Discover Gozo: Malta’s Hidden Gem

If you’re visiting Malta for the first time, exploring the island of Gozo is a must. Gozo, which covers about one-third the size of its neighboring main island, Malta, offers an abundance of cultural and natural attractions. Situated north of Malta, Gozo is just a 20-minute ferry ride away. Despite its tranquil atmosphere, it’s well worth spending more than just a day on Gozo.

Exploring Gozo: What to Visit?

During our three-day stay on Gozo, guided by local expert Ana, we traversed through picturesque villages, hidden coves, beaches, and rugged cliffs. The Mediterranean landscapes and local life immediately reminded us of the southern Italian atmosphere, particularly in Puglia. Churches are abundant here too!

For a day or at the beginning of your stay on Gozo, consider hopping aboard one of the green tourist buses that crisscross the island, ensuring you don’t miss any of the must-see spots. If staying longer, renting a car or scooter offers more freedom to explore the wild coastline, swim in secluded coves, and immerse yourself in the culture of the island’s quaint villages.

1. What to Visit in Gozo?

When visiting Malta for the first time, exploring the island of Gozo is an absolute must. Despite being one-third the size of its neighboring island of Malta, Gozo offers a plethora of cultural and natural attractions. Situated north of Malta, Gozo is just a 20-minute ferry ride away and definitely warrants more than a single day, especially for its serene ambiance—a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of mainland Malta. It’s a shame that most tourists only allocate a brief visit to Gozo.

We spent three days on Gozo, allowing us ample time to wander through its picturesque and perched villages, discover secluded coves, beaches, and rugged cliffs alongside our local guide, Ana.

From the outset, the Mediterranean landscapes and local life on Gozo reminded us vividly of the atmosphere in southern Italy, particularly in Puglia. Churches dot the landscape here as well!

For a day trip or at the beginning of your Gozo stay, hopping aboard one of the green tourist buses that traverse the island between the coast and authentic villages can be a convenient option to maximize your time and ensure you don’t miss the island’s highlights. If you’re staying longer, consider renting a car or scooter for added freedom.

1.1. Exploring Gozo for the First Time and Its Impressive Cliffs

The picturesque cliffs, which for centuries protected Gozo from foreign invasions, rise up to 120 meters high. Needless to say, they offer breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and the Mediterranean Sea, especially at sunrise or sunset.

A trail winding along the coast and through the countryside allows for a complete circumnavigation of the island on foot, a task that would require several days if you wish to cover the entire route. We opted for shorter segments, enjoying various physical activities amidst this stunning backdrop.

For those interested, GozoAdventures offers a wide range of activities—from hiking and climbing to mountain biking and kayaking. We particularly enjoyed a guided hike with one of their professional guides in the wild environment atop the southern cliffs of Gozo.

1.2. Visiting Rabat and the Citadel of Victoria in Gozo

Victoria’s Citadel, situated in the heart of Rabat, serves as the capital of Gozo. All roads lead to this medieval citadel with its fortified walls, and the grand staircase beautifully renovated marks the entrance into the old town.

As is often the case in Malta, it’s the colors of the building facades that captivate the senses, especially with the interplay of light and shadow animating the narrow streets, making them ideal for a day of photography.

Several museums, such as the Folklore Museum and the Archaeological Museum, are housed within Victoria’s Citadel, though time constraints prevented us from visiting them all. Our favorite historic building remains the Baroque-era cathedral, offering the most impressive panoramic views of Gozo from its fortified walls.

While Victoria is beautifully restored, it may have lost some of its original charm, with a lack of lively atmosphere and almost no shops within the citadel. One might almost feel transported into a movie set. We found the vibrancy of city life more appealing, with its lively atmosphere and buildings that still reflect the light as beautifully as those within the citadel.

1.3. Exploring Tal-Mixta Cave and Ramla Bay on Gozo

Ramla Bay, located in northern Gozo between the villages of Nadur and Xagħra, greeted us with its long stretch of golden sandy beach, first from Tal-Mixta Cave to the west of the bay, and later by boat during a full-day excursion around Gozo. The bay also boasts a few Roman remnants. Recently discovered, Tal-Mixta Cave has become a popular spot for tourists seeking Instagram-worthy photos and selfies.

Access to the cave is straightforward via a trail starting from higher ground. In just five minutes from the parking area, visitors can descend a dozen steps to the cave’s entrance, where the sublime beauty of the site unfolds. This was our first visit on Gozo—how could one not fall in love with such a beautiful island after experiencing such natural beauty offered by Mother Nature?

Gozo offers a captivating blend of history, natural beauty, and tranquility, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Malta. Whether you’re hiking along dramatic cliffs, exploring ancient citadels, or relaxing on golden beaches, each moment spent on Gozo promises a memorable experience.

1.4. Visiting Dwerja Bay on Gozo

Dwerja Bay, actually an inland sea, is located on the west coast of Gozo. This natural site is truly unique and rare. Visitors park at a designated lot on higher ground and continue exploration on foot. We begin by the open sea where the famous Blue Hole is located—an awe-inspiring sight difficult to capture without a drone. Accessing it, particularly during low tide, involves scaling small cliffs for about 15-20 meters.

Next, we head to the inland bay where locals often come to swim, creating a lively atmosphere, especially on Sundays. Surrounding the bay, small traditional houses shelter fishermen mending their nets, all against a backdrop of breathtaking cliffs and the cave that leads to the Mediterranean Sea by boat.

Deciding to embark on a boat ride costing 4 euros per person, we explore the outer sea area around Dwerja Bay. First, we cross the inland sea where swimmers enjoy themselves, then enter the cave, the sole access to the sea. For about twenty minutes, we explore the rugged coastline surrounding Dwerja Bay. Returning to the small port, we naturally pass through the majestic cave, leaving us with a beautiful memory.

1.5. Touring Gozo in a Day Excursion

On our final day in Gozo, we set out to sea with Barbarossa Excursions. Aboard one of their boats, we circumnavigate the island of Gozo, enjoying its coastal beauty and gaining a fresh perspective on the landscapes discovered during our stay.

2. Where to Eat and Drink in Malta and Gozo?

Malta has been conquered numerous times throughout its history, influencing not only its architecture but also its cuisine. Strong Italian influences prevail due to the proximity of Sicily, while British and North African flavors also influence certain recipes.

Must-try dishes when visiting Malta for the first time include the rabbit stew, known locally as stuffat tal-fenek, as well as seafood and fish. Ratatouille is also popular. Don’t forget to sample the pastizz, a puff pastry filled with fresh ricotta—a true delight, albeit calorific. At around 1 euro each, it’s perfect to enjoy on a village square terrace between visits. You won’t go hungry after enjoying one, that’s for sure!

And of course, indulging in a good pizza or homemade pasta is always a delightful option.

In terms of budget, you can dine well for around fifteen euros with a classic dish and drink included. For a more upscale dining experience, expect to spend around forty euros per person in a bistro-style or gourmet restaurant, enjoying a full à la carte menu with appetizer, main course, dessert, coffee, and a bottle of wine.

2.1. Where to Eat in Gozo? 2 Places We Recommend

Bistronomic Style. Traditional Dishes with a Modern Twist.
The best restaurant of our entire stay in Malta. We absolutely loved our dinner as each dish told a beautiful story. Located at the foot of the church. Adjacent is a pizzeria popular among locals for budget-friendly meals.

Ideal Location at Xlendi Bay’s Small Marina.
A very convivial atmosphere with excellent seafood. Highly recommended for a seafood lunch, whether you’re with friends, family, or a romantic partner.

2.2. Where to Eat Well in Malta? 3 Places We Recommend

Portside Restaurant in Valletta
Known for pizzas, seafood, and Mediterranean cuisine. Regulars at Brown’s Kitchen are never disappointed! We enjoyed the terrace ambiance and especially the tasting platter of local Maltese products.

Mediterranean Cuisine for Romantic Dinners and Private Events (Weddings, etc.)
Located in the heart of Mdina, this establishment is full of surprises. The exterior gives no hint of what awaits inside, both in terms of culinary delights and the setting. The lush garden, hidden from view, was a highlight where we had an excellent meal. An address worth remembering.

Restaurant in the Three Cities
Situated overlooking one of Malta’s marinas, offering a relaxed atmosphere and excellent local cuisine. Generous portions and friendly service.

3. Where to Stay in Malta and Gozo?

3.1. Staying in Gozo at Ta’ Ċenċ Hotel in Sannat

Located in the village of Sannat in southern Gozo, this hotel offers nature walks along cliffs and exploration of the charming ochre village. We loved its location. The rooms are all on one level in a large, wooded property. Local stone dominates here.

We stayed in an air-conditioned trullo that was fully equipped. It features a living room opening onto a small outdoor terrace facing nature and blooming oleanders, an adjoining bedroom with a very comfortable large bed, and a bathroom with a small shower and bathtub. The accommodations are clean but not modern enough in our opinion.

We dined at the hotel’s gourmet restaurant. The dishes were decent but not exceptional. Breakfast, however, was perfect. The hotel has pools, including one specifically for children. Many other sports facilities are available, although we did not explore them.

The hotel is classified as 5 stars. Perhaps this was the case in the past, but having stayed in many hotels of this category worldwide, we honestly can’t confirm it after our stay, although everything went quite well overall.

3.2. Staying in La Valette on Malta at Rosselli Hotel

Set in a 17th-century building on Merchant Street in the heart of historic Valletta, Rosselli Hotel offers six categories of uniquely designed air-conditioned rooms blending baroque and modern styles. A truly 5-star establishment with professional and attentive staff. Choosing a room may be the hardest part, as each is distinctly different (we toured several).

The king-size bed’s bedding is very comfortable, and the large, modern walk-in shower could easily accommodate 2 or 3 people inside! Sumptuous furnishings and excellent soundproofing of the rooms are exceptional. The breakfast served à la carte was also a highlight of our stay at Rosselli.

3.3. Staying at Iniala Boat House Hotel in La Valette

We visited Iniala Boat House with its exceptional views of the Three Cities. The rooms and comfort offered made us eager to return for another stay during a future trip to Malta. Exceptional luxury and experiential travel on the island assured.

Malta is an ideal European destination for all travelers. Whether with family, friends, as a couple, or solo, there’s something for everyone. Note that Malta is also a destination open to the LGBT+ community.

You can visit Malta for a weekend, a week, or longer and never get bored thanks to its cultural richness and Mediterranean nature, which captivates everyone with its hidden gems to explore both on land and sea. For us, it’s certain—we’ll be back because the destination truly charmed us!

As you traverse the sun-kissed shores and delve into the vibrant culture and history, you’ll discover why Malta has been a crossroads of civilizations for millennia. The island’s strategic location has made it a melting pot of influences, from the grandeur of the Knights of St. John to the rich flavors of Mediterranean cuisine.

To truly appreciate Malta, take the time to explore beyond the well-trodden paths. Wander through the quiet, narrow streets of traditional villages, savor the local delicacies in bustling markets, and immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds you. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or someone seeking the simple joys of life, Malta offers something for everyone.

So, as you plan your visit, remember to embrace the slow pace of island life. Allow yourself to get lost in the magic of Malta, where every corner has a story to tell and every sunset leaves you in awe. Your first trip to Malta will surely not be your last, as the island’s enchanting allure beckons you to return again and again.

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