The islands of Gozo and Malta – both of which are part of the Republic of Malta – are known for their illustrious coastlines, enjoyable culture, and an intriguing history that goes back thousands of years. Home to impressive beaches, unforgettable natural beauty, and a plethora of noteworthy attractions, Malta and Gozo have earned a reputation for being one of the top Mediterranean tourist destinations.
While the larger and more densely populated island of Malta offers more amenities and accommodations, Gozo is known for being the secluded and the most rewarding extra mile. Regardless of whether you prefer the bustling thrill of the city or a more relaxed rural vibe, it always makes sense to see both islands during your trip because there are plenty of ferries and water taxis that make regular trips back and forth. With that being said, here is a list of things you definitely won’t want to miss while you’re there:
1. The Blue Lagoon
This aptly named spot is easily one of the world’s best swimming spots thanks to white sandy beaches that collide with an incredibly clear blue sea. The shallow and calm waters make the Blue Lagoon ideal for a wide variety of fun activities, with watersports and snorkelling being very common. Even if you’ve never been there, you’ve probably heard the name before as the area has been featured in a number of films. Although this spot is actually situated between the uninhabited islet of Cominotto and the island of Comino, it’s only about 15 minutes from Mġarr Harbour via boat, so it’s definitely something you should add to your list of things to do in Gozo.
2. The Citadel
You can’t go to Gozo without seeing the Citadel — a small fortified city surrounded by tall stone walls that were originally built in the 1500s. After taking a trip back in time through the city’s diverse history, be sure to make your way to the top of the battlements to get some of the best views of the island. Exploring the different sides of the Citadel provides a surreal experience that can easily keep you busy for several days if you have the time. Don’t forget to see the Cathedral of Assumption as the main event before leaving, or as a primer when you first arrive. Going with a guide is the best way to see all that the Citadel has to offer in a short time span.
3. Ramla Bay
Commonly referred to as the best beach on Gozo, Ramla Bay is home to the island’s smoothest and softest and red sand. For this reason, it’s typically one of the busiest beaches in Malta, so it’s best to go in the early morning or late evenings if you wish to avoid the crowds. After you’re tired of basking in the sun or swimming, you can check out the nearby ruins of a Roman villa that was built about 2,000 years ago. Refreshments and ice cream are always close by and there are several options for renting umbrellas, loungers, and other beach gear. Ramla Bay is certainly one of the most family-friendly and easily accessible beach on the island.
4. Cave Diving
The islands of Gozo and Malta are surrounded by excellent diving destinations and underwater caves. There are plenty of coral reefs and desirable diving destinations to explore, including Coral Cave, Wied il-Ghasri, Daħlet Qorrot, and Crocodile Rock. Plus, the marine wildlife is abundant, with stingrays, octopi, colourful parrot fish, and many other interesting creatures to behold. There are several scuba diving tour providers in the area that make it easy for anyone to rent the right gear and find the right spots.
5. Ġgantija Temple
The Ġgantija temple complex is one of the oldest free-standing structures in the world – surprisingly it’s even older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, despite being lesser known. It’s a remarkable archaeological site with a history that stretches back 5,500 years, so there’s plenty of Gozitan history to learn more about. The complex consists of two temples with the larger being older yet better preserved. The fact that such temples are still standing on Malta is a testament to its ancient culture’s engineering capabilities.
6. Exploring Caves and Caverns
If exploring caves sounds interesting but you don’t like the idea of scuba diving, you may want to check out some of the non-diving caves such as Xerri’s Grotto and Ninu’s Cave. The interiors of these caves allow for great photography and adventure opportunities.
7. The Salt Pans
The north shore of Gozo is dotted by a patchwork of natural salt pans, many of which are still in use today. As their name suggests, the unique rock formations make extracting salt from the sea simple, and many locals still process and store the salt in nearby caves. The entire area is impressively beautiful and there’s plenty of history surrounding the salt pans, as they’ve been in use for at least 350 years. You could collect some salt as a souvenir and enjoy some of the nearby beaches when you’re done. Many of the restaurants on the island use salt harvested from the local salt pans and you can buy it many different shops and boutiques on the island.
8. Dwerja Tower
This small tower seems to rise up in the middle of nowhere, and while today it serves as a mere tourist destination, when it was constructed back in the 1650’s, it was used as a watchtower. Oddly enough, the guards were tasked with the duty of stopping people from freely collecting the “Maltese mushroom,” (Cynomorium coccineum), which has long been heralded for providing a wide range of health benefits. Science has since discovered that it’s actually a weird-looking plant, but there have been a few studies that indicate there may be slight merit behind the plant’s old nickname – “Treasure of Drugs.” Whether you’re interested in strange Maltese fungus plants or not, a trip to the tower is a great way to soak up some scenery and history at the same time.
9. Megalithic Temples
In addition to Ggantija, Malta is home to a number of Megalithic temples that are collectively known as the oldest above-ground structures on Earth. The temple complexes of Skorba, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra, Tarxien, Ta’ Ħaġrat, Kordin, Santa Verna, and Tal-Qadi are all worth visiting and are just some of the many ancient temples you can visit during your Maltese holiday. In Gozo, one can find other temple structures at Ta’ Ċenċ and at Ta’ Marziena (limits of Munxar) though the latter have never been properly excavated. The islands were once home to a thriving culture of builders that constructed some of the world’s first temples during the Neolithic, Temple, and Bronze Ages.
What Happened to the Azure Window?
If you’ve considered a trip to Malta and Gozo at some point in the past, you probably were looking forward to seeing the unique rock formation known as the Azure Window. Unfortunately, in 2017, this famous landmark collapsed after being battered by a heavy storm. Fortunately, there weren’t any visitors present when the structure fell into the sea, an event that has been long anticipated due to extensive erosion along the coast. However, the massive chunk of rock that was once half of the sea arch has since become one of the most popular diving sites in the Mediterranean, so it’s worth checking out if you’re interested in scuba diving.
Balancing History and Natural Beauty for the Perfect Mediterranean Getaway
Oftentimes, the most scenic places in terms of natural beauty are also largely unsettled and uncivilized, but the island of Gozo has the distinct advantage of having both stunning landscapes and a longstanding cultural history. Between the exciting nightlife, serene sandy beaches, caves, and caverns waiting to be explored, fortified cities, and exquisite cuisine, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.