“It’s what Malta was like 15 years ago,” Annelise, a barista tells me what the island of Gozo is like. “Just too quiet of a place for me,” Tony, who lives in Paceville, known in Malta to be the hub of parties. For Urban Maltese like Tony, the neighboring island of Gozo could be on a different planet; as he alluded to me, “It’s a place where nothing happens.” For Annelise, it’s what she fondly remembers Malta to be like growing up. This is precisely why I decided to spend a few days there, exploring the island.
Jetting off to a remote island has forever been somewhat appealing – and, after such a sustained period where social distancing has become the new standard, isolating away from people has become an even more attractive prospect.
Unlike many Mediterranean holiday hotspots, the island of Gozo is still under the radar and has a peaceful and laid-back vibe. Marsalforn, where I stayed, provides a charmingly natural backdrop where you can slow down and unwind for a few days. When I got to the town of Marsalforn, there was a friendly, warm welcome with a natural beauty that replaced the congested hustle and bustle of Paceville. But for those in the know, this gem off the coast of Malta is easily accessible via a 45-minute ferry from Valletta, which is the capital city of Malta. Or in just 25 minutes from Cirkewwa, which is north of the main island.
Exploring the island is very simple — public transport is easily accessible and cost-effective. You can buy a bus pass for the whole of Malta for €15 (about $17.50 USD) and get 12 rides. This counts in Gozo as well. Otherwise, you can pay €2 a ride and get a time limit of 2 hours on the ticket to use again.
The one place everyone must go to on the island of Gozo is Victoria, or Città Victoria, which is the capital of Gozo. The guesthouse owner of where I was staying said, “If you’re heading to Victoria, then you will have to head over to the Cittadella.” There is a lot of history there, which goes back to the Bronze Age c. 1500 BC. When you get to the centre, you will see an inclined road with a small movie theatre. If you walk up that road, you will walk into the Cathedral of the Assumption. From there, you can then walk up to the top of the landmark and get a stunning panoramic view of the entire island.
Afterwards, you can grab yourself an ice cream and a drink and sit with the locals. When it gets to dinner time, you will have to book a table at the best restaurant in town, Maldonado Bistro. It’s very tough to get a table there, and I suggest booking days in advance. However, if you go early, you might be as lucky as me and get in without a reservation. And when you do, you will have to order the Lampuki fish. The fish is exquisite. And they are usually caught towards the back end of the year. So if you fancy having some, then I would suggest heading over to Gozo between September-December.
Another hidden gem that not many are aware of, and I only stumbled across it as I decided to walk from Marsalforn to Victoria, is the statue of the Risen Christ at the top of Tas-Salvatur hill. “I have met people that have been to Malta and Gozo many times but do not know about this interesting statue. It lies on a steep hill outside Marsalforn and can be seen even from the ramparts of the Citadella in Victoria.” A review I read online afterward which is very accurate.
I’ve seen a few Christ statues in my time, including two in South America, the most well-known being the Christ the Redeemer. But this was as exciting to see as those. It’s a gentle hike up, and there was no one else around apart from me. It’s peaceful, and you will enjoy the view from the top.
Suppose the island of Gozo isn’t enough for you. In that case, you are just a boat ride away from Gozo’s sister island, Comino. It is the home to two of the most beautiful beaches in the entire Mediterranean: Santa Marija Bay and where I spent most of my time whilst I was there, the renowned Blue Lagoon, all of which are only accessible by sea.
Comino offers an even calmer experience in which to enjoy breathtaking landscapes. But if you like your watersport, you can parasail, which I decided to do and I couldn’t believe how great it was. There are jet skis, and you can go diving in the Santa Marija Caves. If that is not enough, you can head to the azure ocean on a boat ride and explore the coastline of the picturesque island. After spending the day there, I bumped into Maria and her friends on the way back to Gozo. Maria told me as I took the boat ride back to Gozo with them, “It is such a beautiful place to relax, and we loved it.”
The only downer to the day was if you want to hire a deck chair and an umbrella, you have to fork out €25. I had to ask twice because I was astonished about how expensive it was. I recall Copacabana beach charging me less than a dollar for both. I was far from Rio, but I felt it was uncalled for with their charging amount. Even the Jet Ski was cheaper if you did it in a pair. The parasail was also at a reasonable price of €40.
There are other great outdoor activities in Gozo that I didn’t do that you can. You can hike the Ta Cenc Cliffs and discover the secret coves of Mgarr ix-Xini. Adventures await at every turn.
If all of that is just a bit too much for you, then I would suggest chilling out by the sea in Marsalforn. There are some great bars and restaurants and one or two lovely ice cream parlors.
An interesting fact that you may not know about Gozo is that it has been unchanged in many ways for hundreds of years. It is also one of the world’s leading destinations for sustainability, earning a place on the Sustainable Global Top 100 Destinations list. This is thanks to the island adopting a sustainable tourism practice and the thoughtful preservation of its natural environment, culture, and community.
After a challenging period of being stuck indoors, Gozo could be the ideal destination for those deprived of a vacation. The freedom to explore the beautiful Mediterranean and have the chance to press pause and live in the moment awaits. Plus, let’s not forget about those average summer temperatures of 27 degrees celsius.