Water sloshes. Caves glimmer. A metal ladder gleams. The wind caresses your back. You roll over, throw a tee shirt over your face, and continue to bask in the sun. Welcome to Gozo.
With peak tourist season in Europe heating up, many people are seeking out alternatives to the more crowded sites of alcohol necking and sun burning. But while some are trading Magdaluf for Malta, Lagos for Lipari, Ibiza for Interlaken – you get the picture – might we suggest yet a further alternative? Trade Malta for Gozo. That’s right: even though Malta is a beautiful, quieter alternative to somewhere like Magaluf, Gozo is even quieter than Malta (and it’s right next to it).
This in mind, here’s your ultimate guide to Gozo – Malta’s cooler sister. From where to go when it’s windy, to where to go for a fancy dinner (or a more casual beachside pizza), as well as advice on the best mode of transport (so you don’t end up spending hundreds on Ubers, or walking 10km in the burning sun, like I did), here’s your low down.
Table of contents
- What Is Gozo?
- History Of Gozo
- How To Get To Gozo
- Best Places To Visit In Gozo
- Top Tips For Visiting Gozo
What Is Gozo?
Gozo is an island. It’s 13km long and 7km wide. It sits north (and a little bit to the left) of Malta. It’s a great place to relax, and has an incredible history. The main languages spoken are Maltese and English. It is separated from Malta by water. Between them sits Comino, an even smaller island with an incredible Blue Lagoon.
History Of Gozo
Gozo’s history goes back to 5000 B.c. when a group of people from Sicily crossed over on some kind of boat or raft. These people are said to have lived in caves around Il-Mixta on Ghajn Abdul Plateau on the outskirts of San Lawrenz village, to the north-west of Gozo. Since then, various people have taken over Gozo, from the mysterious ones that built the Ggantija Temples, which are documented as the oldest free-standing structure in the world, to bronze age people, Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Europeans, the Knights of St John, the French and the British.
Malta and Gozo became formally a British crown colony in 1813 and the island became a fortress colony, now best known for its resistance to the Axis bombardments during the second World War.
According to the Gozo Tourism Association: “Malta and Gozo became a sovereign independent state within the commonwealth on 21 September 1964 and were declared a Republic on 13 December 1974.
The website adds: “Though ruled from Malta from time immemorial Gozo has had semi-autonomous governments several times in its history, the last being the Gozo civic council between 1961 and 1973.”
“The island is now governed like any other part of the Maltese islands. The executive functions of the central Government are carried out through the Ministry for Gozo, established on 14 May 1987.”
How To Get To Gozo
Gozo is accessible via either a Fast Ferry or a (slower) car ferry from Valetta (the main port in Malta). The fast ferry takes 45 minutes. The car ferry takes a bit longer. The fast ferry operates 63 times a week, with one leaving roughy every hour. It stops operating occasionally is the wind is extremely strong. But this is pretty rare (and in those cases you can just get the slower ferry). Essentially: to get to Gozo, fly to Malta, then get the fast ferry to Gozo, from Valletta port.
Best Places To Visit In Gozo
Gozo is home to incredible sites of natural beauty, as well as mind-blowing ‘stone henge esque’ historic monuments. There are also some great places to eat and drink. Here are the best ones to visit.
If you like sunbathing, cliff diving, drinking “pineapple with any alcohol,” people watching, kayaking or waterskiing then this is the spot for you. It’s also a place where a lot of the Scuba diving and boating tours leave from. Top tip: if you walk (or swim) around the rocks to the right (when looking out at the ocean) you’ll find a much less crowded area where you can swim and snorkel away from the crowds. There are also some cool caves to carefully swim inside.
Calypso Cave is a cavern at the top of a cliff, overlooking Ramla Bay. It was mentioned in Homer’s Odyessy, and features in thousands of Instagram posts (like the epic photo above, taken by @rhystthehuman_). You can get to it by walking about a kilometre (first across the beach, and then up the cliff trail) from the entrance to Ramla Bay beach. Or you can drive to the top (which I realised after I had walked up) and walk down through the back entrance to the cave. From inside Calypso Cave you have expansive views over the beach and the coast.
The Inland Sea
An inland lagoon at Dwejra in Gozo is connected to the sea by a jaw dropping, almost 80 metre long canyon. It’s a great place to have a coffee, sunbake, swim, snorkel and jump off the rocks. A bit of a microcosm of the rest of your Gozo trip, probably.
The Azure Window (What’s Left Of It, Anyway) & The Blue Hole
Around the corner from the inland sea at Dwejra used to be one of the most famous natural attractions in the world – The Azure Window. Unfortunately, it collapsed in 2017. Now it is a collapsed natural arch, which you can still go and have a look at. The nearby rock pool (The Blue Hole) is quite a nice spot too, if the waves aren’t too big. Oh and did you know part of Game of Thrones was filmed near here? Once you visit, you’ll see why.
Bonus tip: if you want to see a non-collapsed arch, check out Wied il-Mielah, which is located about 15 minutes away from The Azure Window.
The Salt Pans
The Xlendi Salt Pans are another must-see part of Gozo. A popular wedding spot during the evening, they are great to check out during the day (and there are also a few beach kiosks somewhat nearby to have a drink and a pizza afterwards). They make you feel like you are in Star Wars’ Tatooine… if Tatooine had an ocean next to it.
If you want to check out the city from up high, or if you are a history enthusiast, this is a great spot to visit. Oh, and there is free wifi all over the place in bars and cafes nearby. 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 amongst the earliest free-standing stone buildings in the world and, UNESCO considers them “remarkable for their diversity of form and decoration.”
Per 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
Though not technically on Gozo (the Blue Lagoon is on Comino) you can’t currently stay on Comino, so Gozo is probably your best bet to visit the Blue Lagoon. You can either do this via a boat tour or by Kayak (or by Jetski). The Blue Lagoon looked like a bit of a party boat spot when I visited (think: slides from boats into the water, music, etc.), but there are also quiet areas around the Comino island where you can swim and snorkel in peace.
Top Tips For Visiting Gozo
Hire A Quadbike Or Scooter
Though Gozo has some rather terrifying drivers, if you are happy to take your chances with a quadbike or scooter, you will save yourself a lot of time and hassle. I tried getting around on foot on day one, walking 10km from my accommodation to the Azure Window (and getting sunstroke in the process).
I then got an Uber home which took a while to arrive to Dwejra (Uber had only just been introduced to the island) and was expensive. On day two I used public transport which was ok, but slow (and still meant to get to a lot of the places I wanted to go, I had to walk a fair bit, as the bus rarely drops you right at the beach).
Then on days three and four I got a scooter and had a blast. If you are just visiting the island for two days, I highly recommend getting a quad bike from where you arrive on the ferry. You will save yourself a lot of money on taxis, and it’s a lot easier to get to the coolest attractions than it is on public transport (and means less walking up hills).
Download eCabs and Bolt
Uber has only just been introduced to Gozo (as of June 2022), so your best bet for rideshare hailing is to download all three (from what I understand Bolt and eCabs are slightly cheaper than Uber, and substantially cheaper than hailing a cab).
Go to Qbajjar Restaurant Gozo
My favourite restaurant on the island by far.
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 centre or the south, and then use that money to rent a scooter or quad and explore all over. Also – if it’s super windy on whatever side of the island you’re on, if you pop over to the over side you’ll probably find a protected cove somewhere.