With so many destinations in the WHL Group‘s ever-expanding network, we have an incredible wealth of local travel information at our fingertips. Through the Inside Word, our local partners – past and present, all travel experts – share their top tips on what to do, what to eat, where to party and where to shop in their neck of the woods. This month, we stroll the idyllic countryside of Gozo, Malta.
Gozo is a small sister island of Malta, one third the size of the main island. Distinctly rural and covered with hills and deep valleys, Gozo is a lot greener than Malta and has a lot more space for agriculture. In fact, Gozo is famous for its pastoral countryside. Tourists and locals alike come here to relax on weekends and spend time in tranquillity.
The seaside of Gozo is truly remarkable, reaching from beautiful sandy beaches such as Ramla Bay to impressive rock formations like the Azure Window and the Fungus Rock. Situated above Ramla Bay is a cave believed to be where Odysseus was held by the nymph Calypso for seven years after his return from the siege of Troy. Calypso’s Cave is now frequently visited in part for its stunning views over the bay.
Gozo is a mystical place. If you come to visit Gozo, beware of ending up like Odysseus as this small idyllic island will make it hard to leave again.
Apart from the usual cultural tours that show the guests around the island of Gozo, there are a lot of individual tours with an agricultural focus. Several wine estates in Gozo can arrange a typical day on a vineyard. The Ta’Mena Estate, for instance, was the first agritourism complex on the Maltese Islands and offers special days when travellers can get in touch with nature and Gozitan lifestyle traditions. The estate’s fruit garden, olive and orange groves, and 10 hectares of vineyards provide excellent insight into the daily life of a Maltese farmer.
One highly traditional food on Gozo is goat cheese, which is produced by local shepherds. To learn more about it, there are tours through which guests step into the peaceful world of a local Gozitan shepherd. What makes this activity so interesting and enjoyable is the active participation in feeding and milking sheep and then making traditional Gozitan cheese, which can of course be sampled as well. It makes for a fun and tasty way of experiencing the life of locals.
Local handicrafts are on display throughout Gozo. If you walk through the narrow streets of the Cittadella, just above the capital city of Victoria, you pass several stalls and small shops selling typical Maltese lace products. In many places locals are actively engaged in this traditional craft, making some of the most beautiful patterns imaginable.
The culinary products of Malta and Gozo are for enjoying on the island and for bringing home as fine gifts. Along the main streets of Victoria are several shops stocking traditional Gozo sea salt, which is of excellent quality, as well as sun dried tomatoes, capers, local honey, jams and other foods. Many places offer samples, which is a wonderful opportunity to taste extravagant delicacies such as prickly pear jam.
For a delicious Maltese dining experience in Gozo, visit Il-Kartell Restaurant in Marsalforn. This rustic and cosy place right by the sea has succeeded in maintaining a tradition of Mediterranean food and an atmosphere unlike anywhere else. Begin the meal with a selection of traditional Gozitan starters and continue with a piece of fresh fish caught by local fishermen. Don’t miss this authentic culinary experience.
If you’re out on the street and looking for a snack, buy some traditional Maltese pastizzi. These savoury pastries, typically filled with local cheese or mushy peas, are not to be missed. They are sold in pastizzeriasfound nearly everywhere on Malta and Gozo.
On Gozo, treat yourself to a nice walking tour. We recommend a trail close to the sea. The best time for it is from November to May, the mild winter months when the island is covered in colourful flowers. A much-recommended route leads along the must-see salt pans to the remote northwestern cliffs. They are still used to produce traditional Gozitan sea salt and are like a natural art installation. On a windless day, the still water reflects the sky from countless mirrors, conveying a calm beauty like few other agricultural sites.
La Grotta is an excellent place for visitors in Gozo who want to party. This outdoor club in Xlendi Valley has been referred to as “the most beautiful disco in the world” by the Miami Herald newspaper.
Gozo wouldn’t be Gozo, however, if there weren’t another more rural way of experiencing the night. Xaghra Square is the place where locals go. There’s a choice of restaurants and a few bars but also the chance just to sit, chat and watch people. It regularly serves as the location for folk festivals, so you might be lucky enough to enjoy a traditional folk band and the locals dancing to their tunes.