Did you know that Malta is an independent nation consisting of three main islands in the Mediterranean? We live on the island of Malta, which is the largest. The island of Gozo is second-largest and less densely populated. The island of Comino is non-residential. Both Gozo and Comino are easily accessible from Malta and, actually, my Irish-Colombian frequently dives at both islands! A day trip to the island of Gozo is a great addition to a holiday in Malta.
Why Take a Day Trip to the Island of Gozo
Gozo is the little sister of the island of Malta, although – like all little sisters – that doesn’t mean she doesn’t pack a mean punch. Gozo offers incredible natural beauty and far less development than the island of Malta. If you’re taking a week-long holiday to Malta, you should absolutely take a day trip to the island of Gozo.
Beyond the natural beauty of Gozo, there are several prominent historical sites and beautiful villages to explore. Just driving around the island is a feast for the eyes: small vineyards and farms, rolling hills, sudden small villages with winding narrow lanes, the occasional religious statue or monument. Luckily, I was navigating so could safely crane my neck every which way to take it all in!
The Maltese people are famously welcoming and friendly, which you’ll encounter as much on Gozo as on Malta. Just wandering through the winding streets of a village, you’re sure to come upon a local woman hand-weaving lace or an artist painting or sketching in a doorway. Stop for a friendly chat to inquire about their work, or quietly watch so as not to disturb. Either way, you’ll undoubtedly receive at least a smile and a nod.
Since there is less development on the island, Gozo also offers plenty of home-grown produce, local honey, and delicious local cheeses. Definitely plan to eat while on the island and check out any of the local shops selling artisanal products!
I also love just wandering around neighborhoods here to see the hanging plants and balconies bursting with flowers. All the colorful doors and decorative door knockers always make me smile!
What to Do in Gozo
I won’t pretend to know everything to do since we only did a day trip to the island of Gozo, but I can share how our fantastic day went! We had nothing planned and no idea of what to expect but it worked out really well, so you won’t be disappointed if you follow our path.
Upon arrival at the Gozo ferry terminal, we headed uphill along the main road following signs for Victoria. Victoria is often still called Rabat, which is the Arabic word for suburb, and referred to as ir-Rabat, Gozo, to differentiate from Rabat in Malta. It’s the capital city and offers scenic views from its strategically high ground in the center of the island.
Victoria boasts fascinating history reaching back a few thousand years. Thousand. In fact, elsewhere on Gozo, the Ġgantija temples were built during the Neolithic era, meaning they are more than 5,500 years old. That’s older than the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge. The Maltese islands continue to blow my mind with their depth of history still seen today!
The Citadel, or Cittadella, is the heart of old Victoria where local residents hid behind high walls during repeated siege attempts. In one famous episode in 1551, around 300 local residents climbed down the back wall and hid from invading Ottomans as the city fell. The estimated 6,000 other residents were killed or enslaved, except for one monk and about 40 elderly Gozitans spared by the Ottomans.
We drove straight to Victoria to check out the Cittadella and the town that has grown outside the walls in recent centuries. We started off with lunch near St. George’s Basilica (San Gorg).
The Basilica is stunningly ornate inside and a beautiful backdrop for people-watching and relaxing in the plaza. The area is beautiful and sunlight was streaming through to warm us up on that not-yet-hot April afternoon.
A quick note about food here in Malta: the Mediterranean platters are amazing.
I opted for a local meat and cheese platter, complete with sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, and local bread. My other half chose the Italian culinary influence of a calzone combined with the British culinary influence of a side of crisps.
After lunch, we wandered around the narrow lanes marveling at all the twists and turns and unfathomably narrow parking spaces in Rabat.
We headed uphill to the entrance to the Cittadella only to find that The Science Festival was happening! If you know us, you know we instantly geeked out.
We checked out all the stalls of local organizations and educational groups, spending quite a while at BirdLife to learn how we could get involved. If you’ve checked out this post, you know that I’ve recently participated in a BirdLife event!
We also went into the Gozo Nature Museum, which offered free entry during the Science Festival for those of us with inquiring minds. While there, we attended an hour-long lecture on local bee life in Malta. To say we walked out buzzing with excitement is just all too easy.
We already knew the local honey was delicious, but learning about the native species and the threats they face was both fascinating and heartbreaking. Without bees, we will lose entire ecosystems. Protect your bees, y’all!
After wandering around the Cittadella a bit more, taking in expansive views over the city walls and wondering why the cannons were facing each other, we decided to boogie so we could check out a few more spots on the island before sunset.
Take in the Beauty of Xlendi Bay
From Victoria, we drove to Xlendi Bay on Gozo’s southwestern shore. (A note on pronunciation in Maltese: Much like when I lived in Basque Country in Spain, pronouncing an “x” much softer here in Malta. In Maltese, you pronounce “x” like “sh” – so we drove to Shlendi Bay.)
Xlendi Bay is a beautiful little alcove of beach and fishing boats, surrounded by hotels and homes all around. During our off-season visit, there were only a few families enjoying the quiet rocky beach. I’ve been told come summertime, this area will be especially crowded with tourists. I’m glad we checked it out early!
To the right of the bay, there’s a staircase cut into the cliff, allowing easy access to even better views from up above.
Keep walking along that path and you’ll see a vibrant blue gate that was, luckily, open when we were there. I don’t know if it ever closes, but I imagine bad weather would cause the locals to block off further access.
Once you walk through the gate you’ll continue down into a neat little cave. I was told that’s where the nuns used to swim, for extra privacy and seclusion.
After we’d taken in Xlendi Bay’s beautiful views for a while, we hopped back into the car to pay our respects to the recently fallen Azure Window.
Visit the (Fallen) Azure Window
From Xlendi Bay we followed the signs toward Dwerja, which took us back through Victoria, but nowhere is very far on this relatively small island.
If you’re not aware, the Azure Window was an iconic site in the Maltese islands. Located on Gozo’s western shore, the Azure Window was a natural archway in the cliffs along this gorgeous stretch of coast.
It has been included in several films and TV shows shot here in the islands, including offering the backdrop to Khaleesi’s wedding in Season 1 of Game of Thrones.
In March, just before we moved to Malta, stormy weather and high winds finally brought the vulnerable arch crashing down into the sea. Now, only scuba divers have the honor of visiting this site, crumbled though it may be.
My Irish-Colombian has already been diving there and said the white limestone that was never exposed to the elements is shockingly bright underwater. He also said the marine life is understandably baffled by this foreign grass now in their midst!
For all you divers, the Azure Window remains aren’t the only intriguing site in this area. The Blue Hole and the Inland Sea are all part of that diverse dive site.
Things I love about island life: the lack of oversight and rules. You want to climb on top of the rocks? Go for it! No railings or warnings or lawsuits involved. These guys are just beside the Blue Hole.
While I had never met the Azure Window in her former glory, we could still enjoy the beauty of these cliffs facing west as the sun set over the water, offering a stunning backdrop for our very first day trip to the island of Gozo.
He’s just crawling to the edge of the cliff to check out where the Azure Window once was…Moms, don’t look.
I can promise, this won’t be our last visit!
How to Get to Gozo from Malta
There is a car ferry that runs from Cirkewwa in Malta to Mgarr in Gozo every 45 minutes during off-season. It only takes about 25 minutes to make the short crossing, which explains how so many Gozitans (people from Gozo) commute to Malta daily for work.
The ferry costs and timetable are on their website, but we paid about €21 roundtrip for the rental car we took plus me as the extra passenger. You don’t pay until your return trip, so be sure to add a few extra minutes into your departure plan when leaving Gozo. It’s simple enough to pay, but there could be a line. We managed to zoom through (with help from the kind gentlemen with walkie-talkies) to be the last car on the 9pm ferry coming home.
The ferry itself is fully equipped with indoor and outdoor seating, a cafe offering food and drinks, and bathrooms. For such a short journey, it’s nice to see the extra comforts offered to passengers!
How to Get Around Gozo
We had a rental car at the time, which was ideal so we could be on our own schedule. There are plenty of bus options, though, so you don’t need to worry about driving on the
wrong left side of the road if you don’t want to.
Buses to the ferry terminal in Malta will say Cirkewwa or Cirkewwa Ferry (there are a few options from the St. Paul’s Bay area and even direct buses from Sliema).
[Want to see what the ferry terminal area looks like? There are live webcams all around Malta. This one overlooks Cirkewwa Bay. Enjoy!]
On Gozo, there are buses to take you all around the most popular areas. Alternatively, you can book a tour company to take you to/from Gozo while also showing you around the island.
If you do have a car, keep in mind that parking can be tough in the popular spots in Gozo, especially in the summer when it gets busier. We had no trouble finding a spot in Victoria, but we were also willing to walk a bit from the city center. Other places we visited had plenty of open parking given our off-season visit.
Stay tuned for more insights when we’re able to take another day trip to the island of Gozo!
We recently moved to Malta as the latest stop in our expat adventure. You can read more about Malta here, about our expat lives in Roatan here, or about our other expat adventures in Scotland and Ireland.
Liked this post? Pin it!