Gozo island is big enough to have some variety in places to visit, but still small enough for visiting them all with very little effort. You have the capital Victoria with historical Cittadella dating back to 1500 BC, crystal clear waters where to do snorkeling or diving, beaches, natural caves and salt pans.
If the island was flat, it would be easy to walk from town to town. But since the terrain is hilly, some kind of a vehicle is necessary.
The Capital, Victoria, is on high ground in the middle of the island, where as the other destinations and the beaches are located by the sea behind a long and sometimes steep downhill.
Renting a bicycle is a good choice in autumn, winter and spring when the temperature is milder. It can get close to +40 centigrade in the summer, so then it might be too hot to climb those uphills without a motorized vehicle. There's a place by the Ferry Terminal for hiring all kind of vehicles : Mgarr Tourist Services. Hertz and Avis have also their shops at the Mgarr Port area for car rental.
There is a local bus network that covers the whole island, so that's a choice if you want to save an extra penny. Hop-on Hop-Off buses work well if you're going to Gozo only for a day trip.
Destinations and Things to Do in Gozo
There are three main destinations for tourists to visit and they differ very much from each other.
- Victoria, the Capital, in the middle of Gozo, with an old citadel as the main attraction.
- The picturesque Xlendi Bay in the west coast.
- Marsalforn in the east coast is the most popular destination in Gozo
Then there's Ghajnsielem by the Mgarr Port, that is also a good option for a stay, as it is easy to visit both Gozo and Comino using Ghajnsielem as a base due to its proximity to the port.
These destinations are the reasons mainly for why to come to Gozo and the most popular things to do in Gozo take place in these areas. One destination can't be recommended over another, but rather why not staying a few days in all of them? Getting around is quick and easy.
Victoria is located in the middle of the island at the crossroads of most roads and bus lines. The city is locally known as Ir-Rabat, which might be a bit confusing when you see it in maps or signs.
The citadel, Cittadella, is the main attraction to visit. It's a rather large fortified "city" with plenty of museums etc. You can enter the Citadel for free, but you have to pay an entrance to places like the Cathedral.
On the south side of Citadel, you find a couple of charming squares; Pjazza San Gorg and Pjazza l-Indipendenza, where to have a rest and a cold drink in charming historical surroundings.
The best shopping spots in Gozo you find from the main street Triq ir-Repubblika. There you find the small shopping centres The Duke Plaza and Tiġrija Palazz as well as other shops.
Xlendi Bay is like a beach resort, just without a beach. It's a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving, thanks to the crystal clear water. The shoreline is full of cliffs for sunbathing and you find plenty of ladders to the sea along the bay.
Xlendi used to be a small fishing village, but now it's taken a leap towards tourism by offering a selection of hotels, restaurants, etc. Xlendi Bay is a perfect place for adults to relax a few days and enjoy the sun and the sea. Maybe kids would prefer the east coast with the sandy beaches.
Marsalforn is a tiny village on the east coast of Gozo, a bit similar with Xlendi Bay, but with more space to move around. The heart of Marsalforn is the beach promenade with restaurant terraces and the small beach in front of it.
On the east side of the bay you find more cliffs for sunbathing, but there you have to be ware of the strong sea currents. There is also a nice path you can take towards west where you come across a park and two kilometers later salt pans in peculiar surroundings.
Ghanjsielem and Mgarr
If you are planning to stay at Gozo for only a night or two, it could be an option to stay in Ghajnsielem by the ferry port. It's a nice local village with some churches and restaurants, great views, and a "Betlehem Village" that comes alive in December. By staying in Ghajnsielem, you get an easy access to Comino & Blue Lagoon boats, as well as not having to go far from the ferry port with your luggage. Stops for the Hop-on Hop-off buses are located at the port.
Next to the Mgarr Port is located Fort Chambray, which was built in the 18th century to guard the new city that was intended to be the new Capital of Gozo. That plan was never finished. Today, the area is being built for housing and hotel purposes. Apartments are already available for booking. the hotel will be completed at a later time. For more information: fortchambray.com.
Many of the most impressing attractions of Gozo are located on the west coast in San Lawrenz:
- Inland Sea, where the water flows in through a cave. It's a popular diving site and small boats take tourists through the cave to marvel at the scenery from the sea.
- Blue Hole is a deep hole in rock carved by nature. It's also a popular diving site.
- Many peculiarly formed cliffs and strange shapes.
There's a large car park in the middle of the area where you can easily drive with a rental car. If you're arriving by a bicycle, a word of warning is in place, that there's a 1,5 kilometer up or downhill which can be an effort in hot weather.
One of the main attractions use to be the Blue Window or Azure Window but it collapsed in March 2017. The best hotel and the only 5-star hotel in Gozo, Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz is located in this area up the hill.
Maltese people are a religious; even in a tiny village you can find several churches and some of them are massive compared to its surroundings. The former image is about the biggest church of Gozo: Rotunda of St. John the Baptist in the small village of Ix-Xewkijan, located half way of Ghajnsielem and Victoria. A small curiosity about Gozo is that there are 46 churches in total according to Wikipedia.
The best beach of Gozo as well as the large beach is located on the east side, south from Marsalforn. The golden sand in Ramla Bay is fine and there is plenty of room where to sunbathe. The shoreline is pretty shallow, but there might be strong underwater currents in windy weather. Just behind the beach you'll find a snackbar, ice cream bar and a restaurant.
The bus stop of Ramla is only 400 meters from the beach. The area between the bus stop and the beach is available for parking.
The seaweed will be cleaned before summer months. However, the accessibility of Ramla Bay beach is much better, since you have to walk a very steep downhill to reach San Blas beach.
Sheltered by cliffs, in the end of a long and narrow bay, you find the small beach of Mgarr ix-Xini. The beach isn't the main reason why to come to Mgarr ix-Xini, but the beautiful narrow bay that guards the beach. There are stairs that end by the water so sunbathing at the cliffs is also a possibility. The cove is also a popular diving and snorkeling site. There is a snackbar behind the beach. The road down to the beach is a narrow one. There aren't public buses that go to this beach.
The beach is famous for the film By The Sea, starred by Angelina Jolie ja Brad Pitt, which was shot almost solely in Mgarr ix-Xini. Hotels and some other things are staged in the film but this is the shooting spot.
Other beaches in Gozo
There are much more tiny coves with pebble beaches and cliffs in Gozo than sandy beaches. Another small beach to mention is the beach of Hondoq Ir-Rummien in the northeastern part of the island.
If you're staying in Gozo, it's also worth visiting the island of Comino with the Blue Lagoon.
How to get to Gozo
There is only one airport in Malta (Luqa) and it's located on the main island of Malta. The easiest way is to get a bus to Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal and continue by ferry to Gozo island. The route map of public buses you can find here.
The bus line X1 from the Malta Airport to Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal takes 1h 10 minutes, though costs only 1,50 in wintertime and 2€ in the summertime.
A taxi from Malta Airport to Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal takes around 45 minutes and costs around 32€. It's possible to get a taxi for a fixed price by paying it at the taxi booth in the arrivals hall. You will get a receipt with your taxi number, which you have to find outside the terminal building. You will pay the taxi fare with that receipt. Prices for different destinations can be found here. An administrative fee of a few euros could be added to the price.
Taxify works in Malta, and it's cheaper than traditional taxi companies. You can pay the fare with either by their mobile app or directly to the driver.
From Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal you have to catch a ferry to Gozo. The voyage takes 25 minutes and there are departures going very often. The trip is paid only at the return trip, so going there, you can just walk aboard. More information here.