Going to Malta without visiting its little sister island Gozo would be like going to New York City without going to Brooklyn. Which is something a lot of people do, but in my opinion, they’re missing out on a big part of the overall experience. The same goes for Malta and Gozo. Of course you can visit just Malta and still love your time there, but taking the quick ferry ride over to Gozo just puts the finishing touch to your Malta experience.
Luckily Gozo is small enough to fit it in as a day trip from Malta. Remember Malta is so small that you can drive across the island from north to south in about 45 minutes, and Gozo is only 1/3 of Malta’s size! That should give you an idea of how little this island is. You can basically get off the ferry in the morning and hike across the island (14km long/7km wide) and catch a ride back on the evening ferry back to Malta.
Despite the island’s teeny size, there’s no need to walk though (unless you want to!); there is actually a range of transportation options to choose from. My travel buddies Umei and Rob went for the easiest option: the hop-on hop-off bus that conveniently waits for day trippers right outside the ferry terminal and gives you the freedom to hop off at several points of interest in Gozo.
While driving through the green, lush countryside, I already noticed that the island felt much more rural and laid-back than Malta – which is already a pretty laid-back and tranquil place! But, if you are looking for clubs or nightlife, you’ve come to the wrong place. Gozo is all about slowing down. If I was looking to go on a digital detox, Gozo would be a perfect place to do that.
There are a number of agriturismos, basically farmhouses turned into vacation homes, scattered across the island, some of them offering self-catering options, others providing full board including meals prepared with fresh, locally-grown produce.
And that’s the right way to experience Malta anyway – by digging into the local cuisine, try Maltese cheeses (including Gozo’s own cheese named Gbejniet) and wine, olives and seafood, vegetables with fresh pasta. We chose to make Victoria, Gozo’s cute capital with a population of just over 6,000, our first stop.
After exploring the little town for a while, strolling through narrow cobble-stoned streets, across wide-open plazas and passing beautiful churches (Malta has 359 churches, 46 of which are on Gozo), it was time to head up the hill to visit the grand Citadel that sits on its throne above the city, and is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
We stopped for lunch at Ta’Rikardu inside the citadel, where everything that’s served is locally produced, including the wine. While it wasn’t the best wine we had tried (for an excellent selection of Maltese wines I recommend Gululu in St Julian’s on Malta), it was definitely the cheapest, at 6.50 Euros per bottle!
Stuffed to the gills we continued our tour of Gozo, and I could see why some people choose to spend their entire vacation here and disregard the main island of Malta completely. With nothing to offer but its exceptional natural beauty, it is easy to recharge your batteries here and get away from the hectic city life and a stressful job.
You could rent a car to get around, but I’d probably take day hikes to the hidden bays and beaches of Gozo, where you’ll barely come across another soul, especially during the shoulder seasons in April/May and September/October. With all the hiking, I wouldn’t even have to feel guilty about devouring Maltese pastries and pastizzis, pasta and wine.
Gozo is not only popular with hikers though, but also with divers. And when we reached the Azure Window in Dweijra, a magnificent 28m (92 ft) high limestone arch over the Mediterranean, I can see why. Right here next to this remarkable rock formation sits the Blue Hole, one of the most renowned diving locations in the world. Since there are no reefs around the island, you can dive deep into the Mediterranean right off the cliffs that border the island.
As we passed little villages and untouched nature, terraced fields and little farmhouses surrounded by green meadows on our way back to the ferry, I wished I had more time there to take in the beauty of the island. Gozo, I have a feeling it’s not the last time I will see you.
You can get to Gozo in 25 minutes via ferry. If you rent a car at the airport in Luqa, just follow the road signs to Gozo and you’ll end up right at the ferry terminal in Cirkewwa.
If you don’t have a car, you can take the public bus from Valletta or Sliema to the ferry terminal. Gozo has a good bus network and a day ticket is only €2.60. You can find an overview of public transport in Malta here.
Ferries run every 45 minutes during the summer, and a little less frequent during the winter. You can check the ferry timetable here. A ticket is €4.65 for a return ticket, or €4.05 in the off season.
Taking your rental car to Gozo will give you more flexibility and the chance to explore more of the island – and definitely consider staying for a night or two! The ferry ticket for a car plus driver is €12.80.
Hop-on hop-off buses leave right from the ferry terminal and go every 45 minutes. Make sure to take an early ferry to make the most of your day if you use the hop-on hop-off bus – the 45 minute wait is quite long in some places (like at the stunning church of Xewkija which you can visit in less time). A day ticket is €22.50 (including audio guide).
Places you shouldn’t miss include: The Citadel and the town of Victoria, the former fishing village of Marsalforn with its long stretch of beach, the Azure Window and the Inland Sea near Dweijra (you can take a boat tour that combines both), the Blue Lagoon off the coast of neighboring Comino (ferries leave from Mgarr, the port town in Gozo, regularly – check times here), the Ggantija Temples, Ta’ Pinu Basilica, Ramla Bay for the best beach experience, and the picturesque villages of Gharb, Xewkija and San Lawrenz.
You can find some ideas for walks on Gozo here.
Check out Gozo.com for accommodation on the island, including farmhouses, B&Bs and hostels!
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