Malta is a popular tourist destination as a result of its beautiful coastlines and rich history, but if you really want to get away from it all, you’ve got to visit Gozo. With some of the most spectacular scenery, gorgeous beaches, and fascinating historical sites in Malta, visiting Gozo really is a holiday to remember.
the Azure Window, Gozo l Courtesy of Hetti Lawrence
There are many beautiful geologic formations along Malta’s coast, but one of the most beautiful and most popular is the Azure window, located near Dwejra Bay on Gozo. It is a natural limestone arch, over 28 meters high, and is thought to have formed when two limestone caves collapsed. The lagoon created by the arch has calm waters suitable for swimming and scuba diving. The arch has appeared in films and TV series such as Clash of the Titans (1981) and Game of Thrones.
Often sited as the best beach on Gozo, it is certainly Gozo’s only truly sandy beach, with the deep yellow sand beautifully soft beneath your feet. Because of its idyllic spot, soft sand and unbelievably clear water, it can get unbearably busy in the height of summer, so it’s best to arrive either early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds. Sun loungers and umbrellas are available to rent, and there is a bar and an ice cream truck almost permanently parked on the entrance to the beach. If lounging about in the sun gets boring, Calypso Cave is quite nearby, as are the remains of a Roman villa built almost 2,000 years ago.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Gozo, tours of the Tal-Massar Winery teach visitors about the wines produced in the winery, the wine making process and the history of the vineyard. The vineyard itself is beautiful in its sheer expanse with the sea in the far distance. Guests can partake in wine tasting accompanied by three traditional authentic Gozitan treats – galletti (Gozitan crackers) with dips, Gozitan sheep cheese and traditional bread with sun-dried tomatoes and cold pressed Gozitan olive oil.
There are many beautiful and peaceful churches in Gozo, but Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu Basilica is one of the most spectacular. It is located on the edge of a sheer seaside cliff, providing breath taking views and an extremely calming atmosphere. Its origins are unknown but records of it date back to at least 1534. The Basilica provides a wide range of spiritual and religious ceremonies, but visitors can also just visit to admire the sculptures and architecture. Admission is free but visitors mustn’t wear shorts and women should cover their shoulders out of respect of religious traditions.
Gozo is surrounded by vibrant and rich marine fauna and flora as a result of the variety in its coastline. From sheer cliffs to caves or wrecks, and sandy or rocky sea beds, there’s so much to explore! Species likely to be seen by divers include moray eels, dolphins, octopi, stingrays, parrot fish and many more. Corals can be found on arches and in caves. There are many places to dive around Malta, including Wied il-Għasri, Daħlet Qorrot, Blenheim Bomber wreck (WWII English Air Force) and Crocodile Rock and Coral Cave. Gozo Aqua Sports Dive Centre in Marsalform offers many different types of diving courses and tours, all for very reasonable prices.
The Citadel or Citadella is a fortified city in the heart of Victoria on Gozo. The area has been inhabited since the Bronze age and was known in the Medieval era as the Gran Castello. The first fortifications of the Citadel were built in 1500 BC and the present ones were built in 1622, so the Citadel is rich in history. Climb onto the battlements to see spectacular views of virtually the entire island, explore the deep, dark tunnels of the fortification (if you’re brave enough!) and visit the beautiful Citadel Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Dwejra Tower is a small watchtower in Dwejra Bay which was built for a rather specialist purpose: to prevent anyone not authorized from collecting “fungus melitensis” (Maltese Fungus) from the area, which was erroneously believed to have unique medicinal properties. It was completed in 1652 and is one of four remaining Lascaris towers built by the Order of Saint John. Around 1715 the tower was upgraded into a coastal battery with a gun platform built around the sea-facing side. Recently restored by Din l-Art Ħelwa (Malta’s National Trust), the tower is now open to the public and contains a restaurant selling traditional Maltese food.
One of the most important archaeological sites in the Maltese Islands, the Ggantija Temple is in fact a Neolithic megalithic temple complex built from limestone, housing two temples built side-by-side. The larger one is the older and better preserved of the two, dating back to around 3600 BC. They are older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids at more than 5500 years old. Believed to be the site of a fertility cult, there is much fascinating Gozitan folklore surrounding the temples.
As the Maltese islands’ geological structure consists mostly of limestone, it has lots of caves of various depths and difficulties. Cave diving options are available in places such as Shrimp’s Cave, Billinghurst Cave or Coral Cave. Fish and local fauna can often be seen in these caves. Non-diving caves are also available. Examples are Ninu’s Cave, Xerri’s Grotto and Calypso Cave where legend says the love-sick nymph Calypso seduced Odysseus in Homer’s epic Odyssey. Formed in upper coralline limestone, these caves contain many stalactites and stalagmites, as well as stunning views.
The north coast of Gozo is characterized by the checkerboard appearance of natural salt pans protruding into the sea. Some of the salt pans are still in use and visitors can see salt being extracted from the sea. Once collected, the salt is stored and processed in the caves along the coast. The rock formations and the surrounding scenery are breathtakingly beautiful. Visitors can learn a lot of local history when they visit here, as the 350 year-old salt pans have been passed down through families generation after generation.