We had had an incredible four days sightseeing on Malta, so jumping in our rental car and heading to Gozo was bittersweet. Malta had been beautiful. The ancient cities. The clear waters. The delicious food. The incredible cheap Rose. Gozo sure had big shoes to fill.
Getting from Malta to Gozo
The journey itself from Malta to Gozo is relatively straightforwards. Ferries run every half hour or so from cirkewwa (Malta) to Mġarr (Gozo). Driving from Valletta to the port should take about 50 minutes. Except if you’re not incredibly hungover from a night out in Paceville and need to stop for McDonalds and some fresh air, in that case it takes 90 minutes.
The ferry itself only takes about half an hour, and costs €15.65 for the car and driver and an additional €4.65 per person. After running around on the hot tarmac melting our jandals and burning our feet we established that you don’t actually buy a ticket on the way over. You board the boat for free and only pay on the way back over!
Like most things on Gozo Mġarr harbour is only a few minutes drive away from the major attractions.
Staying on Gozo
Travelling as a group of five and with a rental car we decided to stay in the village of Xagħra. Xagħra is the second most populous village on Gozo with a population of around 5000 people. It does however have a very small town feel with a main square surrounded by restaurants, local stores and winding sidestreets.
Gozo isn’t as busy or popular as Malta so the number of accomodation options is much greater and incredibly reasonably priced! Because we were a large group we opted for a semi detatched townhouse a 10 minute walk from the main square of Xaghra. With four bedrooms, a full kitchen, three bathrooms and a private pool we were pretty happy with our choice.
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Eating in Xaghra
Is it ok to classify eating as a hobby or a passtime? I hope so. This was one of my favourite parts about Gozo. The food was incredible.
We ate almost every night of the week at the main Xaghra square. Prices are almost embarrassingly low. Our favourite meal of the week was at Oleanders and came to a grand total of €198 for 5 of us including tip! We had three courses each, three bottles of Rose, coffees and digestifs. In London you’d barely be able to get one of those things for 40 pounds each!
That was the most expensive of all our meals with most coming in about 25-30 pounds each for dinner and 10-15 for breakfast and lunch.
To keep costs down and make the most of our incredible apartment we also did a huge shop at the Lidl Gozo. We got 12 bottles of wine, cheese and crackers, far too many chips and chocolate and only paid €80!
Sightseeing on Gozo
Number one on every list about Gozo published pre-2017 has the Azure Window as the highlight. Now not so much, thanks to a storm earlier in the year the arch collapsed. There’s so much more to Gozo though that just the Azure window. In the four days we were there we managed to explore a lot and hit most of the highlights.
Xlendi bay (Still have no idea how to say it) is busy. Like really busy. It took us 15 minutes and three arguments with other drivers to find a carpark. Xlendi was another of our options of places to stay, they’ve got beautiful hotels along the promenade. However with a group of 5 we needed 3 rooms and we just couldn’t justify the price! A total tourist trap, but for good reason. We wandered along the waterfront and settled on Churchill Restaurant as a good spot for lunch. The small beach area is the perfect place to tan after eating your body weight in carbs. I’m pretty sure we spent two hours here napping, reading and people watching without even speaking a word to each other. It was bliss!
Personally these were not my high point of Gozo. It was 32 degrees and all I wanted to do was swim, instead we spent an hour wandering these neolithic ruins. Yes they’re interesting. Local legend has it that a female giant who ate only broad beans and honey built these as a place of worship after she gave birth to a child of a ‘common man’. They also predate the pyramids of egypt but a few thousand years and are the second oldest man made structure in the world!
If you’re got time and are driving past I’d suggest stopping by, tickets are only about €6, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to see them!
Ta’ Kola Windmill
When you buy your tickets for the Ggantija temples, you also get entrance to the Ta’Kola Windmill. Dating back to 1725 and one of the few remaining windmills from the knights period. This was a surprisingly interesting stop. It was also the first time that we’d ever got to have a look inside a windmill and see how it worked. Right at the top of the mill you can see the two stones that are rotated against each other to crush the grain that then flows down the chutes to the lower rooms. Turns out they’re more than just a pretty backdrop!
The Blue Hole is right in front of where the Azure window used to be. It is one of Maltas most famous dive sites with the 10m rock pool going down and opening out into the open ocean. We didn’t dive but stopped off for a swim and a look around. You’ve got to be a little careful when swimming as sometimes divers will resurface without checking for swimmers above. Whilst the rocks around the edges are brutal on your feet, its still a must see for Gozo – even without the Azure Window!
San Blas Bay
They say nothing good comes easy. After visiting San Blas Bay in Gozo I would have to agree. The beach is beautiful, but its so hard to get to! After a 15 minute drive down an offroad track you reach a car park, from which there is an ever rougher, steeper offroad track that leads you down to the bead. Its so steep that you can’t even take a car down it! Walking down we immediately knew our no matter how refreshing the water was we would be sweaty messes by the time we got back to the car. The beach though makes it all worthwhile. A smaller sister beach to the well known Ramla Beach, San Blas Bay has red sand and crystal clear waters. There’s also a small restaurant and bar where we stopped for lunch. At only €6 for a burger, chips and a cider we were pretty happy. Without enormous stretches of sand and only 25 or so sun loungers it isn’t somewhere you can spend a day, but its certainly well worth the hike down for lunch and a swim.
Another UNESCO world heritage site, the Citadella, Citadel or Castello is a citadel within the city of Victoria. Its made up of a combination of a medieval castle and a more modern gunpowder fortress. Strategically located in the centre of the island at one of the highest points it has commanding views across the surrounding towns and out to the oceans. Just inside the main entrance is a visitors centre with an immersive video experience that gives an insight into the history of the Citadella and Gozo. A little confusing was the mentality of the knights of Gozo as they killed their wives and children before heading into a battle?
Rotunda of Xewkija
We’d seen the Rotunda from a fair few vantage points and had begun affectionally referring to it as the Taj Mahal. (It looks nothing like the Taj Mahal.) So on our last day we finally located it on a map and visited, and we’re glad we did! Its even more impressive up close, but interestingly its not old at all! St John the Bapitists Rotunda as its knows in English, was actually only finished in 1978.
The original smaller church was left in place so that people had somewhere to workship whilst this larger church was built around it. The best parts of the church were dismantled and put together again in an anex to the main church. In here you can pay €5 to get access to the rooftop of the church. And the best part is that since its so new you have a lift to get up instead of a million stairs like in most other churches!
A day trip to Comino and the Blue Lagoon is a must do from either Gozo or Malta. We booked a day trip with Barbarossa Tours and it was probably the best day of our trip! We loved it so much we wrote an entire post about it which you can see here.
Getting Around Gozo
Gozo has a public transport system, but its nowhere near as effective as that of Malta. There are only 10 bus routes and they only run once an hour. Unless you’re staying at somewhere like Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz or the Grand Hotel Gozo where you’ve got everything you want all you need is sunshine, a car is the way to go. For only €100 we had the freedom to really explore all of Gozo. A lot of the beaches are only accessible by car, and even getting between villages we were happy to have the AC in the car instead of waiting in 32 degree heat at a bus stop!
After four days on Gozo we could see why people keep coming back. We’d had a great time with the sun, the sea, the cheap rose and the incredible sights. Pool floats deflated and suitcases packed it was back onto the ferry for a flight back to reality. I have a feeling though that we’ll definitely be back!