Malta travel

Why you can’t skip visiting Gozo, Malta

October 30, 2019
view of Ramla Bay Beach on Gozo, Malta

Gozo, Malta is the country’s second largest island, located a short ferry ride to the north. The little island is also a must-visit for those visiting Malta.

After our half day trip in Mdina, we headed back to Valletta, grabbed a late lunch, and hopped on the bus to Cirkewwa. From Cirkewwa, we got on the ferry to Gozo at sunset, arriving at Mgarr just after dark. We spent the next couple of day exploring this lovely little place, finding it had much more to offer than we initially thought.

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How long to stay in Gozo

Most people come to Gozo as part of a tour or day trip and you can see much of the island’s highlights in one day. But it’s a beautiful place to relax and explore. If you have the time, I’d recommend spending a couple of days in Gozo.

We decided to stay a couple of nights on the island to kick back and relax, spending two nights and two full days. There’s quite a few holiday homes dotted around the island and many of them have pools. We stayed in a farmhouse with a pool and it was a great chance to relax. We based ourselves in Xaghra, which had a cute square with restaurants and a grand cathedral surrounding it. It also had direct buses to the ferry docks and Ramla Bay.

Xaghra main square and parish church in Gozo, Malta
Xaghra’s main square

How to get to Gozo

On the ferry to Gozo

You can reach Gozo easily by ferry from Malta’s main island. The ferry for Gozo leaves around every 45 minutes and takes about 20 minutes, running 24 hours a day. Check out the schedule for the exact times. It leaves from Ċirkewwa on the island of Malta and arrives at Mġarr on Gozo. Both are easily connected by bus services. You can go on with a car or as a foot passenger (which is what we did).

I really enjoyed taking the ferry, we stocked up on a couple snacks from the onboard convenience shop and sat on the passenger deck to watch the sunset both there and back. You get your ticket and pay on your way back from Gozo (€4.65 per adult).

Sunset over Gozo channel taken from ferry between Gozo and Malta
Sunset from the ferry to Gozo

Gozo’s highlights

Sadly, one of Gozo’s former highlights, the Azure Window, fell into the sea after a storm in 2017. The window was famed for being a unique natural formation, as well as a filming location in Game of Thrones. However, that is certainly not all this beautiful little island has to offer. In fact, it’s not even close. We easily filled our two days and after were wishing for a longer stay.

Gozo’s Beaches

Ramla Bay beach

Ramla Bay is Gozo’s most well-known beach, famous for it’s golden, almost reddish, sand. It is a beautiful spot to relax for a few hours and is the largest sandy beach on Gozo. Shallow (usually calm) waters make it a favourite for families and it’s large enough to be able to find your own spot. But, as a result of all these great factors, it does tend to get crowded. We were there on a very windy day in the shoulder season and it was still pulsing with life.

Golden sands and turquoise sea of Ramla Bay Gozo Malta
Ramla Bay – look at the colour of that golden sand!

If you are going to go swimming at Ramla Bay, I would recommend wearing watershoes. The sandy shores are rather deceptive. Rough, slippery rock lines the sea floor below the water line and I tore a hole in my foot while wading into the water.

Lifeguards are present and the beach also has public restrooms and some cafes. It’s reachable by bus and then is a five to 10 minute walk away. I would recommend approaching the beach from this direction. We were staying in Xaghra, not too far from the beach and decided to walk, taking in the gorgeous views and walking past Calypso’s cave (which isn’t open to visitors at the moment). Google Maps told us to take the path from here to the beach, but we ended up walking all the way around. The path is steep, slippery and a bit dangerous, winding down the side of the cliff.

Watersports

Sailboat off coast of Gozo, Malta
The usually calm waters around Gozo are great for sailing, SUP boarding, and other water sports

Gozo’s bays and beaches are also great spots for watersports. As I mentioned, we had a really windy day on our first day in Gozo and there were several kitesurfers out. The waters around Gozo are very clear and great for snorkelling, while paddleboarding and kayaking are also popular around the island.

My favourite watersport is stand-up paddle boarding (SUP boarding) and it had been nearly a year since I’d been so I could not wait to get back out on the water. It turns out Gozo and Comino are amazing places to snorkel and paddleboard. We had some guides take us out near Hondoq Bay The tour was definitely a highlight of the trip. We paddled across to Comino and after a brief rest, snorkelled around the island in the crystal clear water, looking at all the fish below us. Then, we paddled into some caves on the north east side of the island and explored the caverns.

My advice is that if you want to do some exploring by SUP board around Gozo yourself, definitely go as part of a tour the first time. Pay close attention to the weather as it can get really windy quick and I would say the route we took is not for the faint-hearted. Like I said, it had been a year since I’d gone and I’m quite small so my arms and legs felt like they were going to fall off.

Beautiful views and natural wonders

Gozo is home to some incredible beauty spots. Every so often, you’ll stumble upon a gorgeous lookout, complete with a bench to sit, relax, and enjoy. From stunning rocky coastlines and golden sand beaches to rugged country side and beautiful bays, there’s no denying Gozo’s natural beauty.

In addition to its beautiful bays, Gozo is also full of natural wonders that go far beyond the now underwater Azure Window. Dwejra Bay, where the Azure Window once stood, is known for beautiful views, an inland sea and great dive spots.

Not quite as natural, near Marsalforn you can see the Xwejni Salt Pans, where Gozitan people have harvested sea salt for centuries.

Gozo’s capital Victoria (Rabat)

Mgarr Harbour at sunset in Gozo
The citadel of Rabat is visible on a hill over Mgarr Harbour

Victoria, also known locally as Rabat, is Gozo’s capital city. After our afternoon at Ramla Bay, we took the bus to Victoria to spend the evening wandering it’s pretty and historic streets.

Citadel of Victoria (Rabat) on Gozo
The Citadel at night

When we arrived, we stopped for dinner at It-Tokk in Independence Square. I opted for the special, red snapper, which was a huge portion and really delicious, while Matt grabbed a pizza. We took an evening walk through the capital, past the citadel, down the quiet little streets, and around patron saint statues on corners.

Gozo craft beer

Gozo is home to Malta’s biggest craft beer brewery Lord Chambray. We tried this craft beer a few times during our stay in the country, and I have to say I was impressed! They have some great variety, there seemed to be a brew to suit every taste. I was a big fan of their peach and strawberry sour and of their gose beer Flinder’s Rock.

While you can find the beer in bars on both islands, why not head over to get it at its freshest at the brewery? You can make a reservation to visit the brewery for a tasting.

Gozitan Wine

You might not associate Malta with wine, but Gozo is home to a few vineyards that offer tours and tastings. Gozitan wine is said to be strong in flavour and take on unique characteristics from Gozo’s salty air. Time, and the fact that neither Matt nor I are big wine drinkers, meant we skipped this activity.

However, wine enthusiasts can book a tasting at one of the three main vineyards. According to Visit Gozo, you should look for the DOK certification if you want to seek out the distinct wine.

Tips for visiting Gozo

When to visit

Gozo revolves more around the visitor season than Malta. As such, you might find it quiet in the winter and not everything will be open. We visited at the end of September right after the schools in Malta had returned. While most things are open year-round, we found that none of the cafes near our Airbnb were open during our stay.

I’ve heard that in the high tourist season, Gozo becomes much more crowded by day trippers and people looking for a weekend getaway. However, it’s minimal compared to many places in Malta and indeed Europe.

Getting around Gozo

Getting ready to board the ferry to Gozo

I’ve already covered how to reach Gozo, but how do you get around the island once you are there? Like the rest of Malta, Gozo is well connected by buses to major highlights. You can find timetables and route planners here. We got around by a combo of buses and walking (the island is, after all, quite small). In addition, we had a ride from our SUP guides to and from Hondoq Bay.

However you may have come to Gozo to get off the beaten path, in which case, you might be looking for alternative ways to get around. You can take a car onto the Gozo Ferry, or you may want to rent a bike. Gozo’s roads are fairly quiet so it’s not a bad place to cycle.

Accommodation in Gozo

There are some boutique hotels on Gozo, which seem to be concentrated around Marsalform and Victoria. A lot of the accommodation are farmhouses B&Bs. We stayed in a farmhouse in Xaghra that we found on Airbnb and we had a pool!

Find more accommodation in Gozo here.

Day trips to Comino

As mentioned, Gozo is a great place for a day trip if you’d prefer to base yourself elsewhere or are short on time. You can also book tours to the smaller island of Comino which is famous for the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a popular spot to visit, featuring crystal clear turquoise waters. Many visitors call the Blue Lagoon the most beautiful spot in Malta.

I’ll be honest, we did skip the lagoon as neither of us are big on crowds (Comino does get very crowded with day trippers in the warm months). It was originally on our itinerary, however we ended up seeing a lot of the waters around Comino when we went snorkelling as part of the SUP tour and were nowhere near other tourists.

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