Though it’s just a quick ferry-hop from the mainland, Gozo has a personality all of its own. Less urbanised and developed than Malta, the island fosters a beautifully languorous pace of life – think of it as a window into the country’s more peaceable past. In our guide to Gozo, you’ll find rugged Mediterranean coastlines, farm-fresh cuisine, and a few architectural wonders while you’re at it. From the ancient Ggantija Temples (1,000 years older than Stonehenge!) to the tangerine sands of Ramla Bay to the stalactites of Xerri’s Grotto, Gozo may not be big or bustling, but make no mistake: this is no second fiddle.
Also known as Città Victoria, Rabat may be Gozo’s capital and largest city, but that’s all relative: its population hovers at just around 7,000 people. You’ll be well able, then, to soak up its manifold charms while kicking off your guide to Gozo. A stroll to the famous Citadel offers views across the city and much of the Gozitan countryside.
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of Gozo’s famed Ggantija Temples. A full millennium older than Stonehenge, the temples – a UNESCO heritage site – were said to have been made by giants, such is the scale of their construction. One of the most famous archaeological sites in all of Malta, the Megalithic temple complex is still in remarkably good repair.
Like the Ggantija Temples and Ninu’s Cave, another impressive subterranean spectacle, Xerri’s Grotto, is located in the small village of Xagħra – when it comes to impressive landmarks, this is one well-endowed town. Discovered by accident when resident Antonio Xerri was digging a well, today the expansive, stalactite-filled cavern is a popular tourist site.
Ramla Bay, located at Gozo’s northern end, isn’t like any other Maltese beach. For one, its sand is more rust-red in colour than golden. For another, it’s flanked by Calypso’s Cave…as in, the cave where Odysseus was held captive in Homer’s Odyssey. It is, quite literally, an epic beach.
Gozo is considered the breadbasket of Malta, thanks to its fertile soil and ample farms. That also means that it’s home to more than its fair share of top-notch restaurants, many of which have been serving farm-to-table fare many years before it became a global trend. One of the best eateries in Gozo is Oleander Restaurant, which looks onto Xagħra’s Victory Square and is famous for its traditional rabbit stew.
Gozo is positively brimming with beautiful, Baroque churches and shrines, but perhaps the fairest of them all is the Rotunda of Xewkija (also known by its more pronounceable alias, the Church of Saint John the Baptist). Home to the third largest unsupported dome in the world, it’s quite the impressive architectural site.
Round off your touring of millennia-old temples with a trip to the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, which traces the history of this tawny island from the Neolithic era up to the Early Modern period. A number of impressive Bronze Age relics are on display here, but this pretty townhouse, located in Rabat’s Citadel, is an architectural landmark in its own right.
Strap on those flippers and shimmy into that wetsuit: Gozo just so happens to host some of the best snorkelling and dive sites in Europe. Locations like the Blue Hole, the reef at Reqqa Point, and the famous Fungus Rock are best explored from beneath the water’s surface.