The Island of Gozo
The second largest of the Maltese archipelago, Gozo offers a stunning blend of beauty, grandeur of ancient architecture, unspoilt waters and underwater diversity. Here life’s troubles and problems are easily forgotten, because in translation from Spanish (though, the island has absolutely nothing to do with the Spaniards) gozo means “joy”.
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Video: The Island of Gozo
The island is small at only 67 km², has only one hotel, is uninhabited and is surrounded by some of the most sparkling and clear waters in the Mediterranean. It is a natural pool, and many swim with snorkeling, diving and anchoring their yachts to swim and relax.
The island of Gozo has many fans among Europeans who prefer a quiet, tranquil holiday in the lap of nature. The island has just over a dozen hotels and resorts.
Climate and weather
Gozo is located slightly north of Malta, but the distance between the islands is so small (about 30 km from the extreme points), that the climatic conditions on both islands are no different. Summers in Gozo are hot and dry, with temperatures around +30 ° C, winter is quite warm (by our standards) – +10 … +15 ° C. Rains occur mainly in autumn. In a cold season there are strong cold winds and storms at sea. Average temperature of water in summer is about +25 °С, in winter it is +14 °С.
Scientists believe that the first human settlements on the island appeared about 7,000 years ago. Over its long history, life on Gozo has been harsh, as the islands have always attracted invaders, and even more difficult than Malta with its harbors and fortifications.
During the Middle Ages knights, corsairs and Saracens periodically raided the island. In 1551, the Saracens made a devastating raid, taking almost the entire population of the island into slavery.
The island never really recovered from these raids and remained sparsely populated for centuries until the knights fortified a medieval fortress (at Victoria, or Rabat) and the inhabitants settled in the rest of the island.
Gozo and its inhabitants have maintained their distinctive spirit and character and marked differences in lifestyle, pronunciation and dialect. The people of Gozo are famous for their friendliness and hospitality and will always show a guest the way or help him reach his destination.
A visit to Gozo will suit all those who prefer to enjoy a vacation in a wonderful and relaxing environment, where beach holidays, sightseeing, action and gastronomy can easily be combined.
The main difference between the island of Gozo and its larger neighbor is the dominant colors here: while Malta has almost all yellow shades, Gozo is an emerald-coloured island all year round. Gozo has a hilly terrain, which is why it is sometimes called “the island of three hills”. The coastline is full of gorgeous sandy, stony and pebbly beaches, as well as steep cliffs and rocks of the most bizarre shapes.
It is often Gozo’s natural charms that are the key factor in tourists’ decision to visit the island. Among the main natural attractions of Gozo are:
- Inland Sea,
- The Azure Window,
- Fungus Rock,
- Ghasri valley,
- Lunzjata Valley, etc.
The inland sea is a sea lagoon separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow natural arch, under which on nice days the lutsu boats pass and take tourists for a ride along the coast. The water in the lagoon is clean and clear, through it shines through the golden bottom. But just under the arch, one of the favorite diving spots of divers, the depth reaches 35 m.
The Azure Window is a limestone arch over the sea, formed in prehistoric times by the collapse of two caves. It is located near the bay of Dweira and the Inland Sea. Every year the Azure Window is increasingly destroyed and it is expected that in the near future it will not exist at all.
At the entrance to Dweira Bay there is a small island called Mushroom Rock, which gets its name from the pungent-smelling tubers that grow on it. These tubers were mistakenly thought to be medicinal mushrooms in medieval times but today they have no proven pharmaceutical properties. The islet is a nature reserve.
The Għasri Valley is famous for its caves, including underwater caves.
The Lunzjata Valley is considered one of the most beautiful parts of the island. Once a favorite hunting ground for the Knights of Malta, today, it is an ideal spot for nature retreats.
Gozo has its own capital, Victoria. It used to be called Rabat. The attraction of Victoria is the huge Citadel, located on top of a steep hill.
Throughout history, life on Gozo has been harsh, as the Maltese islands have always attracted conquerors. The fate of the island of Gozo is more dramatic than its “big brother” island of Malta. Suffice it to recall how, in the mid-16th century, the Saracens, who made a devastating raid on Gozo, enslaved every last inhabitant. The island never recovered from that raid until the knights built the Citadel. Only then people began to settle in these places without fear.
All roads of Gozo lead to this mighty fortress. Inside the Citadel is a large cathedral. During the day, the Citadel of Rabat represents the strength and power of the Knights, while at night it glows with lights and becomes the most romantic place on the island. The cellars of the fortress keep incomparable Maltese wine, which you can also taste in local cafes or buy in stores for 7 euros a bottle.
It’s worth mentioning that Gozo, unlike the island of Malta where there is almost no vegetation, has watermelons and melons, and gigantic size olives, and tiny tomatoes, and potatoes, and even the sweetest figs and almonds in the whole Mediterranean. All this local gastronomic delights can be found in the main shopping area Itt Look, where you will find sheep cheese and many other delicious stuff.
Gozo has the oldest man-made monuments on earth. These are the megalithic temples of Jgantija. The period of their construction dating back to 3600 BC. They are located at the town of Shara (Xaghra). This structure is a full thousand years older than the Egyptian pyramids and counts 5 and a half thousand years. It looks like a rounded structure made of giant boulders weighing tens of tons. You will not meet here the crowds of tourists, with enthusiasm looking at the temples Dzhgantiya, and the entrance fee is purely symbolic, you can often go completely free. The place is a historical reserve. Works from 10-00 to 16-00.
At Ta Pitu there is another attraction of the island of Gozo – a magnificent church, the most revered in the country. It is believed that the church has a special energy and grants happiness and longevity to all who enter it. As always, the church gives out special red-brown skirts for female tourists. The church is active.
The third largest dome church in Europe is also located on Gozo in the town of Shevkia. Also functioning and also the entrance is free.
The famous cave of the nymph Calypso, known since the time of Homer, overlooks the bay of Ramla. It now bears little resemblance to the splendid abode described by Homer in his Odyssey 2,000 years ago. Archaeological research carried out here not long ago, however, will not cast doubt on the authenticity of the cave. Prehistoric shards of terracotta objects from the Neolithic period were recently found in front of the cave entrance. The local boys will gladly guide you down the slippery and narrow steps to the grotto, which offers a mesmerizing view of Gozo’s delightful pink sand beach.
Most of the cafés and restaurants on Gozo are concentrated in the capital, Victoria, in the resort of Marsalforn (especially on the town’s main street, Marina Street), in the resort of Schlendy, and in the port of Mjarra. Almost all hotels and guest houses also have their own restaurants or terraced cafés. The large restaurants specialize mainly in Mediterranean or Italian cuisine. To taste delicious homemade Maltese food made of local organic products, you should choose one of the family restaurants hidden in the narrow streets of Victoria, or go inland, in one of the small towns.
As an exotic alcoholic drink you may be offered a liqueur from the breadfruit tree or liqueur from the fruit of the cactus opuntia, but at least once you should treat yourself to a glass of exquisite Gozitan wine. Local wine is sold in stores, but for the full flavour, a tasting trip to one of Gozo’s wine farms is the way to go.
Tiny Gozo has hotels in every imaginable category, from the 5-star Kempinski San Lawrenz and Ta’ Cenc & Spa to the 2-3-star Xlendi Resort & Spa, San Andrea and more. Lodging in the most comfortable hotels of the island costs from 150 to 220 € for a double room. Room for two in less prestigious hotels will cost 60 € on average. On Gozo it is widespread to rent rooms and apartments in guest houses and local farms or even to rent a whole country-house with a pool. The island has two hostels located in the town of Marsalforn. For a place in the Santa Martha Hostel you have to pay 17 €, and in the Maria Giovanna Hostel – 30 €. In short, the hotels in Gozo are almost as affordable as those in Malta.
All hotels, guest houses and hostels in Gozo are either in Victoria, or in the local resorts of Marsalforn and Schlendy, or close to the port (Mjarre, Ainsilem), or in the vicinity of the most important attractions of the island (St Laurents, Schara, Sannat).
The best hotels on Gozo have great spa centers, which can also be used by tourists who are not staying at the hotel.
Entertainment and Recreation
Every year on the eve of Lent, Gozo hosts a carnival, but unlike a similar celebration in Malta, here it is a spontaneous unorganized riot of merriment and drunkenness. Throughout the summer, there are religious festivals and festivities all over Gozo.
In Victoria you can catch one of the productions of the Aurora Opera House or the Teatro Astra. Watch a movie at the Citadel Cinema, with two cinemas open to the public.
Almost all of Gozo’s beaches are small, but most have small eateries. Among the sandy beaches, Ramla Bay, widely known for its red sand, is the most popular. On the beach you can rent sun loungers, umbrellas, water sports. There are also places where you can eat. In 2012. Ramla Bay was awarded the Blue Flag quality. Right next to the beach is the legendary cave of Nymph Calypso, who has kept Odysseus on the island for 7 years.
You will also find amazing red sand on the wild beach of San Blas Bay. Intending to spend the whole day on this beach, don’t forget to bring food and water.
The most “civilized” and crowded beach is considered Marsalforn, because this is where many restaurants, bars and hotels are concentrated. A favorite beach of the Gozitan themselves is Hondoq ir-Rummien, located opposite the island of Comino.
Among the stony beaches, the wild Xatt l-Ahmar Bay deserves attention.
Pebble beaches (Dahlet Qorrot, Mgarr ix-Xini Bay, Ghasri Valley) are the most deserted, but most popular with divers.
BZUGozo is very popular with people who prefer to rest actively, because its coastal waters are considered the best place for diving. It also attracts fans of water sports, rock climbing, cycling through rugged terrain and hiking on the scenic trails. Agrotourism is becoming increasingly popular on Gozo. Ta Mena Manor invites tourists to harvest watermelons, grapes, strawberries and olives and to taste wines, honey and olive oil. There are often parties, weddings and other family celebrations, and cooking classes with tasting of the results.
Gozo can surely be called a shopaholic’s paradise. Small stalls stand side by side with eclectic boutiques, souvenir shops and all kinds of specialized stores.
The commercial hub of the island is its capital city, Victoria. You can buy the freshest vegetables, fruit and bread every day at the local grocery market. Walking around the narrow winding streets of the city in the most unexpected places you will come across souvenir shops, boutiques known brands and all kinds of kiosks. Victoria is also home to the island’s main store, Arkadia, which is still the only supermarket on Gozo.
In the other settlements, besides the usual grocery shops, there are all kinds of specialized stores: original clothing stores, art galleries, stores selling organic products or sports goods, etc.
Among Gozitan souvenirs the real works of art and pride of local residents are the finest lace (products for interiors, parasols from the sun, etc.), woven by local craftswomen who know the ancient secrets, but such souvenirs are incredibly expensive.
From the island of Malta to the island of Gozo can be reached by ferries, which belong to the Gozo Channel Company. From Malta the ferries leave from the port in Chirkewwa (Ċirkewwa), from Gozo – from the port of Mjargar (Mġarr). Ferries carry both passengers and cars, trailers, motorcycles and bicycles.
The cost of a trip depends on the time of year and the day. During the summer day trip between the islands will cost 4,65 € for an adult and 1,15 € for a child from 3 to 12 years. The same price for transporting a bicycle through the strait. The cost for a car crossing is 15,7€. In winter (from November to March included) and in the evening at any time of the year (from 20:00 till the first ferry the next day) the price of the ticket will be 4,05 € for adults, free for children, bicycles 1,15 €, cars 12,8 €. The duration of the trip will not exceed 30 minutes.
An interesting adventure is to fly to Gozo on a seaplane of the company Harbourair. This is a kind of flying “shuttle bus” which accommodates 14 passengers. From the height of the flight opens up an amazing view of the islands and the sea. For 12-15 minutes of flight you must pay 44 € for an adult and 33 € for a child. Seaplanes depart from the seaport in Valletta and on the island of Gozo from Mjarra.
Gozo is only 14 km long, so the best way to get around is on foot or by bike. But you can also rent a car or take public buses. The price of a daily bus ticket is 2.6€.
Parking is rarely a problem in Gozo. Almost all hotels and guest houses on the island have free parking.
Life on Gozo is relaxed and unhurried and you’ll never forget the last time a crime was committed. The locals are hospitable and helpful: if you have a problem, don’t hesitate to call for help.
Many beaches on the island are wild – accordingly, there is no rescue service. Going to such places, it is worth to take care of safety on the water.
How to get there
A regular ferry service brings passengers and cars from Malta to Gozo. The crossing takes about 30 minutes.
For more information and schedules, contact Comino Hotel at (+356) 21529821 or email email@example.com.
You can also take a day trip on a cruise ship departing from Sliema and Bujibba in Malta and Schlendi in Gozo Comino. The goal of these excursions is usually the Blue Lagoon, but they include other harbors on Comino.
Gozo – rest in 30 minutes from Malta
It is the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago. The Maltese call it sister island. But Gozo is not a copy of Malta, but a more rural island.
I haven’t seen such open spaces on the densely built-up Malta, only on Gozo. And the rhythm of life here is much more leisurely than in Malta. It’s no coincidence that many Maltese go to the sister island for a weekend break from the hustle and bustle. It’s about as much as we do at our dachas, only they don’t work in seedbeds.
But if the Maltese look down on the Gozitan a little, the Gozitan don’t mind, perhaps, they do the same to them. On Gozo there are many who have never left their island, have not been not only abroad, but even in neighboring Malta. Why should they? They are sure that they live on the best island in the world, and they don’t need to go anywhere else.
However, the island is not good for jobs, especially for young people. Many Gozitans have to go to work in Malta every morning and come back in the evening. Over the past few years, the Maltese government has been actively promoting the island to attract tourists and thus give jobs to more locals. Not for nothing, as there is a lot to see on Gozo.
How to get there
If you do not have a personal helicopter or yacht, there is only one way – by ferry from Malta, which, in turn, is usually reached by plane. Airline tickets can be purchased on any website aggregator, for example, here. The island. There are more exotic variants – any way to Sicily, thence by ferry, but it is more expensive and troublesome, and is valid only for those who go from Russia on their own by car.
There is no airfield in Gozo, the dimensions do not allow.
By ferry .
There are ferry services from Chirkeva, a place in the north of Malta. Flights are every 30-40 minutes, the way between the islands also takes about half an hour, and half of this time is spent on departure and docking ferry. In a severe storm, ferries may be routed round the island of Comino or cancelled until the weather improves.
Timetable and ticket prices:
- An adult ticket costs €4.65, for children 3 to 12 years old €1.15.
- You can see the current schedule on the official Gozo Channel website.
I want to note that if you’re traveling by public transport, there’s not much point in looking at the ferry schedule. There are buses from Valletta and all touristic centers to Čirkeva, and the X1 bus even takes you to the ferry right from the airport, so you’ll arrive 10-15 minutes before the ferry departure, if the bus doesn’t get stuck in a traffic jam of course.
It’s impossible to get lost in Chirkev with all your desire. There is only one ferry, accordingly, there is only one berth; the whole way from the entrance of the terminal building to the ferry is fenced with ribbons, and it’s difficult to make a step to the right or to the left. The passageway to the ferry is only open for boarding.
In Gozo, the ferry arrives at the port of Mjarr ish-Shini, or simply Mjarr. There is also a pier for private yachts.
The buses stop right outside the terminal building. The bus stop is right in front of the terminal and while you walk from the door to the bus, you’ll be offered cabs and excursions at every turn. The choice is yours.
There is no center as such on Gozo. Of course, there is the capital of the island of Victoria, but tourists are sent to Gozo not only and, perhaps, not so much for the sake of its capital. Those who are attracted to the island by nature may not go to Victoria at all. But if you want to start in the capital, bus numbers 301, 303, 322 will take you there from the ferry terminal.
When is the season. When is the best time to go.
The season on Gozo, as well as on Malta, is a relative concept. If we are talking about swimming, it is, of course, summer. It does not vary from year to year, but we can say that the Gozitan summer is about mid-May to October. It may be hot in May, but the sea is a bit cold. Still, given the size of Gozo and its infrastructure, it is not a massive beach holiday destination.
If the purpose is not to swim, and to walk in nature, to take pictures of landscapes – it is certainly not summer. Quietly wander in the middle of the day, without the risk of getting burnt, you can from mid-October, better from November to early January and in March – April. In January – February it often rains with strong winds. But then again, it does not happen every year.
Get a general idea of prices for tours to Malta can be found here.
Gozo in summer
Summer is not the best time to go to Gozo. Yes, the island has a few sandy beaches, but they are small, there is almost no infrastructure.
There is a large disco on the island, but in general with entertainment is scarce. Although, for lovers of silence Gozo will do. In Malta in the summer crowds of tourists, but there are quieter.
For walks in the nature it is too hot, besides, in an average (in sense, without weather anomalies) year the greenery is burnt out already in the middle of May. The worst thing is not the temperature as such, although with high humidity and 30 degrees are perceived as 40, the main “inconvenience” is a very strong sun.
Roughly as in the photo above, it looks like summer Gozo.
Gozo in Autumn.
Not a bad time to go to Gozo – October and November. It is still warm, no longer hot, in October the sea is usually warm. But in November, it can begin to rain. Fewer tourists than in summer.
There is an important nuance: from September to late January in Malta is open season for hunting birds. On Gozo, there are not many hunters, but very many. And the island is tiny, so encounters with them are very likely. You don’t want to trespass on the private property of hunters marked with bushy RTO signs.
In the state of Malta, the issue of bird hunting is a sore subject. Locals have been hunting migratory birds since time immemorial. But these days, conservationists (mostly from the continent) try in every way to limit hunting, obsessively monitor hunters and try to photograph any violations. So hunters are a priori wary of any stranger with a camera. Even if he’s not photographing anyone yet.
Gozo in spring.
Spring, in my opinion, is the best time to go to Gozo. Gozo is beautiful in spring! It’s not very hot yet (sunscreen is already needed!), but the rains are not as frequent as in winter.
The main thing is that the island is covered with flowers, the fields are scarlet with blooming clover, the air smells of honey… Paradise, in a word.
Strangely enough, there are not so many tourists on the island at this wonderful time.
Gozo in winter
In winter on Gozo, as well as on Malta, it often rains and showers, there are hail, all this can be accompanied by a very strong wind, and the wind blows even without rain. If it is stormy, you can not get to the island, because there is no ferry.
Gozo – weather by month
What are the prices for holidays
Prices for holidays in hotels depend on the level and season, as elsewhere. In “Kempinski San Lorenz” a room can cost up to 600 € per night, and the hostel, which in Gozo is a private house where you rent rooms, you can settle for up to 20 € per person per night. If you don’t stay in a hotel, but in a farmhouse or apartment, you can save money by buying food in a supermarket and cooking yourself. And, of course, you can save money if you move by public transport, rather than a cab or rental car.
As for excursions, from my impressions, the most expensive – Russian-speaking. In the tourist shops, which are easy to find in both Mjarra and Victoria, you can buy cheap ones (from about 10 €) in English. But they are called excursions only conventionally. In fact, you are brought to the declared place by minivan, they say a few words and let you go on your own. This is the cheapest option.
Private sightseeing tours with a personal guide cost from 300 € per day. Group tours in Russian are not organized on Gozo, but in Malta. Tourists are brought for a half or full day and drive around the island in a sightseeing bus. This “pleasure” costs from 50 € per person.
In terms of products, Gozo prices are about the same as in Malta. During the season you can catch cheap fruits and vegetables. For example, a kilo of strawberries in high season (March – April) can be bought for 1.5-2 €. Tomatoes in summer – 1-2 € per kilo. In winter I recommend trying the local oranges. They may not look pretty, but they are very tasty.
But many of the fruits and vegetables are imported and therefore not cheap. Apples a la “one color in winter and one color in summer”, which are sold all year round in Russian supermarkets, cost 2-4 € per kilogram. A liter of milk – about 1 €. Bread is 1.5-2 €, round Maltese bread is cheaper. But a cup of cappuccino costs 1.5 – 1.75 € almost everywhere, except the most posh places.
Note: Vegetables and fruits are better quality and often cheaper not in supermarkets, but from cars. From cars like the ones in the photo above.