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Escape to Gozo: Embrace an authentic island way of life

Turquoise waters, untouched beaches, dramatic coastlines – these are all images you'd be familiar with if you've been daydreaming of a Mediterranean getaway. But crowds, queues and fully booked resorts can detract from your island bliss, which is precisely why we – and other travellers in the know – are choosing Gozo for our next trip. 

Located just north of the more widely known Malta, Gozo is most commonly visited as part of a day trip. But all that's about to change. In this guide, we’re going to show you why Gozo is worthy of a lengthier stay and why right now is the best time to plan a trip to the island.

Gozo at a glance

Largest city: Victoria (Ir-Rabat)

Languages spoken: English and Maltese

Ferry duration from Cirkewwa (Malta) to Mġarr Harbour (Gozo): 25 minutes

Ferry duration from Valletta (Malta) to Mġarr Harbour (Gozo): 45 minutes

Size: 26 sq mi

Currency: Euro

Temperature:

Why should you visit Gozo?

Rich in both history and culture, Gozo is only a short ferry ride away from Malta, but it couldn't feel more different. This island allows you to truly escape – but only if you're in on the secret.

With windswept cliffs and rock formations, locally produced food and wine and unique Gozitan hospitality, it's only a matter of time before everyone else clocks onto the fact that Gozo is more than just a day trip destination. Those who choose to linger get to experience Gozo as the locals do, with a laidback and authentic island way of life that most travellers dream of when they plan a trip to the Mediterranean.

And, for a small island, there's a surprising amount of choice. Stay in Marsalforn or Xlendi for a beach resort atmosphere, albeit on a smaller and more laidback scale compared to other well-known European counterparts. Or, to fully adopt the island way of life, settle into one of the modernised traditional farmhouses located within the island's interior.

The best time to visit Gozo

Quite simply: any time. With mild to hot weather all year round, each season in Gozo will provide a slightly different experience, allowing you to see the island in a new light. Unlike many other popular spots in Europe and beyond, Gozo's accommodation and activities offering is available the entire year, giving you more choice, especially in the off-peak months.

Malta and Gozo can get quite busy during the peak summer months of July and August, so if you're looking to escape the crowds but still have warm weather, then May, June, September, October and November are all excellent months to visit too. But with 300 days of sunshine each year, the likelihood of having a bad weather day is slim, so a winter sun holiday in Malta might be just the ticket.

How to get to Gozo

Gozo doesn't have its own international airport, so you'll first need to catch a flight to Malta and then catch a ferry to Gozo. But don’t let that put you off. It takes less time to get to Gozo (just over an hour) than it does to catch the bus between Mellieha and Marsaxlokk (over one hour and 45 minutes) – two extremely popular spots in Malta.

Simply catch a ferry from either Cirkewwa or Valletta; both routes will bring you to Mgarr Harbour. If you're going over as a foot passenger, then the recently introduced fast ferry service from Valletta would be a good bet, getting you to Mgarr in 45 minutes. For those bringing over a car, you'll need to catch the ferry from Cirkewwa, which makes the crossing to Gozo in just 25 minutes.

You can catch a bus from Malta International Airport to either Valletta (X4 bus route) or Cirkewwa (X1 bus route), but it'll be quicker and more convenient to organise a taxi transfer.

To travel to Malta, you no longer need to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative PCR test; for more details, check out the latest entry requirements.

Getting around Gozo

Whether you're happy to have your own set of wheels or not, there are a fair few options for getting around Gozo. Car hire is by far the most popular way of exploring the island. While some travellers choose to bring a car over from Malta via the ferry, you can also hire a car in places like the Mgarr ferry terminal, in Victoria (Ir-Rabat), Xlendi and a few other villages.

Public transport on Gozo is inexpensive, with 15 bus routes operating around the island. You can make this even more affordable by purchasing either a seven-day or 12-journey travel card. For alternative options, you can hire a bicycle to explore the island if you're feeling energetic, or take advantage of one of the many tours available in Gozo.

Best areas to stay in Gozo

From charming villages to tranquil bays, there's a lot of variety when it comes to where you can base yourself in Gozo. This same variety applies to the types of accommodation on offer: bed and breakfasts, five-star luxury hotels or traditional farmhouses. With so much to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to start. Here are our top choices for where you should stay in Gozo.

Marsalforn

Located in the centre of Gozo’s northern coast, Marsalforn is a popular choice for those travelling with families. It’s more developed – but not too much – than some of the other areas on our list, with plenty of bars, restaurants and a wide range of accommodation types on offer, including self-catering options.

The biggest benefit of staying in Marsalforn has to be the easy beach access. A mixture of sand and pebbles, Marsalforn’s beach is popular for sunbathing and swimming. Just behind, you’ll find the promenade, a go-to spot for strolling come sunset or after a meal. When you’re ready to do some exploring, there are boat tour operators in the area offering cruises around Gozo or day trips to nearby Comino, famous for its Blue Lagoon.

Pirate tip 🏴‍☠️: Marsalforn is a haven for diving enthusiasts. There are several diving centres here, each offering excursions to popular dive sites, such as shipwrecks and underwater rock formations. It’s affordable too, where a four-dive package deal will only set you back €108, including all gear and boat transfers.

Għarb

For those who really want to get acquainted with the Gozitan way of life, look no further than Għarb, a traditional village in northwestern Gozo. It’s a great option if you’d like to experience staying in one of Gozo’s famous converted farmhouses; plus, the village’s hilltop location means that you have some of the best views on the whole island.

Although this village has become a favourite due to its proximity to one of the island’s most beautiful churches, Ta’ Pinu, it’s easy to while away a day sitting in Għarb’s pretty village square, which features a honey-coloured church with twin bell towers. To learn more about Gozo’s rich culture, head to the Għarb Folklore Museum, a 28-roomed extravaganza filled with all manner of local artefacts.

Pirate tip 🏴‍☠️: Although it may be tempting to hop in the car, take the scenic route by walking to Ta’Pinu. You’ll be rewarded with some far-reaching views over the countryside, and it’ll only take about 30 minutes each way.

Xlendi

A rectangular bay dramatically bordered by cliffs to one side, Xlendi is another firm favourite for sea swimming and diving excursions. The shallow waters off the small sandy beach are especially good for families wanting to swim safely, while the deeper waters in the mouth of the bay attract snorkellers and divers.

Situated not too far from Victoria (Ir-Rabat), this beachfront is populated by hotels, bars, dive shops, tour operators and restaurants, offering a surprising amount of choice within such a small area. While water activities and tours are certainly the order of the day here, the wider Xlendi area is also home to a number of walking trails (both short and long) that take in the rather spectacular countryside and coastline found in this part of Gozo.

Xagħra

Another hilltop village, this time in the northeast of the island, Xagħra is a top choice for anyone planning to do a fair bit of sightseeing. That’s because some of Gozo’s best attractions are located close by, including the colossal Ġgantija temples, Ta’Kola Windmill, Calypso’s Cave as well as Ramla Bay, widely considered to have the island’s best beach.

Although it’s easy to get distracted by all these phenomenal sites, the village itself is worthy of your time, with a large village square and pretty, red-domed church. There are even two caves within walking distance from the square - Xerri’s Grotto and Ninu’s Cave. Xagħra is another hotspot for Gozitan farmhouse stays, but you can also find some top-notch boutique hotels and B&Bs here too.

San Lawrenz

San Lawrenz, a traditional village lying in the west of Gozo, is the gateway to one of the island’s natural gems: Dwejra Bay. Naturally, this is the place to stay if you want to explore this region’s many natural wonders at a leisurely pace. These include the likes of the Blue Hole, Fungus Rock, the Inland Sea and much more. The renowned Azure Window once stood on this coastline and famously featured in Game of Thrones; sadly, this natural arch crumbled into the sea in 2017.

This part of Gozo is popular with divers and for boat trips, but San Lawrenz and the surrounding area is full of rustic, rural charm. Yes, the village is home to a five-star hotel, but there are more affordable and traditional accommodations on offer too.

Find a place to stay in Gozo

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Top 10 things to do in Gozo

Although Gozo is the ideal destination to truly unwind and relax, there’s no denying that this small island is packed with all sorts of interesting things to do.

Here are ten of our favourite things to do in Gozo:

  1. Get lost exploring Victoria’s Citadel, the fortified heart of Gozo

  2. Go wine tasting and sample local delicacies at the Ta’Mena Estate or Tal-Massar Winery

  3. Marvel at the gravity-defying Ġgantija temples

  4. Explore the dramatic natural landmarks of Dwejra Bay

  5. Soak up the sun at Ramla Bay beach

  6. Admire the unique beauty of Ta’Pinu Basilica

  7. Visit the photogenic Xwejni Salt Pans

  8. Book a diving experience at one of Gozo’s many dive sites

  9. Hop on a day trip to the nearby island of Comino

  10. Enjoy the views at Ta' Ċenċ Cliffs

Discover fun activities to do while in Gozo

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Three days in Gozo: a travel itinerary

While it may be tempting to pack in as much sightseeing as possible during your time in Gozo, we’ve put together a sample three-day itinerary that allows you to see a lot – but at a leisurely pace. You are on island time, after all!

Day 1: Explore Victoria’s ancient Citadel

Gozo’s largest city is the first place you should go, as there’s so much to see and do here. Renamed Victoria back in 1887 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the city is also referred to as Ir-Rabat by the locals. The centre is hard to miss, with its heavily fortified walls rising above Victoria, and it’s here that you should start your day.

The citadel, also known as Il-Kastell, may look like it was all built at the same time, but this fascinating place bears traces of the different influences that passed through the island - Roman, Phoenicians, you name it. Start with a visit to the Cathedral of the Assumption, which features a trompe l’oeil painting designed to give the impression of a domed ceiling. A visit to the Cathedral Museum is included in the ticket price.

From here, it really depends on your interests, as it feels like there’s a museum for everyone in the citadel. Some of our favourites include the Archaeology Museum, which houses the most interesting finds from the island, the Old Prison, complete with historic graffiti left by former inmates, and the Folklore Museum, which gives an insight into life on Gozo.

Whatever you end up choosing, make sure you make time to simply wander the narrow streets and to take in the views from the colossal walls. For a meal, head down to Pjazza Indipendenza, the main square that’s known to locals as it-Tokk, and choose from one of the al fresco cafes located here. Or take a 6-minute drive out to Ta Mena Estate, where you can do a wine tasting and have the chance to try out local delicacies such as Gozitan cheese, honey and sun-dried tomatoes.

End off your day in one of Victoria’s many wine bars, such as Cafe Jubilee. Enjoy your beverage of choice along with ftira, a traditional pizza served with a variety of toppings.

Day 2: Get acquainted with Gozo’s history - and its beaches!

Make the most of your morning by heading to Xagħra, which is home to some of the island’s most famous historical attractions. After all, this part of Gozo is considered to have the earliest signs of human habitation on the whole island. Start with a visit to the Ġgantija temples, which are over 5,500 years old and are thought to predate the Egyptian pyramids. These temples are remarkable for the massive stones used to construct them – so much so that they were thought to be placed by giants.

Nearby, you can visit the restored 18th-Century Ta’Kola Windmill (admission is included with your Ġgantija temples ticket) as well as two caves (Ninu’s Cave and Xerri’s Grotto) located within Xagħra village - both of which need to be entered via private houses! Stop for some lunch at the village’s main square, which is home to a number of cafes and bars. A pastizzi - a local pastry filled with either mushy peas or cheese - is always a welcome lunchtime snack.

After you’ve had your fill of history (and pastizzi), head off on a seven-minute drive out to Ramla Bay beach. The reddish-gold sands and welcoming water here make it easy to settle in for the second half of the day, swimming and sunbathing to your heart’s content. There are cafes nearby for refreshments and souvenir stands during the warmer months. Overlooking the beach is Calypso’s Cave, alleged to be the cave referred to by Homer in The Odyssey.

Day 3: Take in the beauty of the island’s natural wonders

Your final day should be spent exploring the places that have put Gozo on the map as a destination known for its natural beauty. Dwejra Bay, located on the west coast, is one such place. This coastline was made famous by the Azure Window, a natural rock arch that featured in Game of Thrones. Sadly, the Azure Window is no more, having succumbed to nature’s forces in 2017, but there’s still so much to see in Dwejra Bay.

Whether you choose to explore these features on foot or via a boat tour, the rugged coastline is undeniably impressive. You can marvel at the Blue Hole, a popular spot with divers and snorkellers, explore the Inland Sea, admire unusual rock formations such as Fungus Rock and Crocodile Rock and so much more. There’s even a small public beach located at the Inland Sea, perfect for whiling away an hour or so.

For lunch, head to one of the area’s cafes or bars, or head into the centre of San Lawrenz village for more options.

You could easily spend the entire day at Dwejra Bay, where the sunsets are stunning. However, if you’re feeling like you want to see more, head towards either Ta’Pinu Basilica, one of the island’s most beautiful churches, or the Xwejni Salt Pans, another extremely photogenic part of Gozo.

End off your day in either Marsalforn or Xlendi, both of which have a larger selection of bars and restaurants to choose from. You can even indulge in a spot of nightlife in these parts if that’s something you’re after!

Bonus: If you have an extra day in Gozo, spend at least half the day taking a trip out to the nearby island of Comino, which has its own interesting history and attractions, including the unmissable Blue Lagoon, a haven for swimmers.