Review of "Island of Gozo"
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Should I or shouldn’t I let you into a secret? Malta is a favourite holiday destination of ours and as we have a timeshare based there we usually go at least once a year. This year we flew to Malta but had a taxi straight to the ferry and went to Gozo, often described along with Comina as one of the sister islands, this small island is a wee gem in my book and has certainly made us want to return and enjoy the delights it has to offer.*Size*
Gozo is 67square kilometres, 14km long and 7 km wide, with a population of around 23,000, which increases as the ferry brings tourists each day to experience the beauty of this interesting island, they rush around the island jumping on and off their coaches, taking photos and are off again, thankfully we could enjoy Gozo at a much slower pace.
Homer described in The Odyssey that Ulysses was washed ashore onto an island and the Goddess Calypso cast her spell over him. There are other islands that could fit the bill, but the Gozitans claim this to be true and have a cave which they say was the place Calypso lived with Ulysses overlooking the sea at Ramla Bay. Archaelogical evidence shows that Gozo has several megalithic sites, with the Ggantija temples being one place not to miss. The Turks attacked Gozo in 1551 and most of the population were taken into slavery, leaving behind just a few old men.
Gozo is surrounded by the sea which is warm even in October, there are beaches to sunbathe, cliffs, salt pans, rocks, caves, and harbours with bobbing fishing boats and wonderful views. The flowers somehow survive even in hot spells and there are wonderful sunsets to enjoy. The Blue rock thrush is the national bird and the Malta Knapweed is the national flower, both can be seen on the Ta’Cenc cliffs, where we enjoyed a lovely walk, not wanting to risk the hired car on the track, although we were passed by several vehicles taking people down to the coast to go diving, another popular pastime on Gozo. Other flowers include beautiful wild orchids and some Yucca Gloriosa I found which was so beautiful, the Prickly pear are huge and are used to make liqueurs but don’t touch as they are extremely prickly! The valleys are used to grow lots of fruit and vegetables, and Gozo even exports some to Malta and further a field. Gozo is much greener than Malta, and because of the recent rain plants were shooting up and giving everywhere a greener look after the dry summer months.
The people were very friendly, we stayed in a small town and as everyone knows everyone they can easily pick out the hotel guests! A cheery hello or Good morning was always returned and they were helpful if you asked directions. Things move slower on Gozo, and you never felt rushed as you lingered over your coffee or drink. Nearly everyone speaks English but as with most places if you try to say a few Maltese words it is appreciated. It is not the easiest language to learn but they patiently help you pronounce name places which sound nothing like they look! Nothing was too much trouble for the staff at our hotel, a place we want to return to soon!
Victoria is the only actual town on Gozo, although I tended to think of the other places as small towns, but they were really villages. Known as Rabat by the Gozitans, it is in the centre of the island, and all roads lead to and from Victoria. Walls were built around the town by the Romans, and there are twisting lanes and alleys to explore, you also get the feeling you may be in North Africa rather than Europe! Victoria is a place for visitors who want larger shops and also who love History. The Citadel has many ruins to explore, several museums and a cathedral and churches. Parking is difficult here, we only found one busy car park, but taxis don’t cost too much and it doesn’t take long to reach Victoria from where you are staying being a small island.
There are several large villages, many with hotels and guesthouses and converted farmhouses are popular places to stay often with their own pools.
Marsalforn was a seaside village with a large hotel and many other places to stay and lots of restaurants, many serving really fresh fish. It was pleasant to walk along the seafront, and one day we watched the waves coming over causing one restaurant to move their chairs! There were lots of cafes to sit and enjoy a drink and watch the world going by this was quite busy in October, and is popular with locals who were out with their family enjoying Sunday lunch. The harbour had lots of small boats to watch, and although we enjoyed visiting here we preferred the quieter villages.Nadur like other villages is dominated by its church, the inside is very ornate, and it has a beautiful dome.
Mgarr Harbour is the first place you see as the ferry arrives from Malta. It is very busy around the harbour with lorries and vans, and lots of locals’ crossing over to Malta. There is a Tourist Information office here if you need directions when you arrive.Xlendi is made up of several hotels and restaurants, surrounded by high cliffs and a sandy beach, another place popular with locals and tourists. Ramla Bay is another sandy beach, with a few seasonal cafes, and sun beds and umbrellas for hire. Even in October late in the afternoon, the beach was still busy, the road lined with hundreds of parked cars and lots of people swimming in the sea.
Qbajjar Salt pans are a little further around the coast from Marsalforn. Several tons of sea salt is produced there each year. The concrete pans are irregular shapes and it looks alike lots of rocky pools.Zebbug, like in most villages the baroque church dominates the village, this has beautiful sculptures from Gozo onyx.
Dwejra is not really a village but a very popular place to tourists and locals alike. It has so much to see as there is the Azure window, a huge natural archway above the sea, whilst we were there people ignored the danger notices and walked along the top over the huge cracks in the arch. The sea is very blue around this area giving the name.
The Inland Sea is surrounded by high cliffs and a popular place with children. The sea comes through a tunnel in the cliffs, you can take a boat trip through the tunnel and around the nearby Fungus rock.
There were other small villages, and it was interesting to stop and have a wander around looking at the churches and wandering along narrow streets.*Food*
We had half board at our hotel so didn’t eat out a lot, but there was plenty of really fresh fish, lampuki was in season whilst we were there. Rabbit is also popular and also Lamb. At lunch time we enjoyed a local Maltese Ftira, a large flat bap, more like a small loaf! Filled with tuna, tomato paste, herbs, oil, capers and salad. Other local pastries and pizzas were available. The local Cisk beer was sampled and Maltese wines, coffees were reasonably priced as most of the restaurants and cafes are used by locals.
*Weather*With global warming no one can say exactly what weather to expect! But it is reasonably warm most of the year, becoming very hot in summer. We arrived in October when it was very humid and about 26 degrees, even at night it didn’t go below 18 degrees. We did have two thunderstorms, one at night and another during the day when we were stuck in the car in flooded roads, which looked more like rivers, quite frightening at the time, but after 20 minutes the rain stopped and we managed to get back to the hotel!
There is no airport on Gozo and the helicopters no longer fly but there is a seaplane from Valetta to Mgarr. The ferry is the most popular choice and sails very regularly throughout the day and night. We had a private taxi which travelled with us, but you can go by foot, take a hired car, or be collected at the harbour or try and catch a bus. The buses are few and far between and don’t always run to the timetables! Hiring a car is the best option for getting around, but our hotel offered hiring a taxi to tour the island where you wanted to go for half or a full day. Being a compact island it is easy to get around by car, although sometimes the roads deteriorated into rocky tracks and you wonder if you are still on the right road! It all adds to the fun of exploring this beautiful island.
Product Information : Island of Gozo
Manufacturer's product description
Listed on Ciao since: 21/03/2006