On holiday in Malta but fancy a day trip to Gozo? There are plenty of hop-on-hop-off bus tours for you to choose from, but if you decide to see the island solo, here are a few unmissable highlights.
But, before we start, can I just say, Gozo deserves far more of your time than a bus tour or a few hours whipping around the main attractions. I spent ten days there back in June this year and, although island life is definitely lived in the slow lane, there was plenty to keep us busy, especially if, like me, you’re life goals involve being a mermaid. However, if you’ve chosen Malta as your holiday base and can only spare 24 hours for Gozo, then it makes for a great day trip.
How to get to Gozo?
The ferry is super easy and cheap. It departs from Cirkewwa harbour, at the northernmost tip of Malta. Ferries leave every 45 minutes (check their schedule) and the crossing takes about 25 minutes. Plan to arrive at the harbour half an hour to an hour before your ferry is due to depart if you’re taking a car across – at busy times, like Sunday evenings, the queues can be very long, as locals and tourists make a dash back to the mainland. You’ll arrive in Mgarr on Gozo island, a small harbour with a pizza restaurant and not a lot else. It’s a 10-15 minute drive to Gozo’s capital, Victoria (also known as Il-Rabat). In fact, most places on the island are a 15 minute drive away, so you won’t spend the day getting from a to b, perfect if you want to get straight to the action. The crossing costs €15.70 for a car and passenger, €4.65 for an adult pedestrian passenger and €1.15 for a child ticket.
How to get around Gozo?
If you haven’t brought a car with you then don’t worry, the buses are generally quite good. There are plenty of services (15 routes in Gozo) that connect the main attractions and they run fairly frequently. Find out more info about routes and schedules here. Taxis are also an affordable option: because the island is so small, getting from one side to the other won’t cost you more than €15. Look out for white taxis and always agree on an estimate fare before you get in.
The best beaches in Gozo
You’ve made the effort to get across to Gozo, and you could easily spend the whole day enjoying the sun, searching out the island’s gorgeous bays and beaches. There certainly are plenty to go around, and you’ll rarely find a beach that’s crowded unless it’s a public holiday – this is especially nice if you’re done battling for sunbeds at Mellieħa Bay! Here are my favourites:
1. Marsalforn, Zebbug
This is one of Gozo’s main seaside towns, on the north coast of the island. This means that in the summer it can be busy, but, as I say, it’s nothing like the rows and rows of sun umbrellas that you might expect to see in Malta. The beach is a slim strip of sand and stones and the water is perfect for a spot of snorkelling. There are some great bars and restaurants along the seafront for a lunch time beer or a sunset seafood dinner.
2. Mgarr Ix-Xini, Xewkija
Ix-Iini is a tiny little bay with a pebble shoreline and no real facilities. Sold? You should be, it’s a quiet retreat, a great place for a picnic and the water is shallow, making it ideal for snorkellers or newly qualified scuba divers, like us.
3. Ramla Bay, Xaghra
Ramla is Gozo’s biggest beach, and the sand is really yellow, like Walls Soft Scoop yellow. You can rent sun beds and umbrellas and there’s one beach bar selling all the usual fare, burgers and Italian ice cream. We spent a Saturday afternoon here, and as you can see, it wasn’t packed at all.
4. Xlendi Bay
This is the busiest bay, the shore lined with cafés, bars and hotels, and is very popular with locals as well as tourists. There’s no real beach, just some shingle on the far right as you approach from the car park, but there are plenty of concrete benches and rocks to lie on. It’s not the comfiest of spots and you should be a strong swimmer to enter the water here – there are steps down into the sea, but the dive-board is a lot more fun!
5. San Blas, in-Nadur
This was my favourite beach in Gozo. The scarily-steep road that leads down to it puts a lot of people off discovering San Blas, but don’t be one of them. Don’t drive on it unless you’re in a 4×4, but if you need help walking down then there’s a shuttle service which costs a few euros. It’s small and peaceful, filled mainly with locals enjoying the late afternoon sun or an early morning swim. Steve’s beach bar has a limited menu, but the burgers are spot on and there’s all the ice cold water and beer (Cisk is the local brew) that you’ll need.
Top 6 things to do in Gozo
If you want to do more with your day in Gozo than be a beach bum (a totally great option though!) here are a few unmissable things you should try to check out:
1. The Azure Window
This is Gozo’s main attraction and the reason why so many day trippers come across from Malta. Yes the car park is packed with tour buses, yes there are tacky stalls and ice cream vans flogging souvenirs and snacks, and yes, getting a picture of this beautiful limestone arch without someone stumbling into your shot is impossible, but it’s still worth a visit. Go and see it for yourself, admire the view and leave. Don’t hang around and be drawn into the tourist-trap that it can be.
2. Go on a cliff top walk
If you want to see the Azure Window without the crowds then head to the cliff tops above to get an uninterrupted bird’s eye view. There are loads of trails all over the island and we took a short section in between Xlendi Bay and San Lawrenz (were the Azure Window is). The track winds along the cliff top and the views back to Xlendi and towards the Azure Window are spectacular. You’ll also pass Wardija Punic temple; it looks like a cave, but it’s actually an ancient religious shrine. We did it in flip-flops, but you might want to wear decent shoes – some of the path was a little too close to the edge for my liking, so be prepared to take detours.
3. Visit the Citadel
A UNESCO World Heritage site, and another of Gozo’s main attractions, the Citadel or Gran Castello has great historical significance. The site on which this medieval castle sits has been occupied since the Bronze Age. See what life was like for Gozo’s earliest residents and hear their harrowing tales of invasion, murder and violence during the multiple Ottoman attacks they endured.
4. Wander through Victoria Old Town
While away an afternoon exploring the narrow lanes and alleyways of Gozo’s capital Victoria. The Old Town is a warren of winding streets, brightly shuttered houses and romantic balconies. The closer you look, the more exquisite detail you find – great Instagram material and design inspiration!
5. Visit the Ggantija Temples
Also known as ‘Giants’ Tower’ Ġgantija is a megalithic temple complex, older than the pyramids of Egypt. The information centre details the site’s incredible 6,000 year history – pass through before you head out to walk among these ancient stones for yourself.
6. Dinner at La Stanza
If you stay a full day and you want dinner with a view then you could head to one of the beaches mentioned earlier and take up a spot on the seafront. But I would recommend dining al fresco on the roof terrace of Italian restaurant La Stanza, in Victoria. They don’t oversell themselves; their slogan is “Probably the best pizza in Gozo”. Well we tried a few, and I can confirm that their Sicilian pizza dough does the trick and these are the thinnest, crispiest slices on the island. Not only is the food great, but the view of Gozo’s citadel, lit up at night, is what really makes La Stanza special.
You can see that Gozo has far more going on than you could possible squeeze into a day, but if that’s all you’ve got then hopefully this short guide has given you some tips and pointers so that you make the most of your holiday in Malta.