gozo-maltaAn increasing number of tourists desiring a tranquil break in the Mediterranean are discovering the delights of Malta, and its sister island of Gozo. As opposed to its southern neighbor, Gozo is a more rural place, known for its laid-back inhabitants, rolling hills, and scenic beaches. Just 60 miles south of Sicily, this island retreat is home to a dense concentration of archeological and historic wonders – natural and man-made. With a population of just 37,000 or so, Gozo is a serene destination, perfect for washing away the stresses of day-to-day life; with many locals referring to it as ‘what Malta used to be like’.

A ferry leaves from the northern shore of Malta every 45 minutes, arriving into Gozo after a swift 25-minute jaunt across the sea. From there, traveling in any direction on foot is guaranteed to provide sights and sounds that captivate the senses in this unique island location. Whether you’re admiring the pristine coastlines, visiting any number of awe-inspiring landmarks, or simply relaxing in a beachside bar overlooking the rolling waves of The Med, magic is found around every corner.

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If you consider yourself a cultural wanderluster or are simply in need of a peaceful island getaway, then Gozo should be at the top of your dream destinations list. And to make your trip as unforgettable as possible, please take a look at our top recommendations for what to see and do while you’re there. Make sure to note down your favorite places in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.

Activities

Check Out a Historic Fortress No matter which road you find yourself on, they’ll all eventually lead to the Citadel in the capital city of Victoria. This combination of a medieval castle and an early modern gunpowder fortress truly stood the test of time. Fascinatingly, it has been impossible to determine when or who originally built this outstanding stronghold.

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Hang at a Cliffside Monument Located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the countryside, is The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu, near the village of Għarb. Not only a beautiful sight to behold, the treasures inside include memoirs left by those who claimed to have received miracles from the shrine.

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Open a Window to the Past For the history buffs out there, The Gozo Museum of Archeology, sat within Victoria’s Citadel, is the perfect place to start. If offers insight into the important settlements which inhabited Gozo from as early as the Neolithic period, up to the arrival of the Knights of St John.

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Gaze at a Megalithic Wonder Before there was Stonehenge or The Great Pyramid of Giza, there were the Ġgantija temples. These restored Neolithic temples are now a UNESCO World Heritage site, providing a glimpse into the past, and make the boast of being the second oldest man-made religious structure in the world.

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Enter a Mythological Cavern Head to the village of Xagħra, venture deep off the beaten path and you will eventually come across Calypso’s cave. Made famous by the story of Homer’s Odyssey, this cave overlooks the largest and most sought-after sandy beach on the island. As love prisons go, it’s a glorious one indeed.

Make a Sporty Splash If the peaceful nature of Gozo ever gets too relaxing, Joy Ride Watersports at Hondoq Bay is the ideal remedy. Try your hand at all manner of water-based fun, from water skiing and scuba diving to wakeboarding and banana rides. Hondoq Bay is great for snorkeling and swimming too.

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Take a Hike For anyone who wants to fill their lungs with fresh air outside of the cities and towns scattered across the island, there are numerous treks for hiking, ranging anywhere from 6 to 12 miles. There’s no better way to get a lay of the land, with official guides with trek descriptions and maps being available in local stores.

Witness a Spectacle of Nature Venturing down the Ghasri Valley from Ta’ Dbieġi Hill will lead you to Wied l-Għasri. This natural wonder is extremely popular with divers, bikers and hikers alike. Impressive cliffs meet the sea and provide a narrow, secluded bay for those wanting to feel the warm Mediterranean waters.

Accommodations

High-end Sitting atop Gozo’s highest point is the five-star Hotel Ta’ Cenc & Spa. The lavish character of its marble floors and chandeliers are matched by its impeccable hospitality and comfort. Found in the southern village of Sannat, this luxurious stay is a perfect haven for your Gozitan getaway.

Mid-level Horizon Complex is a family-run accommodation complex located in the idyllic Qbajjar Bay. Providing lush apartment suites overlooking stunning sea views, it’s ideal for those seeking a home away from home. There’s even an on-site restaurant with an exquisite selection of Maltese foods, to boot.

Budget In the quiet village of Qala, Gozo Green Living provides an affordable stay in a superb location. Their three private rooms join a shared living area, balcony, and outdoor pool. Additional offerings of horse riding and hiking prove there’s no bad place to stay in Gozo.

Food

While exploring the charming streets of Gozo, you’re likely to stumble upon a variety of traditional village bakeries selling ftiras – a delicious specialty, somewhat resembling a pizza. Or perhaps you’ll wander into a quaint café offering delectable seafood seasoned by the Mediterranean, with a side of sheep milk cheeses, known as ġbejniet. A local favorite is a savory pastizzi, a miniature pastry comprised of the freshest meats, cheese, and veggies.

Pastizzi

If you’re looking for an incredible restaurant experience when evening arrives, guess what? You’re in luck. Gozo comes equipped with establishments overflowing with culinary pleasures. Tmun Mgarr is situated on the banks of the harbor, visible as soon as you step off the ferry, serving the best in seafood cuisine for more than 25 years. La Stanza, nestled beneath the city’s fortifications in a converted 17th-century farmhouse, is devoted to traditional high-quality Maltese fare with innovative twists. And for an award-winning steakhouse with more than 1,500 wines to choose from, Patrick’s Lounge is a must.

Drinks & Nightlife

While Gozo isn’t known for its bustling inner-city nightlife, you can be sure to find a plethora of distinctive wines and craft beers all over the island. The strong sun and sea breeze create round-bodied fruity wines across multiple vineyards, calling out to be tasted. While traveling around, you’re likely to come across street vendors selling unlabeled cheap wine, but don’t be discouraged, as it’s just as good as that found in bars and restaurants.

Speaking of bars, one of the first you’ll have the pleasure to enter is The Gleneagles Bar, as it’s situated just 30 steps away from the ferry terminal. It’s as traditional as it gets, with hundreds of fish and crabs mounted on the walls, inviting you to try a large selection of whiskeys and rums. The Club House provides comforting familiarity due to its sports bar theme and mouthwatering burgers and pizzas. For a more quiet evening out, there’s always Zeppi’s Pub; brewing a laid-back atmosphere that is the ultimate definition of island life.

Tips & Culture

Something to avoid above all else: calling Gozitans ‘Maltese’; this is a cardinal sin, which the locals with not take kindly upon hearing. Gozitans are known to be especially welcoming people, a reputation bolstered most likely due to their relaxed island lifestyle. Wandering around at night is completely safe, and you’re sure to strike up a conversation with any number of Gozo’s inhabitants.

It’s possible to soak up the culture by traveling entirely on foot, as walking from one side of the island to the other can be accomplished in a mere three hours. However, if you need to move around more quickly to get a comprehensive experience of everything Gozo has to offer, then renting a car, stepping on a bus, or hiring a taxi from Frank’s Garage is an easy solution. And while tap water is safe to drink, most don’t due to the not-so-pleasant taste provided by an abundance of minerals, so bottled water is advised.

Must See

The most commonly photographed feature in Gozo by far and our must-see pick for any Mediterranean traveler is the Azure Window. This limestone arch is situated near Dwejra Bay, a picturesque formation fashioned after two caves collapsed. It holds a natural beauty, imbuing splendor in spades – with many big-budget productions, such as Game of Thrones, featuring it in their backdrops. The Azure Window is as popular with divers as it is with swimmers and boaters. Unfortunately, due to erosion, this magnificent structure is unlikely to be around for many more years, so there’s no better time to go than the present!

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Malta’s serene island of Gozo absolutely deserves a place near the top of your bucket list. So, start on those plans in your BUCKiTDREAM planner, and don’t forget to share your experience on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.