So, are you ready for Gozo? 🙂 As I’ve already mentioned the island is tiny – 14 km long, 7 km wide and has only 30 thousand inhabitants. But, despite all this, there’s pretty much to see! You should give yourself 1-2 days for sightseeing.
You can use local buses to travel (a day ticket costs EUR 2.6) or… rent a car, like we did. It’s an uncommon experience and it makes travelling even more interesting: when we were in the capitol Victoria we saw a small, almost godforsaken place close to the bus station that had a “rent a car” sign on it + a few locked bikes. It was closed but there was an older man sitting at a nearby bench, he quickly approached us and called his son-in-law or other relative who was “just” approaching Victoria. This is how we got our old-fashioned vehicle, without any facilities such as AC, power steering, baby car seats and of course with the wheel on the right side 🙂 The car was as wonky, as the damaged roads of Gozo 🙂 It added a new dimension to our trip, especially when we squeezed 4 adults + 2 children inside. When it wasn’t windy, we had a free sauna inside. This is the optimistic version… sometimes, especially when I was holding 11 kg of red hot Maks, when the sun was roasting, it wasn’t so funny anymore, but we’re the survivors! 🙂 Additionally, this pleasure cost only EUR 24 a day for all of us, and we wouldn’t have seen as much if we had used buses, although they were cheap, because there was approx. one bus an hour!
We have our means of transport and we’re ready to go!
Let’s start with the capitol town! Victoria (also named Rabat) is a quite unusual “capitol” – there are only 6.5 thousand residents! Nonetheless, it’s the largest town on Gozo. The name Victoria comes from queen Victoria, who awarded the capital with urban rights in 1887, during her jubilee, although many townsman still use the ancient name Rabat, meaning “suburbs”, despite the fact that there is a Rabat also on Malta.
In Victoria you have to see Pjazza Independenza in the town centre, also called It-Tokk, or the meeting place. There are many souvenir shops, restaurants (we do NOT recommend the restaurant It- Tokk!), the Banca Giuratela building and a small St. James Apostle church around the square. Unfortunately, stalls cover the entire square ruining its appearance – they’re highly picturesque, you can buy there beach towels, flip-flops and other touristic “yuck” that obviously can be useful sometimes, but why would they place it in the middle of the main square?? We leave the square behind, turn into one of the tiny streets and head towards St. George basilica, and afterwards we recommend a stroll through the streets of il Borgo, or the old town. They’re deserted, dormant during siesta and very picturesque…
Finally, we recommend climbing the 17th-century Citadel opposite the main artery Triq ir-Repubblika. There’s a cathedral, a few museums and lovely views. There was also a very strong wind that got in the way of our sightseeing with a little one and made it impossible to push even our light buggy uphill… so, we were admiring the Citadel mainly from afar…
Afterwards we went to Xewkija Rotunda, or a quite large church with a giant dome. When we got there we realized that we’ve already known the church – we saw it every day from our terrace close to Xaghra. From our house it looked like the church is dominating over the island and now we could see that it really is vast – it’s the largest church on the island and the dome is probably the third largest not-propped dome in the world.
You might meet a delightful priest inside who might tell you how the present church was given an upward extension between 1951-1971 over the old church that couldn’t accommodate the entire flock. Curiously enough, the church was build and funded by the residents themselves, but it becomes understandable when you spend more time on Malta and Gozo, and observe the local devout – figures of saints, many many churches (360 churches on the islands, almost 1 per every day of the year, 46 in Gozo itself), and even monuments of John Paul II…
I recommend mounting the top of the church and admiring the views from there. You can even climb the circuit stairs to the bell tower – in the hard version: climb the circuit stairs carrying 11 kg in 40 degrees-heat ;)… like I did 🙂
We drove from Xewkija to Ta’ Cenc to admire the local cliffs. We’ve read about this place in our guidebook so I was hoping to find some tourist signs… instead, we’ve been roving around Ta’ Cenc and Sannat, around the dormant villages and small country roads, and there was nobody we could ask for help. Finally, we came across locals who gave us directions, told us where to leave the car and said: “And then you have to get there… Just be careful and look ahead!” You have to be careful because the cliffs are 150 m high, beautiful and horrifying at the same time! I don’t recommend it to people who are afraid of heights 😉 However, the views were worth all that trouble and they were even worth walking in the heat with Maks who was slowly getting ready for his due nap. And you know, when a guy’s sleepy, he’s angry! Anyway, both my guys are like that… 😉
It’s only a stone’s throw (like everywhere on Gozo ;)) from Ta’ Cenc to a small and incredibly charming resort Xlendi. I’d even call it a tiny lovely resort but I don’t want to be accused of being too sweet, especially on such a hot day 😉 But Xlendi is like that – tiny and lovely. The bay, the blue water, little boats and little restaurants by the shore. Although its architecture is different, it reminds me of our favourite and beloved Positano at the Amalfi coast in Italy… It’s different but the peaceful summer day, the taste of wine right by the water (although I didn’t have any ;)) seems similar…
I believe that these circumstances call for a lazy lunch or even a romantic dinner in Xlendi – even if you choose a different “town” to stay, it’d probably be 5-10 km away! Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time… but we’ll definitely make it up, if we come back to Gozo!
We turned from Xlendi towards the second periphery of the island and drove for an incredible number of 9 km to Marsalforn that I’ve already written about, where we had a lovely dinner in an even lovelier restaurant, but I’ll give you the details in the post “culinary Gozo” 🙂 However, it’s best to go from Xlendi to Ta’ Pinu and Gharb in the western part of the island. Of course, on your way there you’ll probably get to the capitol because all roads lead THROUGH Victoria. Or most of them at least…
Ta’ Pinu is a national shrine of Malta, incredibly looking even from the road. According to the legend, at the end of the 19th century, local village man heard the voice of Virgin Mary here, and subsequently many miraculous recoveries of health took place due to the prayers addressed to Virgin Mary. People peregrinated here and, similarly to the situation in Xewkija, a small shrine became insufficient – in the 1920s a church was built (you can see it at the picture) and the shrine – again, like in Xewkija – was “fit into” its interior…
You can see another church just a stone’s throw away from there – in the village Gharb. We are once more visiting a dormant town with a lovely square, a church (remember that there’s as many as 46 of them!), an English phone booth (did you know that Malta was dependent from England for many years?) and a picturesque police station.
The last stop on our way for so-called desert is Azure Window in Dwejra Point. Do I have to explain its name? 🙂
It’s a must-see on Gozo! 🙂
When you travel around Gozo you might also want to visit Xaghra – there’s another charming square with a church and quite a lot of restaurants (for Gozo). However, the best, very local. family restaurant is located by a common, ordinary street. It’s called Tal-Furnar and you’ll definitely hear about it from us because we found it to be almost perfect.
There’s a Neolithic complex Ggantija Prehistoric Temples close by. The funny thing is, that our house was next to the ruins so we saw heaps of tourists coming in coaches and walking towards the ruins in the heat every day. But we decided not to visit it after a Polish girl we met on the bus put us off (not much to see, expensive tickets). If you’ve been there, share your impressions with us.
If you’re looking for a beach, we recommend Ramla Bay. It’s big, spacious, with red-golden sand. We don’t have any pictures because when at the beach, we enjoy the water, sand and waves + of course we chase Maks, and don’t take pictures 😉 Please, forgive us! So? Wanna visit Gozo? I’d like to go back! J
PS. Do you know where the name Gozo comes from? I must admit that I’ve just read it while writing this post! 🙂 And its origin made me extra happy: the Arabs once called the island Ghawdex, which means joy, but is pronounced in a strange way as ołdesz. So, when the Spanish got to the island (15th c.) they translated the name into Castilian and that’s where GOZO comes from… of course meaning JOY in Spanish.
PS 2. Now I like GOZO even more 😉