Beautiful, wild Gozo is the smaller and quieter sister island to Malta
Thought to be Calypso’s outcrop in Homer’s epic Odyssey, Gozo is a place of mystery, intrigue and tranquility. Made up of rugged landscapes, breathtaking coastlines, sleepy settlements and some of the world’s best diving spots, it is the quiet sister to the buzzing island of Malta.
One of three islands that make up the Maltese archipelago, Gozo, which is just 7km wide and 14km long, is blessed with natural and historical sights that can be explored easily by bus, car or on foot.
Just a 25-minute ferry ride from Malta – which is only a three-hour flight from the UK – it is perfect for a twin-centre break. The tiny island of Comino, which lies between the two destinations, is a paradise for snorkellers, divers, windsurfers and ramblers. It is car-free and aside from one hotel, virtually uninhabited.
Meaning joy in Castilian, Gozo has enthralled visitors and settlers for thousands of years. The Byzantines, French, Romans, Arabs and British have lived and ruled over Gozo’s 7,000-years of history, influencing its food, culture and architecture.
Perhaps the greatest influence over the island, however, is Sicily, which is just 80km north of Gozo. In fact, it is thought that Gozo’s first inhabitants crossed over from Sicily in 5,000 BC.
Win a three-night break
Take the new Gozo Course malta-training.com and make a Gozo booking with Mercury Holidays by July 18 for travel in 2021 to be entered into a draw to win a three-night break at the 5* Kempinski Gozo. The prize includes return flights, transfers and hotel stay.
The training course covers seven lessons: Introduction, History and Culture, Where to Stay, Exploring the Capital, Keeping Active, Seasonal Gastronomy and Rest and Rejuvenation.
Where to stay
Victoria, the capital, is blessed with many areas of cultural and historical value, most notably its imposing Citadel, which offers views across the island from its towering fortifications. Its place in the island’s history is significant: until 1637, the Gozitan people were required by law to spend their nights within its walls for their own safety. Around the city’s market and narrow winding streets, you’ll find everything from delicious fresh produce, cheese and wine to antiques, craft goods, fishing nets and knitwear.
Picturesque ix-Xagħra has a rich historical heritage: built on a stretch of high ground northeast of the capital, it is encircled by the bays of Ramla, Għajn Barrani and Marsalforn, providing incredible views and easy access to the beach. It is also home to the famous prehistoric Ġgantija Temples, which date back to 3600 and 3200 BC. L-Għarb, one of Gozo’s oldest traditional villages, offers a distinctively rural experience and is home to renowned craftsmen known for the manufacture of the unique L-Għarb blade, a traditional sharp knife. Xlendi, in the southwest of the Island, is a typical Gozitan fishing village lined with lively cafes and restaurants. It also offers incredible walks into the country, while the bay is popular with divers of all levels.
Ramla Bay, located in between Xaghra and Nadur is a wide stretch of red sand; it’s one of the islands best spots to swim, snorkel and relax. San Blas (main picture), a small and quiet beach, is a favourite with families; while Xlendi Bay is a small tourist resort located in the southwest of Gozo, sat before a quaint fishing village and flanked by high cliffs, where a 17th-century tower sits. The town is surrounded by countryside that provides an opportunity for great walks.
Marsalforn, on the north coast of Gozo, is a popular seaside resort with many tourist facilities, a stone’s throw from Qbajjar Bay, a quiet, shallow bay for swimming and snorkelling. Meanwhile, Hondoq ir-Rummien Bay is found on the south east of the Island, facing Comino, which is small, sandy and popular with swimmers, kayakers and novice divers.
The rocky inlet of Mgarr-ix-Xini, has a small pebbly beach and lots of sea caves making it a divers’ paradise. It provided the backdrop for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s film By the Sea. In the fishermen’s bay of Dahlet Qorrot is a tiny pebble beach, famous for its blue-doored boathouses hewn from the limestone rock.
Gozo offers outdoor adventure in abundance, not least coastal walks and bike rides through quaint little villages and stunning rural landscapes. With a mild, sunny climate and gentile hills, both types of holidays are becoming increasingly popular, with bicycles available for rent from various outlets around Gozo.
For indoor climbers moving outdoors, or experienced climbers, Gozo offers more than 300 sport climbs in over 12 locations, including The Underworld, the North Coast and Wied il-Mielah, while kayaking – which allows visitors to explore Gozo and Comino’s caves – horse-riding holidays and quad bikes offer fantastic ways to see the island in depth.
Of course, Gozo is known for diving – the Maltese Islands are repeatedly named one of the best dives destination in the world. Here, you will find an abundance of reefs, stunning caverns, caves and shipwrecks. In its pristine, transparent, warm and azure waters, there are dives for all levels.
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