As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Gozo, Yvonne Gordon picks out a selection of local attractions to visit.
There is plenty to see and do on Gozo island - scenic beaches and coves range from the unusual red sands of Ramla bay to the rocky inlet at Mġarr ix-Xini and the scenic bay at Xlendi, while at Dwejra on the west side of the island, the Azure Window is a spectacular limestone rock arch which has been used for many film locations and is popular with divers.
For cultural and historical attractions, visit the Ggantija Temples which date back to around 3,500 BC and have an accompanying museum showing all of the ancient finds at the site, or explore the tiny stone streets of the Citadel in the city of Victoria.
Ramla Bay, also known as Ir-Ramla l-Hamra which means the Bay of the Red Sand, is one of Gozo’s largest sandy bays. The sand is a golden-red colour and the beach, which is on the north side of the island, is one of the most popular on Gozo, especially in summer.
If you’re up for a steep downhill walk – and a steep walk a back up again, take the narrow road and you’ll be rewarded with more golden sands at the small San Blas – as well as a small café bar. If you need help getting up the hill a jeep will take you back up again for about €2 (late morning, high season).
Xlendi (pronounced ‘schlendi’) is one of the most picturesque bays on Gozo and popular for boating, swimming and diving. The bay is in a large rocky inlet, and the inner beach is lined with cafes and restaurants which are lively at night. Just a few metres away are steps into the clear warm water, with a small jetty for fishing boats on one side. There’s a walkway along the left hand side of the cove, with bathing steps and diving platforms and views of the cliffs. Don’t be surprised if you see some eerie underwater lights in the bay while you are dining at night – the inlet is a popular location for night dives.
This rocky inlet used to be one of the main harbours of Gozo. It has a small pebbly beach and lots of sea caves, making it a diver’s paradise. The Mġarr ix-Xini watchtower (which can be visited by appointment) was completed in 1661 and was once armed with powder guns. In October/November 2014, the bay was used as the location for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s film, By The Sea.
Dahlet Qorrot Bay
This is the fisherman’s bay, with caves in the limestone rock home to a series of boathouses with colourful doors, used to store boats – or provide shelter and stores for locals who come here for the day to swim, eat and relax. There’s a tiny pebble beach and lots of clear water for swimming and diving.
Marsalforn and Qbajjar Bay
Maralforn is a popular seafront holiday village in Gozo – the name comes from Marsa which means harbour and Forn meaning bakery. The seafront has plenty of bars, shops and holiday accommodation as well as a sandy beach and a small harbour for fishing boats. Around the corner at il-Qbajjar (Qbajjar Bay), you’ll find a quiet, shallow bay for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.
Ħondoq ir-Rummien Bay
Set just below the village of Qala on the southeast of the island and facing the island of Comino, Ħondoq ir-Rummien Bay is a small sandy beach, popular with swimmers and with also with divers for beginners and night dives. It’s also a popular kayaking spot. The beach can get busy during high-season weekends and is popular for summer evening barbecues.
Xwejni Salt Pans
The salt pans at Xwejini, near Marsalforn, are a series of square shapes cut into a flat plateau of limestone rock, just a few metres above sea level. The pans, many of which are hundreds of years old, are filled with salt water from larger square wells, and when the water dries off, the salt is harvested by sweeping with a large broom, usually between May and September. Local man Emmanuel (‘Leli’) Cini tends to most of the pans on a daily basis, keeping them in good condition, and he sells sea salt from a small stand and salt shop beside the salt pans. There is also a small bay here for swimmers and divers.
Dwejra - Fungus Rock
This huge limestone rock is a small islet rising 60-metres out of the sea at Dwejra, and is also known as The General’s Rock. Here the Knights of The Order or St John (who ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798) discovered the Maltese Fungus growing, a rare tubular plant which was believed to have medicinal properties and cure dysentery and other illnesses. Today the rock is a nature reserve.
Dwejra - The Azure Window
A natural arch in the limestone rock at Dwejra and one of the most photographed locations in Gozo, thanks to the blue sea behind the arch. Geologists believe that it was once a cave, which was battered by wind and erosion to form an arch. Indeed, the arch is still eroding (a large piece of rock fell from it in March 2012) and is in danger of collapsing. The Azure Window has also been used as a location for many films including Clash Of The Titans, The Count Of Monte Cristo and in the HBO TV series Game Of Thrones.
Dwejra - The Inland Sea
This small and shallow bay, Qawra Bay, also known as The Inland Sea, is adjacent to the Azure Window. The surrounding shore area is built up with ugly boathouses, however it’s possible to go from the bay through a narrow 55m-long tunnel in to the open sea and around the Dwejra Coast including Fungus Rock and the Azure Window (best when the sea is calm).
Dwejra - The Blue Hole
Visible from the Azure Window, the Blue Hole is a natural rock formation about 10 metres wide and up to 26m deep with an underwater archway just a few metres down, leading to the open sea. At the bottom of the hole, divers can see a large cave and there are also drop-offs, boulder slopes and a chimney – a fissure in the almost vertical rock which can take one diver at a time. All of this is set in crystal clear, calm waters with an abundance of fish, starfish and bristle worms.
Ta’ Cenc Cliffs and bird reserve
The highest point on Gozo Island and rising 140 metres above sea level, Ta’ Cenc is an important nature reserve and habitat for many species of birds, and was once the breeding ground for the Maltese Falcon. The Blue Rock Thrush, the Maltese national bird, breeds here as well as Cory’s Shearwaters and the Yelkouan Shearwaters. The land is also home to rare and endemic plants, as well as geological and cultural features such as the Borg I-Imramma temples, the remains of a Neolithic dolmen and cart ruts said to date back to the Neolithic period.
Just along the cliffs overlooking Ramla Bay, is the limestone cave where, according to Homer’s Odyssey, the beautiful nymph Calypso is said to have kept Odysseus prisoner for seven years. The cave itself is closed off, although it’s possible to access a viewing point which has views down over the golden red sands of the bay.
Xewkija Rotunda church
Dominating the landscape for miles around, the Rotunda church at Xewkija towers over the village, which is the oldest in Gozo. The original church dates back to 1665, and construction of the present-day limestone church lasted from 1951 to 1971, and one of the most impressive features of the church, which is the Seat of the Knights of the Order of St John, is the 74m-high dome – the third largest supported dome in the world, with eight concrete pillars supporting the 45,000 ton weight. Behind the church is a small chapel and museum, and for a small admission fee, you can take a lift up to the side of the dome for views of the village and surrounding countryside.
This complex of temples dates back to around 3,500BC with parts of walls and altars still intact. The temples have many mysteries, though evidence of animal bones suggest they were used for sacrifices to the gods, particularly the god of fertility. The name Ggantija means ‘giant’ as locals believed that the temples were built in one day by a giantess – or it could refer to the giant rocks used, a good example of sustainable construction. There is an excellent museum in the visitor’s centre, with pieces of pottery with ornate decorations that were discovered on the site, plus bowls with handles, human and animal figurines and carved limestone – all thousands of years old. The temples are a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the oldest freestanding structures in the world (although these days, parts of them are held up with a little scaffolding). heritagemalta.org
Set on a peaceful site in the valley between the villages of Gharb and Ghammar, the Sanctuary at Ta’ Pinu is a beautiful Roman Catholic church with ornate sculptures, stained glass windows and stone craftsmanship. The current church was finished in the 1930s. In the 1860s, Our Lady was said to have spoken to a local woman in the original 17th century chapel in the site and after that, the church became a shrine to Our Lady of Ta’Pinu, who was credited with many miracles. Four rooms behind the altar are decorated with rows of ex-voto – pictures, letters and even plaster casts and helmets – as offerings of gratitude to Our Lady for miracles performed. With excellent views of the surrounding countryside, it's a peaceful place to visit. tapinu.org
The City of Victoria
The city of Victoria, named in honour of Queen Victoria but known locally as Rabat - is the capital and main administrative centre of the island. One of the focal points is the Basilica of St George in Independence Square, with daily market stalls and cafes set up in the square outside – more souvenirs than local crafts or produce. Explore the tiny quiet backstreets around the Basilica and you’ll see ornate doorways, plant-filled balconies and locals sitting on stools in the warm evening air – a contrast to the touristy buzz of the main square. gozo.com
The Citadel, Victoria
At the heart of Victoria city, the tiny stone streets of the Citadel, the old capital of Gozo, is where locals took refuge whenever corsair ships were sighted off the coast. Sadly, in 1551, the Turks invaded Gozo and most of the population was carried off into slavery. The Citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside The Citadel, there’s a Nature Museum, Folklore Museum and Gozo Museum of Archaeology as well as Gozo Cathedral, the Grain Silos and the Old Prison, which is full of historical graffiti. The Citadel also has small shops and restaurants. Walk to the top of the Citadel to see the impressive views over the entire island from the battlements. visitmalta.com
Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Village
This is the place to see handcrafts made and to buy souvenirs, visiting the individual shops around the site. At Ta’ Dbiegi Jewellery you can admire the fine silver filigree jewellery and see how it’s made. Il Tokk sells traditional food including Gbejniet cheese, local tomato paste and liqueurs. At Gozo Glass, you can see how glass is blown or see lace being made at Maria’s Lace Shop. There are lots of gift shops too with a selection of local crafts. Don’t miss Inkwina towards the rear, where local artist and craftsman John Grech works his magic with steel to design and make decorative gifts including colourful lamps and candle holders. malta.com
This is a bakery and also a restaurant – their takes on the traditional ftira include fresh fruit and honey ftira and they also do gluten-free ftiras and Qassatat tal-Ghid – pies with mature Gozo cheese.
For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our