I almost didn't go to Gozo... and what a mistake that would have been.
For such a small island, Malta offers quite a bit to do and see. Since I was only in Malta for three days, I wasn’t sure whether Gozo (Malta’s smaller sister island) would make the cut on our busy itinerary. Much of what I read about Gozo highlighted the island’s dive sites, but in late November, diving and snorkeling wasn’t really an option. Sure, Gozo had some ruins and the Azure window, but was it worth it to spend one of our few days in Malta to explore the small island? These were the thoughts swirling around in my head and the reason I almost didn’t go to Gozo… But, thank goodness I did, because my day on the small Mediterranean island may have been my favorite day in Malta.
After spending two days on the island of Malta and seeing most of the attractions on our “must see” list, my girlfriends and I decided to head to Gozo. We caught the 9:30 a.m. ferry and when we arrived in Gozo’s harbor Frankie from Eagle Garage was waiting for us. After a long (and somewhat cumbersome) day on Malta’s Hop on and Hop off bus the prior afternoon, we decided to forego the bus and hire a private car and driver for our day in Gozo. Frankie set us back about $70€ for the day, which turned out to be money well spent.
After stopping by St. John’s Cathedral to admire the “4th largest Cathedral dome in Europe,” we headed to Gozo’s capital city of Victoria. Victoria is a lovely pedestrian friendly capital (which unfortunately was under construction during our visit) – picturesque and perfect for strolling. We walked up to the Citadel to admire views of the city, did a bit of shopping and then settled into a cafe for pastizzi and a glass of wine. (We were on vacation, after all).
After our mid-morning snack we drove inland. En route to the Azure Window, we drove through the quaint village of St. Lawrence where we couldn’t help but notice that many of the doors in the village had keys in the door lock. Yes, you read that right… People in St. Lawrence keep their keys IN their doors!
Frankie explained to us that Gozo is extremely safe, and because of the low crime rates, many people in Gozo (especially in the village of St. Lawrence) leave their keys in the door and don’t bother locking them. I don’t know about where you live, but I certainly don’t see that here in Atlanta!
Before we reached the Azure Window, we passed a beautiful church that seemed to almost be built in the middle of the ocean. Apparently, Catholics from all over the world (including Popes) travel to Ta’ Pinu, not just for it’s beautiful surroundings, but also because the church has been deemed a “Miracle Church.”
Finally, we had reached Gozo’s most famed site – the Azure Window near Dwejra Bay. This natural wonder was created when two limestone caves collapsed, creating an arch. Aside from being popular with photographers (as I’m sure you can see why), the area is also extremely popular with divers.
After we took our fair share of photos, we loaded into one of the small motor boats and paid the Captain $4€ for a short boat ride through the bright blue waters to the nearby caves and around to the opposite side of the Azure Window. (If you choose to do this, I would recommend that you wait for an empty boat so you can snag the seats in the front and take photographs without having to shoot around people’s heads and outstretched arms).
By this time we had worked up an appetite, so we headed to the small fishing village of Xlendi (pronounced “Sch-lendi”) for lunch. Frankie had made reservations for us at the waterside restaurant of Ta’ Carolina, which was the perfect break from sight-seeing. We dined on Maltese pizzas and pastas, drank prosecco and watched families swim in the shallow water. (Although it was winter in Malta, the highs were still in the low 70s and we were told that the water temperature doesn’t drop too much, allowing swimming into the winter months).
Not only was the food fantastic, but WOW… Xlendi is gorgeous and Ta’ Carolina offers fantastic views! The color of the water in Xlendi ranged from green to teal to a bright, deep blue making the tiny village uniquely stunning. After we finished our lunch, we walked up the cliff’s stair pathway for even better views of the colorful harbor.
We spent so much time lingering in Xlendi that after lunch we only had time for one more stop on the island, but it was the stop that I had anticipated the most – a horseback riding excursion with Gozo Stables. The owner, Charlie, met us with a warm welcome at his farm where we were outfitted with riding hats and paired with horses to match our riding abilities (or, in our case, inabilities). The farm was filled with a hodgepodge of animals waiting to greet us, my favorites being a small chihuahua named Brownie and a pig named Belly.
Charlie took us for an hour sunset ride along the coast which afforded us breathtaking views of a fairly rural area of the island. After the ride, Charlie offered us wine and cheese which he produced himself on the farm. I’m not one to turn down wine (especially home-made authentic Maltese wine), but unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule to catch our ferry back to Malta so we didn’t have time to partake. Our horseback experience with Gozo Stables cost only $15€, but was easily worth at least double that price. Not to mention, Charlie was fantastic – he offered to take our photos while we were on horseback, introduced us to his farm animals and treated us as if we were part of his own family.
Don’t make the mistake I almost did and skip Gozo when you visit Malta. Just don’t! Our day on Gozo allowed us to slow down, soak in some culture and get a glimpse of how the Gozitans live. My last post on Malta focused on how the island nation slowly (but, quite steadily) grew on me. My trip to Malta’s smaller sister island was different – I was immediately drawn to this beautiful, quaint slice of paradise. The atmosphere is more relaxed, the locals’ way of life is slower and, of course, the island is simply stunning!
How to get to Gozo: Many airline carriers, including Air Malta, fly into Valletta. Once in Malta, allow an hour to get to Circewwa Harbor on Malta’s most northern point where you will take the 30 minute ferry to the island of Gozo.
Related Post: Was Malta a Mistake?
Have you been lucky enough to go to Gozo? Would you like to?
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