“You’re going to LOVE Gozo, don’t miss it,” I was repeatedly told by friends who had visited Malta before I had and knew of my love of villages, slow food, and the rustic charms of countryside living. They were right.
The second largest island in the Maltese archipelago (Malta, being the largest), Gozo, home to a population of just 30,000, called Gozitan, not Maltese, was perhaps my favorite part of the country. By the way, the name Gozo translates to ‘joy’ and to me, the name is certainly fitting. Just an easy ferry ride away from its sister island of Malta, Gozo couldn’t be more different with rolling fields, rustic farms, hilltop villages, ancient sites, gorgeous bays, and days that somehow feel less rushed, though that just might be the excellent Gozitan wine.
Gozo was also home to Malta’s famous geological feature, the limestone arch called the Azure Window that collapsed in 2017. But there’s plenty more to see and do in Gozo. For those who like diving, there are some incredible diving sites around the island, some considered the best in the world. More importantly, visiting Gozo is about experiencing life outside of the cities in Malta and enjoying clean air, fresh local produce and beautiful nature. Here are the best things to do in Gozo.
10 Best Things to Do in Gozo
1. Visit the Pre-historic Ggantija Temples
The megalithic Ggantija Temples in Gozo, over 5,500 years old, are among the oldest freestanding structures in the world, built between 3600 and 3200 B.C, and are older (by over a 1000 years) than Stonehenge and the Pyramids in Giza, yet, it’s surprising that not more people have heard of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples are one of the top places to visit in Gozo.
At this site in Xagħra, there are two temples, believed to be dedicated to a fertility deity. ‘Ggantija’ comes from the Maltese word for giants; it was believed that these temples were constructed by a race of giants, considering that some of the stones weigh over 50 tons. The temples are built of hard coralline and softer globigerina limestone and it’s kind of incredible that these structures have withstood the test of time.
It seems like the civilization that built these temples disappeared around 2500BC for reasons that are not known. There’s an Interpretation Center at the entrance before you get to a pathway to the temples with interesting exhibits and background information.
By the way, there are more megalithic temple sites in Malta as well as other archaeological sites on Gozo, which is kind of fascinating when you think about the fact that these were constructed before modern tools had been invented.
2. Tuck into Fresh Produce & Taste Local Wines at Ta’ Mena Estate
Joseph Spiteri, the owner of Ta’ Mena Estate, is a passionate man who doesn’t mince words. Showing us around his family-run estate, he talked of his relationship to the land and its bountiful produce; a love that perhaps grew stronger through moments like when his sister and he would put name tags ‘Joe’ and ‘Margaret’ to claim the first pears of the season. Named after his late mother Carmela (Mena) who founded it, the estate that started off over two hectares is now spread over 25 hectares and includes a fruit garden, an olive grove with 1500 olive trees, an orange grove and a vineyard.
An advocate of the slow food movement, he despises the idea of low quality produce to make a quick profit or keep costs low. While many farms couldn’t cope with the high costs of maintaining the quality of organic produce, Ta’ Mena Estate has evolved. Not only do they grow their produce (olives, lemons, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, melons and other fruits and vegetables) organically, without the use of pesticides and chemicals, they also produce their own wine, liqueurs and a unique cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. To make it sustainable, they’ve added agritourism offerings such as events and weddings, wine tasting, winery and estate tours, and a farm-style lunch to the mix.
After a tour of the farm featuring a showstopper-worthy peacock and his favorite pet goat Dolly, whom he lovingly refers to as ‘Sabiha’ (translates to lovely), we were treated to a platter of fresh produce; tomatoes with flavor that just bursts into your mouth, aged peppered cheese, sundried tomatoes, fresh lettuce, delicious olives, and the tastiest sausages I’ve ever had along with bread and kunserva helwa (tomato sauce matured in the sun- unlike anything you’ve ever tasted), washed down with a glass of their amazing Juel Vermentino wine (must-buy if you’re interested in taking back bottles of local wine).
If you’re visiting Gozo, I highly recommend visiting Ta’ Mena Estate for a quick tour, wine tasting and tour or a delicious meal in their lovely estate. You can also buy wine, cheese, olive oil, olives, capers, pâtés, jams and other fresh produce from their store here or their boutique winery in Xewkija; it’s great quality for a very reasonable price. Just be sure to call and check/book in advance.
Fun fact: Some Maltese and Gozitan wines have a salty aftertaste because the vineyards are close to the sea and the grapes absorb some of the salt. I only drank local wines in the country and absolutely loved each one, but the Gozitan Juel Vermentino was my favorite.
3. Visit The Old City of Victoria (Rabat)
The capital Victoria, still called by its original name Rabat (meaning suburb) by Gozitans is the main town on the island of Gozo and has been the center of cultural and commercial activity since it was formed. The town exists outside the fortified walls of the Citadel that rises up above the area and served as a safe refuge for locals during the threat of Turkish invasion.
While a visit to the Citadel is a definite highlight of visiting Rabat, take some time to explore Pjazza Indipendenza and the market stalls at it-Tokk, in the main square of the town. Wander in the old streets around St. George’s Basilica, shop for souvenirs at Republic Street, and relax in the Villa Rundle Public Gardens or at one of the town’s quaint cafés.
4. Explore the Citadel in Rabat
A trip to Gozo would be incomplete without a visit to the fortified Citadel that crowns the town of Rabat. After the Great Siege of 1565 and until 1637, the residents of Gozo were required to sleep within the fortified walls of the Citadel for their safety in case of a Turkish attack. Today, the Citadel is home to just six residents.
Allow yourself at least an hour or two to explore the Citadel and its sights such as Gozo Cathedral, the Cathedral Museum, Museum of Archaeology, Folklore Museum, Old Prison, Old Gunpowder Magazine, Grain Silos, Battery and World War II Shelter. Afterwards, you’ll want to walk around the medieval walls and spend a few minutes appreciating the fantastic panoramic views over Gozo.
5. Enjoy the Sandy Beach at Ramla Bay
The reddish golden sandy beach of Ramla Bay in Gozo is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Malta, so be sure to spend some time here swimming or snorkeling in the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean or just relaxing on the beach. There are also other beaches in Gozo, if you’re staying longer.
6. Take a Boat to the Blue Lagoon and Comino
The tiny island of Comino lies between the islands of Malta and Gozo, and is home to just three residents (who work at its only hotel), a chapel, watchtower, spectacular dive spots, gorgeous blue waters, laidback beaches and natural caves. When in Gozo, taking a chartered boat out to Comino and the Blue Lagoon should be on top of your list of things to do.
You’ll want your visit to the Blue Lagoon to be unrushed; the crystal clear water is the kind of blue you think exists only in edited photos with their saturation turned up and the concept of time seems irrelevant when you’re in a place as peaceful and beautiful. You can easily spend a few hours here swimming, snorkeling or soaking in the serenity of the Mediterranean. In summer, the lagoon can get pretty crowded, so try to go to early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid other tourists. We went with skipper Kevin of Galaxy Charters (who has some great reviews by the way).
7. Visit Marsalforn Bay
Visit Marsalforn Bay, one of the most beautiful bays on the island of Gozo and spend some time relaxing on the beach, snorkeling or enjoying an al fresco lunch along its promenade. Tuck into fresh seafood at Il-Kartell restaurant where it’s hard to decide which one is better, the food or the view of the bay. If you’re looking for good dive spots, then get in touch with the many dive schools located close to the promenade at Marsalforn Bay.
8. Go Diving in Gozo
Gozo is full of spectacular dive sites such as Xlendi and Mgarr-ix-Xini, with wrecks, boat dives and shore dives, and rich marine life, so if you’re staying a couple of days, you should definitely go diving in the azure, crystal clear waters. There are plenty of dive schools so whether or not you’ve dived before, there are courses and sites suitable for all levels. You can only dive if you’ve registered with a licensed dive center.
9. Get Active in Gozo
If you’re spending a few days on Gozo, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy and active such as rock-climbing and abseiling in Dwejra and Ta Cenc, biking along the coastal routes and through villages, country walks and watersports such as kayaking, canoeing, water-skiing and wakeboarding.
10. Visit the Qbajjar Salt Pans
Make a quick stop at the Qbajjar Salt Pans Bay to learn how salt is harvested from the sea. These salt pans, carved out of natural limestone, consist of pits to collect salt water and let it evaporate, leaving behind mineral-rich rock salt. The Qbajjar Salt Pans are run by the Cini family that has a history of sea salt harvesting spanning 250 years, and most of the harvesting methods and tools used today are the same as those used in the old days. Don’t forget to buy some sea salt during your visit.
How to Get to Gozo
Regular ferries run between the islands of Malta and Gozo, transporting both passengers and cars. The Malta to Gozo ferry takes about 25 minutes. There are over 20 departures on the Gozo Channel line daily, departing from Cirkewwa in Malta and Mgarr in Gozo, you can check schedules here. But during peak season, these fill up pretty quickly with locals and tourists and once full, you won’t be allowed to board. So to avoid waiting 45 minutes for the next ferry, get there at least 20-30 minutes before departure.
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How to Get Around Gozo
You can rent a car or bicycle to get around in Gozo or use public transportation such as taxis and buses. There’s also a Hop-on Hop-off bus in Gozo to get around the main sights over one or two days. Alternatively, do a full-day Quad Bike Tour of Gozo.
You can charter a boat to visit the Blue Lagoon and Comino.
How Much Time to Spend in Gozo
If you’re on a short trip, Gozo is an easy day trip from Malta, but one you must definitely do if you are not staying longer. If you’ve got more time, I suggest spending one, two, or even four days in Gozo, after all Gozo is well-connected to Malta and there are some amazing farmhouses and boutique hotels to stay at in Gozo. Accommodation in Gozo can be more affordable than Malta, so it’s a good idea to base yourself there for a part of your trip.
Where to Stay in Gozo
In Gozo you can stay at boutique hotels or in farmhouses that are full of character and are an ideal way to experience rustic Gozitan countryside living but in totally luxurious and big homes. Most farmhouses come with modern amenities, spacious rooms with en-suite bathrooms, garden areas, and most even have their own pool.
Here are some farmhouses in Gozo to check out:
If you’d rather stay at a hotel, The Duke Boutique Hotel in Victoria is a bed and breakfast boutique hotel that has reasonably priced chic, modern rooms, a suite with its own hot tub, and rooms and suites with views of the Citadel and Rabat.
Fun fact: Gozo has been the filming location for many films such as By The Sea (starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) and Swept Away (starring Madonna). Gozo is also believed to be the island of the sea nymph Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus was held captive for seven years until he escaped.
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Visiting Malta? Here’s what you need to know about the capital Valletta, the European Capital of Culture 2018.
I visited Malta as a guest of the Malta Tourism Authority. All opinions are, as always, honest and independent. I would never recommend experiences that I haven’t or wouldn’t book for myself. Some links in this post are affiliate links.
Have you visited Gozo yet? Would you consider Malta and Gozo for your next holiday?