Gozo

Travel Guide Europe Malta Gozo

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Introduction

Gozo is the smaller island of Malta. It may be reached by a ferry. It has a more laid back feel and includes its capital called Rabat. The hilltop capital is centered around a church that lacks a dome due to lack of funding in the era of its construction, but in the interior the dome is painted on the vault. Another interesting location are the temples of Ggantia, the first prehistoric place discovered in Malta (unlike many other Maltese temples they were not buried by time). As such it still boasts some 19th century graffiti left by travellers of the era gone-by. These temples are also the largest of the prehistoric Maltese temples. Back in the 19th century they were thought to be Greek or Roman now their true origin in the much older Maltese prehistoric culture is known. Gozo also has interesting nature on its west coast.

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History

Gozo's history is intimately linked to Malta. It shares its megalithic culture, and with the Ggantija temples, it is officially home of the oldest structure on the planet. Interestingly, Gozo up until the end of medieval times was inhabited in a manner the same as Malta, with Mġarr and Victoria/Rabat being to Gozo what Vittoriosa and Mdina are to Malta: the main port and the main settlement consisting of a citadel and surrounding suburbs. The inhabitants of Gozo were, in medieval times, required by law to return to the Citadella each evening to spend the night there to prevent corsairs from abducting them. These measures were proven to be necessary when, in 1551, the Turks tried their first invasion of Malta. When they failed, they attacked Gozo and took the entire population off in ships to sell them into slavery.

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Towns

Victoria - Also called Rabat, the island's capital and only real city.
Ghajnsielem and Mgar - A sleepy village that is on the hill above Mgarr which is mostly residential and not worth stopping at on your way to the capital.
Xaghra - where Ġgantija Temples are located.
Qala Qala - where 'Ġebla l-Wieqfa' (another prehistoric dolmen) is located. Other interesting things in Qala are Ħondoq Bay, 'Belvedere' offering a nice view of the main islands of the Maltese archipelago and a small fortress at present in restoration.
Nadur - the largest village in Gozo and has Ramla Bay .
Xewkija - featuring an impressive large rotunda church visible from almost all villages and towns in Gozo.
Għarb and Għasri are 2 small villages in the western part of Gozo among which lies 'Ta` Pinu' basilica, which is a Marian shrine where on 22 June 1883 the Virgin Mary was heard by Karmela Grima calling her for prayer.
San Lawrenz - where 'Dwejra' (Azure Window) was located (it collapsed in 2017).
Marsalforn - A popular seaside resort north west coast of Gozo. The famous salt pans are located here.
Xlendi - A popular place of entertainment located south west of Gozo. The beach here is small but enclosed between high spectacular cliffs which make Xlendi one of the best spots in Gozo.

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Sights and Activities

Ramla Bay - If you are in the mood of little bit beach time with touch of nature sightseeing you might want to consider visiting Ramla Bay. You can easily reach Ramla Bay by bus. In Ramla Bay there is beach, snack bars and public toilets and shower. Also there is an Tal-Mixta Cave which might be the cave of Calypso. In Greek Mythology Calypso is an nymph who lives in a island of Ogygia where she detain Odysseus for seven years. Some sources say that Calypso’s Cave is located on the another side of the bay and some that Ogygia is not even this island. When you hop off the bus in Ramla bus stop, choose the way down and turn right on the intersection. Keep going until you reach the beach. If you want to visit the cave there is an trail which starts in the right side of the beach. This is the shorter path to the cave but you should have an good fitness to go this way doe to some steeps point on the path. If you are in a good shape it's approximately a 15 minute walk. Another, longer but easier way goes via road. From Ramla Bus stop go upwards the hill. Turn the next turning road to your right, before the cemetery and the Qasab bus stop. Keep going and in intersections turn left. You will reach cowhouse, turn right after this and you will soon arrive to the cave. From Ramla bus stop to the cave it’s 2,5 kilometres.
Ggantija Temples (Bus stop "Ggantija" on line 322 (direct from the ferry terminal)). Thought once to be built by giants is a pair of Neolithic temples dating back to between 3600 B.C. and 3200 B.C. They are considered to be one of the oldest free standing Neolithic structures in the world. Megaliths measuring over 5 meters and over 50 tons comprise the walls of these temples. Ggantija represents an important achievement in early human history. The museum is extremely nicely made, with very good pedagogical skills. 9€ (adults), discounts for students and children.

The Azure Window, the Inland Sea and the Blue Hole all make going to the spectacular west coast of Gozo very worthwhile. In contrast to Xlendi and Marsalforn this place has been spared from development and makes an unusual and picturesque place to swim. The beach surrounding the lake is unfortunately made of pebbles but there are a few piers and terraces in front of the fishermen's boathouses one can also use. The Blue Hole is not a true blue hole in the geological sense but still makes an amazing spot to dive, having won awards as one of the most beautiful diving spots of Europe.
The Azure Window. The Azure Window was a cliff outcropping with a hole in the middle. It collapsed on March 2017.
Inland Sea. The Inland Sea is a typically Maltese name in that it slightly exaggerates its size (Mdina is referred to as a city with its 400 inhabitants). It's actually a small lake connected to the sea by a tunnel about 100 meters long through the cliffs.
The rotunda church in the village of Xewkija is a wonderful spot to visit. The church was built in honor of St. John the Baptist (each village has a saint that they honor) and is the largest in Gozo.
Among the attractions worth seeing in the citadel is a section of the bastions which consists of a gunpowder Magazine, a lower battery, three silos and some air-shelters. The former three were added in the early 17th century, after the disastrous siege of Gozo by Turkish pirates in 1551. Graffiti on the walls are evidence of the French occupation of Gozo as well. During the English occupation, the grain silos were modified into stores for water. Some air raid shelters were dug by Gozitan families. These sites are managed by Wirt Għawdex - an environmental non-governmental organization.
Wirt Għawdex organisation also manages Mġarr ix-Xini tower, one of the coastal towers built by the Knights in Gozo. Entrance to the tower can be arranged upon appointment.
At present, one can also view the Gozo Boat, known as id-Dgħajsa tal-Latini, which has been restored by the Gozo Channel Company and is now managed by Wirt Għawdex Organization. This boat is now exhibited to the public at Mġarr Harbour, Gozo’s main harbour. This boat was used to ferry Gozitans and Maltese between the islands.
Ta' Pinu Basilica, situated in open countryside is an important place of pilgrimage as miracles are claimed to have occurred here. The interior of the Basicila is rich in decoration. One can enjoy views of open countryside from outside the church.

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Events and Festivals

Carnival

This annual week-long spectacle takes place in Valetta each February. The carnival involves marching bands, parades, masked balls, masquerade competitions, fireworks, and wild parties running late into the night. Many villages across Malta have smaller celebrations at this time, including the island of Gozo which has a stranger, more ghoulish flavor to proceedings.

Easter Holy Week

Holy Week and Easter are religious celebrations that take place in churches all over Malta, usually during April. Proceedings begin with a street procession bearing Our Lady of Sorrows on the Friday before Good Friday. On the eve of Good Friday, participants visit and pay homage to the Altars of Repose at seven different churches. Church decorations are removed for Good Friday and a solemn procession of statues depicting different episodes of the Passion of Christ takes place through the streets. The church bells ring out the next Sunday, celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. A festive, musical street parade bears the Risen back to church. Easter is a traditional family day in Malta and children are often given chocolate eggs and animal shaped pastries covered in sugar.

Christmas

Christmas is a major celebration in Malta, both from a religious and community perspective. Throughout December, most churches have a calendar of events for the festive season, including Nativity scenes, carolling, and processions of Mary and Joseph. Crib displays are a particularly notable cultural tradition, often involving great craftsmanship and attention to detail. Many are automated and going around to view the different displays is a common activity. Shops, schools and cultural centers also have Christmas activities ranging from decorations to pantomime shows.

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Weather

It is said to have the best weather in Europe and it is easy to see why. Gozo has warm, dry and sunny summers and mild winters. In summer, average temperatures are around 30 °C during the day and around 20 °C at night, though occasionally temperatures hit 40 °C degrees when winds blowing from Africa bring hot weather. Winters are mild, around 16 °C during the day and 10 °C at night. There is almost no rain in the summer months from May to September, most of it falls between October and February with December being the wettest month at 110 mm of rain. Spring and autumn are pleasant times for a visit with warm, dry and sunny conditions but not overly hot.

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Getting There

By Plane

Harbourair Malta links Grand Harbour in Valletta to Mgarr Harbour on Gozo island.

By Boat

There is the ferry from Ċirkewwa on Malta to Mġarr, Gozo's main harbor. It departs every 45 minutes in the summer and almost as often in the winter, with a lower frequency in the evening (and even lower at night). A round trip costs 4,65 € (as of 2016) and takes about 25 minutes. Bus stops are outside the ferry terminals, and buses are somehow synchronized with the ferry arrivals and departures. The bus ride to Victoria takes around 20 minutes. On the Malta side, buses run from Valetta's bus terminus to Ċirkewwa taking about 75 minutes (using line 222).

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Getting Around

By Car

If you need flexibility and speed in getting around, your best option is to hire a car. (try TRAC +35699826339 or Mayjo car rentals). You need to be over 21 years old and hold a valid driving license. It's fine to travel to the mainland Malta Island with a hired car.

By Taxi

You will find white taxis also on the island of Gozo however these tend to be more expensive. It is suggested to prebook your taxi or airport transfer with a local company. Note that the taxi drivers may be unscrupulous, and will try to charge the unsuspecting tourist as much as they can. There is an approximate price list posted at the taxi stand at the boat dock, and another at the bus terminal in Victoria. Don't accept a price that is unreasonably higher than the suggested price. If you end up taking more than one or two taxis a day you are better off hiring a car.

By Public Transport

Since 2011, buses are modern, comfortable and all air-conditioned which whilst they lack the charm of the previous fleet provide a significant upgrade in comfort levels. On 1 January 2014 Malta Public Transport Services Ltd took over the bus service in Malta (including Gozo) from Arriva, after their bus system failed in less than three years.

Single ride fare is €2 and you can buy the ticket directly from the driver. It allows you to travel within two hour period including changing lines until you reach your destination. Week and combo tickets are available.

By Foot

Even on foot many of the distances are negligible and most of the roads are fairly quiet and pleasant to walk along. There is also a footpath network, though the paths require good shoes and a good map (they are not always very clear on the ground).

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Language

It should also be noted that if you do learn some Maltese, there are different dialects throughout different parts of the country. People on Gozo speak Maltese with a slightly different accent from the main Maltese islanders, and people from the different Gozitan villages each have their own different dialect. Like the main island, English is also an official language of Gozo.

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Eat

As Gozo is the breadbasket of Malta, the ground is more fertile, and the place is more rural. Therefore there is more fresh produce to be had. One should definitely try Gozo's own cheese: Gbejniet. This cheese is lovely when had fresh, but also nice when cured with pepper and vinegar.

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Drink

As on Malta there are vineyards on Gozo, one can often buy unlabeled local wines cheaply but be sure to ask to taste them as quality can vary widely. The shops near the citadel in Victoria/Rabat usually have a good selection.

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Safety

Gozo is safer than Malta, there is less petty crime.

There is occasionally a strong current on the northern shore, so caution when swimming is advised.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés and Wi-Fi zones are quite abundant with connection rates peaking at 30Mbit/s. More and more small, independent cafes and restaurants are providing free WiFi hotspots.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international telephone code for Malta is 356. Emergency number is 112 for all services.

The country has three mobile phone networks available: Vodafone, Go Mobile, and Melita Mobile. Due to international agreements with providers across the globe, Vodafone, GO and Melita are sure to be apart of your carriers roaming plan. To avoid high costs, buy a local SIM-card.

Post

Malta Post is the national postal service with generally cheap and reliable services, albeit not very fast. All post offices are open from around 8:00am till noon, some opening slightly earlier or closing later. The main offices stay open until around 4:00pm.
For sending international packages, you might consider companies like DHL, TNT or UPS.

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This is version 10. Last edited at 10:01 on Sep 20, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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