Malta’s quiet and rural sister is just a 25 minute ferry from the main island and yet it seems like a different world. With a population of around 90% less than Malta, it’s easy to find some peace and quiet and enjoy the spectacular views. Gozo was famed for the Azure Window at Dwejra, which unfortunately collapsed in 2017 after heavy storms, so we set out to see what else this small rock could offer.
Gozo is only 9 miles long, but we split our time here staying in Għarb in the west and Xagħra in the east.
WHAT TO SEE
Getting to Għarb from the ferry, like most places in Malta and Gozo, is easy. The bus from the ferry will take you to Victoria, the capital and you change at the main bus station for your onward connection.
Għarb is a good base to explore the west of the island, with plenty of coastal hikes and natural wonders to visit. We enjoyed the Wied Il-Mielah, another arch on the coast and the cliff walk around there. Around the site of the former Azure Window, there is also the Blue Hole and Dwejra Inland Sea an inlet through a cave in the cliffs which can be easily reached by bus and on foot.
Ta’ Pinu is a Roman Catholic basilica between Għarb and Għasri and its stunning architecture really stands out against the Gozitan landscape. You can incorporate this into a good loop, walking through the country lanes and farmland to get a taste of the tempo of life here.
The best area for swimming is Xlendi Bay, and if you are feeling energetic, it’s a one hour hike from Għarb, through the beautiful towns of Kerċem and Fontana. Xlendi Bay is at the end of a fertile valley, home to Tortoise Rock and the Wied tax-Xlendi tomb, which looks like it opens and closes as you walk past it from the road.
If you don’t want to swim at Xlendi, you can hike up to see the tower for some great views of the cliffs or climb up the steps on the right of the bay to visit Caroline Cave. There are also plenty of places to eat and drink here.
The sites near Xaghra are worth a visit, with three beaches within its vicinity its a popular destination for families and couples; Marsalforn Beach is more developed with mini beaches spread across its bay (little sand, more pebbley), there is a wide range of waterside resturants, bars and apartments. Ramla Bay and San Blas Beach are the only two beaches on the island that are sandy. Don’t expect the fine sanded beaches of other Mediterranean islands here but they do provide a place to swim and to cool down on a hot summers day.
If you walk beyond Marsalforn Beach, to the west along the coastal paths, you will come across some old Salt Pans before arriving at Wied il-Għasri – a small narrow valley filled with water, providing a great spot to swim. It’s popular at the weekends, so do come early.
In the centre of Xaghra there is a an archaeological site Ġgantija with two well preserved Neolithic Temples dating back to 3600 BC along with a brand new visitor centre. There is an entry fee to pay but for history buffs, this is one to add to your list of things to see.
Also known as Ir-Rabat, Victoria is the capital of Gozo and you will most likely change buses here. The city itself is compact, but it is easy to spend a day or so exploring. The main draw here is the citadel, which is free to enter, but if you want to see any of the exhibits, you will need to buy a ticket for around 5 Euros. You can also visit (after paying a donation) some former bunkers where local people hid during the war. The citadel is built around the cathedral, which still runs services. It’s a great place to wander around and offers a good bit of shade from the sun.
WHERE TO STAY & EAT
In Gharb, we stayed at the beautiful Spectacular View Homestay, we highly recommend this place – it really does offer great views over both the coast and the hills. There is a good sized supermarket a minute walk away and a couple of restaurants scattered around this small town. The owner Philip was very friendly, respected our privacy and and responded to our messages fairly quickly. There are four rooms available, one fully self contained and the other rooms have access to a shared kitchen (but all have private bathrooms).
In Xaghra, we stayed at Gizimina House 2 found on Airbnb, probably one of the cheapest rooms we found in Gozo at the time. The traditional built house, features large rooms, tall ceilings, private bathrooms, shared kitchen and a swimming pool for all guests to use. Our host, Mark was very welcoming and kept the place very clean.
For more accommodation options check out Booking.com and Airbnb (click here for £25/$30 off your first booking). We recommend self catering apartments if you are on a tight budget.
As we self catered, we did not eat out but there are many places to eat and drink in Victoria (a short bus ride away). There a couple resturants and cafes in village centres of Gharb and Xaghra, with outdoor seating where you can stop to have a drink or two.
- The distance from Malta Airport to Victoria Gozo can take 2-3 hours (via. bus and ferry crossing). Allow sufficient time for flights and factor in any potential traffic (it can be bad on Malta island causing delays along the main route up to the Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal). Depending what time you arrive in Malta, if its in the evening we recommend you stay a night in Malta before making the journey to Gozo. Ferry crossings are frequent, check the timetable here: www.gozochannel.com For buses, go to: www.publictransport.com.mt
- A passenger return ferry ticket between Gozo and Malta costs €4.65 and is valid for up to a year, so keep your ticket safe as it can be used again for your return. Buses stop right outside of the ferry terminal in Gozo and are normally timed with the ferry arrivals.
- There are many hiking opportunities in Gozo and its a great way to explore the island particularly round its rugged coastline. Signs and maps are sparse (some non-existent), many paths will have have a spray painted arrow to show you the way to walk. Be careful not to trespass on private land. and take care in the midday sun (there is very little shade in the open countryside). You can find some trails on the free mobile app Maps.Me (download the Malta region for offline use).
- Many shops outside Victoria close early on Sunday (usually around midday).
- The best time to visit Gozo is between March – October, we went in September and into October which was pleasantly warm with mostly sunny days. Many resorts close outside these months, where rain and strong gales can occur.
Check out this video I made in Gozo and Malta using my DJI Mavic Pro Drone: