I recently had the opportunity to spend several days on the second largest island in Malta, Gozo. While it sounds a little bit like a Muppets character, this island has a lot to offer and is the pastoral retreat most Maltese retire to when it’s time to relax and unwind. Pace of life on the island is without a question laid back and almost immediately I began to realize why so many people love to relax on Gozo. There were several special moments though that didn’t just define my time on Gozo, but I think will define any visitor’s experience on the island.
1. Swimming in the crystal blue waters
More than anything else, Gozo is probably best known for the beautiful waters that surround it. The most popular attraction is actually on the nearby and smaller island of Comino – the Blue Lagoon. Not to be confused with its Icelandic namesake, this lagoon is actually a real lagoon and the azure blue waters are some of the most inviting you’ll ever see. The best way to explore the grottoes and swimming holes around Gozo itself though is by hiring a local captain to take you out on a boat. From hidden beaches tucked away in caves, to gorgeous swimming spots, they’ll know the best places to visit. One of my favorite moments was sitting back on the boat under the warm Maltese sun, dipping my feet in the tepid water and feeling all of my stress melt away. There really is nothing quite like it.
2. Beautiful landscapes
Standing on top of the ancient walls of the Citadel is when it first hit me. Gozo is not your typical island getaway. Sure, the beaches are great but the interior is typically Mediterranean, which means scrubby landscapes that are honestly beautiful in their own way. I couldn’t tear my eyes off of the hills and towns surrounding us and I couldn’t have known it at the time, but that was just the first of many such beautiful encounters. I fell deeper and deeper in love with Gozo’s landscapes as I saw more of this small island. From vineyards to the coastal bluffs, there’s a lot of variety and all of it is absolutely stunning. The best way to experience it for yourself is to hop in a car or on a bus and just see as much of it as you can. Luckily, Gozo isn’t very big and so experiencing the best of its unusual geology can easily be done in a single day.
3. Exploring Victoria
Sitting in a cafe, slowly drinking an expertly prepared espresso and watching the island walk by. Without a doubt, that simple moment was my favorite spent in Victoria, the capital city of Gozo. Also known by the local name Rabat, tourists often travel through Victoria but far too few spend time really exploring it. Reflective of the island it calls home, Victoria is not large but it doesn’t have to be, you’ll see right away what makes this city so very special. Whether it’s the views from the imposing Citadel and Basilica or just wandering along the curvy roads that reveal beautiful architecture and private moments of perfection, you’ll quickly see what makes this city and island so very special. If you’re looking for a quick bite or a cup of coffee, stop by Jubilee off the main square. Although it’s a Maltese chain of three restaurants, the food is local and delicious and the atmosphere can’t be beat.
4. Prehistoric past
The Maltese islands have been a popular place for a long time, and Gozo is no exception. While most visitors know about its more recent history, it’s the prehistoric past that has put the island on the global map. Seven megalithic temples found both on Malta and Gozo are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and in my personal opinion they are not to be missed. More than 5,500 years old, the temples are some of the oldest surviving religious buildings in the world and just standing there in front of the entrance to these Bronze Age marvels is an experience almost like none other. My brain struggled to grapple with the crushing weight of history that this site has witnessed, from important ceremonies at the dawn of Western Civilization to events we will never fully comprehend. More than just an important historical site, the temple complex has a certain beauty in its own right. Looking around and gazing across the nearby valleys, you can immediately see why this spot was so important to our ancient cousins and you feel like the latest iteration in a remarkable chain of continuous reverence.
5. Delicious food
One of the best aspects of spending time on Gozo is the food. I love Mediterranean food and Gozo certainly does it well, but with its own unique twist. For a quick introduction to the culinary traditions of the island, stop by the Ta Mena winery and farm. Here they produce a little bit of everything, from wine and olive oil to cheeses and the delicious tomato conserva jam Malta is so well known for. From there, be sure to spend some time in a coastal community like Marsalforn, where you’ll discover fresh seafood prepared in ways that can only be called traditionally Maltese. My favorite way though to experience the amazing food of Gozo is to make it myself. Stopping by nearby farms and markets, I gathered up the ingredients for an amazing Maltese meal, using local ingredients for a once in a lifetime culinary experience. No matter what your food interests are, be sure to include eating as much as possible on your island to-do list.
What would you like to do most on Gozo?