Gozo – don’t let it’s small size fool you. This beautiful island is ‘little sister’ to larger, livelier Malta, but it has a unique charm and can well and truly hold its own as a European holiday paradise. I’ve told you before of just some of the gems you could enjoy on a villa holiday to Gozo, but I couldn’t resist another look at this captivating destination.
Just a 25-minute ferry ride from Malta across the calm, blue Med and you’re there. Gozo is greener, more rural and delightfully traditional. It’s perfect for those who want to stray of the tourist trail a little, and experience somewhere more authentic.
Surrounded by turquoise waters, the coastline of Gozo stretches out for almost 50 kilometres and is lined with striking cliffs and beautiful beaches – many with the island’s renowned ochre-coloured sands. But Gozo is more than just a pretty face, and let me tell you why…
Still known as Rabat by the locals, Gozo’s principle city is Victoria – given its name after the 1887 Queen’s jubilee. Literally the heart of the island, all roads lead to this incredible capital, but you’re still never far away from the nearest coastline, so exploration is a must! You can’t miss the Il-Kastell fortress, which dominates the city skyline. Imposing, impressive – you’ll wonder how such a spectacle could preside over somewhere so charmingly tiny. Likewise St George’s Basilica – a stunning baroque church – will surprise you still further with its magnificence sat within a myriad of alleyways to explore.
I love the idea of a city walk, where you’re able to poke your head around the door of small local shops and wander the lanes, before finally resting outside a café at the Banca Giuratale square. You’re bound to get chatting to the welcoming and friendly locals, spending a quiet afternoon watching the world go by. What you’ll gleam from all of this? That life in Gozo takes a more leisurely pace, and it’s a great place to slow down, unwind and soak up the ambience.
From the largest city in Gozo, I’m keen to talk about its smallest village – Ghasri. Overlooked by the mysterious Ta Gurdan Lighthouse atop Gordan Hill, Ghasri is home to a striking church and a village square. If you get to the top of the lighthouse, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the island and coastline, and nearby you can find the Ghasri Valley which is a fantastic spot for cycling and hiking. Ghasri is a superb hub for exploring the rest of Gozo, as it’s home to some wonderful, traditional properties, such as Villa Orchidea.
Dive a little deeper
Gozo may be small, but it’s well and truly on the map of diving enthusiasts the world over. The Mediterranean waters surrounding the island are incredibly clear, making it possible to dive and snorkel year round, with a whole host of amazing creatures, from parrotfish to octopods. The unique landscape has also forged many world-famous dive sites. At the foot of the limestone cliffs, numerous caves are just waiting to be explored, full of colourful rock formations and coral, which are alive with schools of fish, supported by the warm waters of the southern Med.
I’ve already told you about Gozo’s incredible Blue Hole, but if you’re new to diving you might want to check out the small fishing village of Xlendi – it’s great for beginner divers with shallow waters and a sheltered bay. Better still, more experienced divers can explore the shipwrecks of Xatt l-Ahmar bay, near to the village of Mġarr, which are truly incredible to see!
Small but splendid Gozo is full of surprises, and one of the biggest (in name and reputation) are the Ġgantija Temples. Named from the word “ġgant” – Maltesse for ‘giant’, legend has it that the temples were built by these creatures. No surprise the myth has stuck considering the vast blocks that have stood the test of time in remarkable shape. In fact, the structures of Ġgantija are older even than the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge. The two Neolithic temples side by side are a real treat for history lovers, but the staggering structures can’t fail but to amaze anyone with their mighty slabs and rounded rocks a seemingly impossible feat of engineering!
Gozo’s best beaches
Even amid all these impressive sights, one of Gozo’s most stand-out features will always be the simple brilliance of its beaches and the beauty of its natural landscape. The whole island is dotted with wonderful sands – some of them are even a spectacular orange-red colour, like the beach at Ramla l-Hamra on the northern coast of Gozo, which you really must hunt out on your villa holiday.
A short ferry or water taxi ride from Gozo will also bring you to the tiny island of Comino, home to one of the Maltese archipelago’s most stunning inlets – the Blue Lagoon. A sheltered bay, the crystal clear waters are ideal for snorkelling and swimming. Try taking a boat out and spending the day relaxing in this paradise, with no cars and hardly any permanent inhabitants – it’s pure heaven.
Finally, not a beach as such, but impossible not to mention is the most iconic landmark of Gozo – the Azure Window. A huge natural limestone arch, photographers and artists alike visit Gozo to try and capture it and the vivid blue of the sky and the Mediterranean through it.
Limestone surely has to be a national treasure. Not only does it help make up the brilliance of the island’s landscape, Gozo’s temples, churches and buildings are crafted from it. Even many of the traditional villas are made from the beautiful stone, honey-coloured in the hot Mediterranean sun.