a great sight to see. We had a lovely lunch, savouring the atmosphere and festival feeling. Then we went to visit the Cittadella, built in 1500 BC this fortified town and it is situated right in the centre of Gozo, another UNESCO World Heritage Site (we were spoilt) which was used as a refuge for the people of Gozo. Certainly worth a visit, you will experience so much including an interactive experience in the visitors centre along with many museums to see within, such as the Old Prison, Gozo Nature, Gozo Museum of Archaeology, explaining the history and stories from within the walls of the Citadel. The piece de resistance is the 360 views of Gozo at the top, which are fabulous. The cost is 5 euros entry. Afterwards we wandered around the Old Town and fell in love with the detail of the streets, doors and balconies. It was very reminiscent of Barcelona in parts.
The day ended on my other highlight in Gozo, Xlendi Bay. It is utterly gorgeous and we swam here in clear waters and took in the views, nature is a beautiful thing and a lot of time it’s taken for granted. There is vantage point you can walk up to, to take in the best views over the bay, just through the Stone Crab Restaurant and up the stairs.
As our day ended, we couldn’t believe how much we had seen and we wanted more.. So the next day we took the hop on hop off bus for a discounted fee of 14 euros (usually 18 euros for an adult and 10 for a child) and went back to our favoured spots. Such as Dwejra Caves and Xlendi Bay, taking in a full running commentary along the route with our personal headphones, included in the price.
I would recommend both ways to see this gorgeous island, depending on your preference. I would also say Gozo is way more than a day trip and you definitely need to stay on the island to experience it all fully. I will return for sure, as it has captured my heart as not many places do. We had full intentions of seeing Malta itself but after realising what was on Gozo Island, you couldn’t have pulled us away. It is perfect for everyone, families, couples, solo travellers and those of you looking for adventure or relaxing it can offer it all. Why has it took me so long to visit, we certainly got the ‘Mozo out of Gozo’!
Gozo Restaurant wise, I would happily recommend Ta’ Philip, to which we ate at a few times and Country Terrace for its amazing views of Mgarr Harbour. In Victoria Tepie’s and Churchills in Xlendi bay. Top Tip make sure to try the Gozo Cheeses.