Gozo is one of the three islands of the Maltese archipelago situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, just 95km south of Sicily. It is smaller, more remote and less built-up than its sister island Malta, but it is a popular destination in its own right, particularly for more mature British and German couples and those who wish to immerse themselves in the culture of the place. With its pretty if unspectacular countrysides, beautiful sunsets, spectacular coastlines and a high concentration of churches, alongside historic fortifications and megalithic temples it makes a good excursion from Malta and an even better destination for a peaceful and relaxing short break.
There are also a number of small villages on the island:
Some settlements are used primarily as summer residences and will be mostly deserted during the winter months are:
One sometimes gets the sense that Gozo is how Malta could have been in years gone by. With the exceptions of Marsalforn and Xlendi, it has been largely spared from over development, the traditional way of life has been largely preserved, and the land has been maintained better, thus giving a more fertile ground. Buildings and houses in Gozo are mainly constructed with natural materials, as opposed to many of the concrete and breeze-block constructions on the mainland.
Gozo's history is intimately linked to Malta. It shares its megalithic culture, and with the Ggantija temples, it is officially home of the oldest structure on the planet. Interestingly, Gozo up until the end of medieval times was inhabited in a manner the same as Malta, with Mġarr and Victoria/Rabat being to Gozo what Vittoriosa and Mdina are to Malta: the main port and the main settlement consisting of a citadel and surrounding suburbs. The inhabitants of Gozo were, in medieval times, required by law to return to the Citadella each evening to spend the night there to prevent corsairs from abducting them. These measures were proven to be necessary when, in 1551, the Turks tried their first invasion of Malta. When they failed, they attacked Gozo and took the entire population off in ships to sell them into slavery.
The language spoken in Gozo is Maltese, although there are different dialects throughout different parts of the country. The Gozitans speak Maltese with a slightly different and quaint accent, people from the different Gozitan villages each have their own different dialect. Like the main island, English is also an official language of Gozo and most of the locals have a good grasp of the language.
Getting to Gozo
There is the ferry from Ċirkewwa on Malta to Mġarr, Gozo's main harbor. It departs every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter. A round trip costs €4.65. To get around Gozo, and to visit the best sites have a look at the 'Get Round' section, underneath this paragraph. One can take a 'Hop On Hop Off Bus which starts outside the ferry terminal and this service is synchronized with the ferry arrivals and departures. One can also take the public bus, a taxi or hire a car.
Hop-on Hop-off Bus - sightseeing
This is simply one of the ways to see everything that Gozo has to offer in a day. Seeing Gozo from an open topper bus is a great way to appreciate the ‘Calypso's island’. The open top bus tour of Gozo starts from the harbour of Mgarr. One can 'Hop on and Hop off' at his or her leisure at conveniently located stops along the route. In Gozo, there are a number of hop-on hop-off providers which offer a practical tour service linking all the most popular places of interest on the island and more. Each tour includes an audio commentary in 16 languages.
Start Point: Mgarr
Frequency: 45 mins
Season: All Year Round
Ticket Length: 1 day
For information about this service, please contact one of the following companies:
City Sightseeing Gozo
Operates with a new fleet of air conditioned double decker buses.
The bus system in Gozo is owned and operated by Arriva. The bus tickets that are bought in Malta are not valid in Gozo and vice versa. So the tickets can be purchased directly on the bus where a 2 hour ticket costs €2.20, a 1 day ticket costs €2.60 and a 7 day ticket costs €12.00.
It is a nice way to get around, make new friends and discover new places. Cycling is also a good option, but keep in mind that most of the roads are hilly and there are no clearly marked cycling paths.
If travelling on foot, many of the distances within villages are negligible and most of the roads are fairly quiet and pleasant to walk along. There is also a footpath network, though the paths require good shoes and a good map (they are not always clearly marked on the ground). However, be prepared to walk for longer distances if travelling between different villages, with distances ranging from 1 to 5km from one village to the next.
If you need complete flexibility and want to spend more than just a day in Gozo, one of your options would be to rent a car. You need to be over 21 years old and hold a valid driving license. It's fine to travel to the mainland Malta with a hired car and the only extra charge incurred for doing so will be a pricier ferry ticket at €15.70.
You will find white taxis also on the island of Gozo however these tend to be more expensive than other means of transport. Some taxi drivers are unscrupulous and will try to charge the unsuspecting tourist as much as they can. There is an approximate price list posted at the taxi stand at the boat dock, and another at the bus terminal in Victoria. Don't accept a price that is unreasonably higher than the suggested price. If you end up taking more than one or two taxis a day you are better off if you chose something else.
As Gozo is the breadbasket of Malta, the ground is more fertile, and the place is more rural. Therefore there is more fresh produce to be had. One should definitely try Gozo's own cheese: Gbejniet. This cheese is lovely when had fresh, but also nice when cured with pepper and vinegar.
As on Malta there are vineyards on Gozo, one can often buy unlabeled local wines cheaply but be sure to ask to taste them as quality can vary widely. The shops near the citadel in Victoria/Rabat usually have a good selection.
Gozo is safer than Malta , there is less petty crime.
There is occasionally a strong current on the northern shore, so caution when swimming is advised.
The residents of Gozo are called Gozitans and will be annoyed if you refer to them as Maltese.
Walking, Rambling and Hiking
Gozo is at its best from October to May. The average temperature in this period is around 18C, ideal for rambling around the island. While exploring the island you will see a wide variety of amazing views due to a large number of valleys, hills and small beaches. There is an abundance of abandoned hidden ancient temples and shrines in the countryside. If you are pressed for time and do not have much time to explore, but also want to see the best hidden places, it is best to hire or join a guide that specializes in country walks. Although Gozo is small, once you go to the countryside you will feel that you are alone on the island since you can walk for hours without meeting anybody. During the winter storms, Gozo's seaside is often totally deserted but spectacular with the big waves exploding on big boulders and lofty cliffs.