Go-Go-Gozo!

What to do and see with 5 days free in Gozo

If  a  relaxed pace, interesting sight-seeing, rural scenery, transparent-sea – green water and a variety of beaches is your thing then perhaps Gozo is for you?

How to spend five days in Gozo

The only way in to Gozo, currently is by ferry from Ċirkewwa on the north-west coast of Malta to the port of Mġarr on Gozo. There are many crossings each day and a fully synchronised bus service once on Gozo.

Gozo Ferry  – Bus Service

There are a total of 15 different routes on Gozo many of which pass through Victoria, the capital.

http://www.transport.gov.mt/land-transport/bus-service

Rent-a Car You really don’t need to worry if a car is more to your liking. Cars are cheaper to hire on Gozo than in Malta and taxis are inexpensive. Car hire: https://maltafirstcarhire.com/?gclid=CPGRvabzlM8CFVYz0woda-UNcw

Or,

https://www.sixt.co.uk/?prpd=Y&pccstatsugg=Gozo&c=GB+-+Outbound+MT&adg=GB+-+MT+Gozo+Hire&kw=car%20hire%20gozo&mt=exact&sxamc=Google|Search&sefir=41&gclid=CIzVtfHzlM8CFQjgGwod49wBZA&_rfa=1

Cycling is viable – the roads are quiet and safe – there are even organised cycle tours if groups are more your thing.

Rent – a- bike – http://www.victoriagaragegozo.com/ (Rabat)

Rent- a-bike –   http://www.gozomgarrtouristservice.com/ (At ferry port – Mgarr.)

Rent – a- bike http://www.on2wheelsgozo.com/  (Marsalforn)

Or maybe you’d prefer to get about cycling in a group?

Then check out:

Organised Cycling Tours http://gozoadventures.com/discover-gozo

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Maybe you fancy  a full circuit of the island? (I did!) It’s only 9 miles long by 4 miles wide so it’s easily achievable. If  you want to walk  March – May, or October – December is preferable.

For independent walking try :  http://www.visitgozo.com/en/content/country-walks-rambling-169/ or the Ramblers of Malta –  http://www.ramblersmalta.org/ are very accommodating and friendly.

You don’t need to join an expensive walking holiday. Try booking a flight, maybe:    http://www.airmalta.com/ then organise your own accommodation.

I stayed at Xlendi Bay, but there are a range of other places.

Visit: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/malta/gozo/hotels  for an excellent guide to where to stay.

Five days in Gozo

Day 1

Firstly, familiarise yourself with the island by boat. There are so many  opportunities for diving, snorkelling, water sports as well as swimming. Gozo is known as a world class place to dive. So, give it a go. There are very supportive dive centres dotted about Gozo. Personally, I haven’t dived yet, but it is on the cards!

See http://www.lonelyplanet.com/malta/gozo/activities for further information.

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Blue Lagoon, Comino

Xlendi Pleasure Cruises do a fantastic Round Island Tour, including a trip to the famous blue lagoon on the neighbouring island of Comino (ten minutes by boat) The cruise stops at most beaches on the island and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable should you have questions. They also provide a delicious lunch and have a bar.

For further details see my Round the island of Gozo blog for more details

https://julieadexter.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/round-the-island-of-gozo/

http://www.xlendicruises.com/

In the evening why not have a fish dinner at one of the waterside restaurants on Xlendi Bay? – It is a beautiful location and the fish restaurants – all – have a wealth of choice including gluten free options!

http://www.malta-info.co.uk/resorts/xlendi_gozo.htm

 

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Xlendi bay dotted with all types of restaurants in a beautiful setting at the water’s edge.

 

Day 2

In contrast to your first day why not spend the second day in the island’s capital, Victoria? Victoria is known to the locals as Rabat. There’s so much to see and do. You’re spoilt for choice!

You’re going to want to visit the Citadel:

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Citadel, Victoria, (Rabat)

A good place to start is at the free visitor centre which is very informative.

Things to do around the Citadella

It could be that you decide spend a half day at the citadella – there is so much to see.The citadel is a prime example of Aragonese and medieval architecture. It has ramparts fortifications  and  city walls which offer 360 degree view of the city. But if you want to do something different after  a walk around the Citadella, then you could visit the smaller museums.

Very close by is Gozo Cathedral, which was once a sight of a Roman place of worship to the goddess Juno;  as well as: The Cathedral Museum, the Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, the Gozo Nature Museum, the Old Prison, the Old Gunpowder Magazine, the Grain Silos, the Battery and the World War II Shelter.

So much choice! – Choose according to your interests.

 

Food: If you don’t want to leave the citadel just yet, you could try the Café San Martino, a short walk from the Pjazza Katidral, (Cathedral Museum Piazza), yet still within the citadel at St Martin’s demi-bastion. So you can continue your tour without leaving  the citadel.

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Café San Martino, Rabat.

Alternatively,  if you want to head back to the main square for lunch, try Il Tokk http://www.it-tokkrestaurant.com/Home.aspx  or stop by Grapes bar café near the Basilica. Both are traditional Gozitan fare providers, try the stuffed vegetables, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, or octopus stew – stuffat –tal- qarnit and the cheese platter with Gbejna, a Gozitan cheese is to die for.

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You’ll get a first class view of the Basillica if you eat there!

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At the end of the day why not head to a beach for a refreshing swim. West may be best for the sunset

From Victoria take bus 310 to Marsalforn

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or bus 304 to Ramla bay, alternatively take the 306 to Xlendi Bay.

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This beach is beautiful and the sea is hyper salty!

 

Day 3

You could start the day with an early morning swim with a snorkel and breakfast, or lunch at one of the beaches  before heading off to Ggantija temples. They are a world heritage sight and a MUST SEE.

Further details on this interesting archaeological sight can be found here: https://julieadexter.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/the-ggan tija-hagar-qim-and-mnajdra-temples-of-malta-and-gozo/

Take your time after wards and have a lazy dinner at Qbajjar restaurant in Marsalforn. There you can feast on local dishes, classic dishes such as fish, steaks, or even  pizza. Locals flock here. So the proof of the pudding must be in the eating, so say they! Besides, what  could be better than a sea view? http://qbajjarrestaurant.com/

 

Photo of Rebekah's Restaurant

Day 4

Today why not be a little nautical? The Kelinu Grima Maritime Museum is a privately owned museum in Nadur that has a great collection of exhibits that will take you through an interesting journey of three centuries of maritime history. You can find rare and priceless items, such as original pieces of timber from Lord Nelson’s ship,  the HMS Victory, the first US warship, the Constitution, battleships and also one of Lord Mountbatten’s gold epualettes which was worn during his duty in the Mediterranean.

If a church is more your thing (and  there are 50 of them on Gozo),  the astounding Rotunda church is well a worth a visit. It was made by the people for the people and took 20 years to build. Some people were killed in their devotion to making it. Fortunately, now there is a lift to take you to the top where there is an automated clock. It is remarkable in that its shell went up around the existing church, so it is actually two churches in one. And it is bigger than St Paul’s cathedral in London.

It is an architectural masterpiece and the third largest unsupported dome in Europe – remarkable for a small island!

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The views from the top are excellent and it is well  worth a visit – and do climb to the top (or take the lift).

Nearby there are restaurants cafes and bars for refreshments amongst them the only stone oven on the island. Try Gozitan pizza there – you wont’t regret it!

In the afternoon if you haven’t already passed by –  take a visit to the salt pans at Marsalforn.

 

 

For Dinner why not head to the ferry terminal and harbour at Mgarr for the fresh catch of the day? Porto Vechio, Martino Garces Street in the yacht marina, Mgarr, or Manoel’s restaurant are particularly good.

Day 5

Go on the trail of Edward Lear – if you fancy! He visited Gozo for one week in 1866 where he coined the term pomskizillious and gromphiberous to describe the Gozitan scenery. Head to the village of Xaghra (Shara) to the Pomskizillious Museum of Toys.

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Inside the museum as well as a late 18th century Maltese Doll with carved wooden head and some Italian Presepio and figurines dating from 1790’s, there is a 1930’s Noah’s Ark as well as other lead toys including zoo and farm animals, cowboys and indians, aeroplanes, ships and soldiers and an abundance of very spooky dolls on display

Of Edward Lear himself there is a poem written by him to the nymph Calypso and a diary entry which reveals his account of his painting Xaghra, as well as a visit to the temples. There is a spooky life size replica of him in a display case along with a first edition Laughable Lyrics and Nonsense songs from 1872 and his Nonsense songs, stories and botany, Alphabets. Early edition (1872).

In the afternoon kick off your shoes and chill  at one of the gorgeous beaches you haven’t yet visited, before dancing the night away in the fantastic club La Grotta club -inside a cave  at Xlendi.

*  *  *

I stayed at Gozo for four days at the end of August when even in summertime it wasnt over crowded. I’ll definitely be returning.

For further details see https://www.lonelyplanet.com/malta/gozo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath the Lemon Tree

August 21, 2016

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The sound of the tzitzikia is so loud,  I comment to a friend as we sit beneath a lemon tree  in Maroussi, Athens.

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I notice as I chat away that the stridulation is sporadic – one moment the cicadas are humming in full swing, the next stopping before the next chorus inevitably reaches a crescendo  once more.  Sometimes you don’t notice if you are talking, until,  that is, it goes silent.

After some time passed I asked my friend,  ‘What makes them stop and start like that?’  She looked thoughtful for a moment, then replied,  ‘Well it must surely be the conductor!’

Perhaps it’s really not that funny, or perhaps it is just that I am delighted and happy to see my friend and to be back in Greece, but we howl with laughter.

cicada music

Round the Island of Gozo

An account of a circular tour of Gozo by boat, from Mgarr harbour, Gozo. The account features highlights of the beautiful emerald green bays and the timeless, special beauty spots of this paradise-like island that is Gozo.

If you can – go!

 

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Looking towards Comino and Cominotte.

 

Where is Gozo?

Gozo meaning ‘joy’ and in Maltese called ‘Għawdex’ (pronounced: Awdesh), is the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago,  in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Italy and north of North Africa

 

As well as Gozo’s absolute joyfullness, it is also known  as The Island of Calypso, according to the Greek mythological location of Ogygia  in Homer’s Odyssey. The nymph, Calypso controlled the island and said that she lived in a cave near  Ramla Bay. There she detained  Odysseus for seven  years as a prisoner of love. He could not leave because his love was so deep  for Calypso.

I think I, too, have come  under the same spell.

Gozo is very different from its big sister, Malta.  Malta has the highest density of population per square Kilometre in Europe,  and is full of cars. Whereas Gozo is half the size and has a population of just 37,000 people.

Perfect for me. Just perfect.

Gozo is also much more of a green idyll, has friendly people, very little crime and a community spirit that makes you feel at once at home.

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The 8 point Maltese cross.

Meaning: To have within yourself the ability to be in service of others and that according to the knights involves: Spiritual Joy;  to live without malice;  to be sorry;  to humble yourself to those who injure you;  to love justice;  to be merciful;  to be sincere and pure of heart;  and to suffer persecution.

Being something of a utilitarian it holds appeal for me. And I think the people live it. Or try to. Somewhere, when I was on Gozo, I saw an inscription saying, ‘we cannot make it, we have to be it.’ It was about a church not being the building, but the people.

 

In love with Gozo

That aside, the World Heritage sites, the delicious food, the many other things to do such as: entertainment venues – there are three theatres on Gozo; fortifications, towers, gardens, religious sites, natural sites, walks and so much more that it would take me at least a year to thoroughly investigate the place in detail.

But I was there a week and I have to say I was completely smitten.

I fell in love with it.

 

Things to Do – at Sea

When Louis from  Xlendi cruises told me that Gozo is best viewed from the sea, he  wasn’t wrong.

 

 

 

Gozo truly IS a  delightful place and  a boat trip around the island is an excellent way to spend the day. The people I travelled with – had even done it twice in the same week!

Included in most of the boat trips is a trip to Comino where you can walk around the island in an hour and a half – an option for  the walkers amongst us.

There are so many other opportunities off shore at Gozo.  For example : swimming,  snorkelling, kayaking, water skiing, paddle boarding,  pedallo boating, jet ski, private boat charters, and fishing trips  so  that you are not stuck for choice.  So if  you love the sea, why not visit Gozo and take your pick of the best?  With the sea always being only 10 minutes away from any point on the island who wouldn’t make use of it? And Gozo has word class diving sites that have to be seen to be believed!

 

Taking George and Louis’s advice I opted for the full day boat trip around the island that stops off at the small island of Comino, just a ten boat ride away from Mgarr harbour.

Once aboard the comfortable boat it wasn’t long before we reached the too-blue-to-be-true water of the blue lagoon of Comino. It is incredible. And I am glad I was there early, because we stayed there an hour and a half and by 11:30am it was becoming crowded. At night there are boat parties too with blaring music. So it’s essential to choose  your time to visit.

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On arrival  at the blue lagoon the colour of which has to be seen to be believed, I just wanted to gaze at it for longer, but I was summoned to snorkel. I’m so glad I did!

 

The water is crystal clear due to a number of factors I’m told by the skipper, Sergio. Firstly the lagoon is situated in  open water, and secondly the limestone orientated sand is white, so the reflection in the water with that kind of sand renders the water a deep, yet light aquamarine colour.

Bit  like the Maldives really.

There are many fish and underground fauna to see whilst snorkelling . I saw a large number of sea bass, other colourful fish and a lot of limpets clinging to the side of the rocks when I swam over to Cominotte, another tiny, uninhabitated island.

 

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Feeling refreshed I climbed back aboard thinking how that crystal-like-gem-stone,  green sea  has offered me the best swim I’ve experienced to date.

All pictures taken with a Sony camera. No special effects applied.

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Yours Truly, re-embarking.

    Unusual Rock Formations

Gozo is a myriad of landscapes, with  interesting rock formations chiefly of limestone. But the striped effect, I notice is because of the different sorts of limestone. There are layers causing this striation of coralline (upper and lower variety) and globigerina. It’s a beautiful sight, and the formations are very interesting.

 

 

 

 

This rock  is called  – you can probably guess? (Answer after the photo)

 

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Did you guess right?! – The Elephant’s Head

 

No – it’s not a pub in Camden Town . Well, yes, actually. It is!

At Crystal lagoon, you can forgett about drying off. I’m in again, for a beautiful swim. Again a snorkeler’s paradise – many fish here. Sergio throws in bread, scores of shoals come to feed!

 

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Donning a snorkel and mask,  I see  smaller fish and limpets clinging to the side of large flanks of limestone far below the lagoon. As the morning passes and we finish our swimming the colour intensifies. It is marvellous to see. I was talking to the skipper again and he tells me that the thin pen-like fish are called swordfish, but the Gozitan people call them ‘imsella’. Imsella is the special thin needle that is used to repair fishing nets. So really these fish  are ‘fishing needle’ fish. I like it.

Above crystal lagoon, Comino, is a watch tower which if the flag is flying you can go inside. It wasn’t when I was there.

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Besides which there are plenty of opportunities for watchtowers. There are four in Gozo : Mgarr ix-Xini Tower in Xewkija, the Xlendi Tower, the Dwejra Tower and San Blas Tower in Nadur. But this tower is special because it is where the new Count of Monte Christo film starring Angelina Jolie was made. They threw a dummy off here in the scene where the Count jumps. The cliff is very high and nobody would have been able to pull it off without injury so the dummy was used.

The whole island was filmed in the part where the treasure is hidden.

 

The boat provides a decent lunch, if you’re stuck and water, wine, beer, teas, coffees, cokes and so on.

After lunch we head around to the famous Azure Window which actually reminds me a little of Dorset, though of course the  rock is different. It is here that the Game of Thrones was filmed.

 

Recognise this?! It is the Azure window at Dwerja.

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But . . .the Azure Window is disintegrating

The arch is in a dangerous condition because large pieces of rock keep falling from the arch of the Azure window. Estimates predict  that the arch will disappear in a few years. A very large piece came down recently  on the right side making the  gap  wider and dangerous. There are notices warning the public to refrain from walking over the top of the arch.

No more filming there then!

 

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The afternoon was spent exploring the wonderful south and west of the island which has amazing places, such as Fungus Rock,  where a medicinal herb grows.

http://www.malta-info.co.uk/attractions/fungus_rock_gozo.htm

Inland sea – a very special place. Here dives are undertaken, I didn’t dive this time, but it is an activity  I plan for the future.

http://www.malta-info.co.uk/attractions/inland_sea_gozo/index.html

 

 

On we go, the salty sea spray flicking back in our faces. Refreshing and invigorating. At  Marsalform Bay we arrive with its symmetrical yet organic shaped salt pans.

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Salt is harvested here by the lovely Cini family who go back generations on the island and whose fore fathers and mothers feature dyers and spinners of cloth, weavers, historians and salt harvesters.

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There is a sign displaying the salt harvesting process. It takes time for the sea to dry out in the salt flats, once done the salt remains – thanks to the Romans!dsc_0292 But there is more to these people than this.

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A tradition passed down the years. A local lady continues with making necklaces, bookmarks and bracelets. She could turn her hand to anything.

It’s fascinating to hear their stories, and I spent some time looking at Louis Sabila’s photographs, depicting the massive change that the community has undergone since Malta’s independence. Thank you, Louis.

 

Back round on the boat heading north we stop at Ramla bay for a final swim. Here there are red sand beaches, this one, as well as San Blas bay.

I had a beautiful and very salty swim in Ramla bay and the sea was as clear as a bell. No fish!

 

 

 Ramla Bay, Picture by William Schering.

 

Heading to the point from which we started  –  we have journeyed full circle round Gozo, I note  there are some very interesting walks from Xlendi bay and more,  interesting land formations.

 

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I’ve had a fantastic day. If I had more time, for sure I would do it all again

  •   *   *   *

 

I took the full day tour which lasts for 8 hours and visits all the main beaches of Gozo as well as Comino.

Further details of the Boat trip I took can be found here:

http://www.xlendicruises.com/gozo-comino-trips/#post-116

With grateful thanks to Louis, George and Sergio of Xlendi Cruises for  sponsorship and for making the trip great thus giving me the opportunity to write about it.

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See my next blog for more details on Inland Gozo:

  • Churches
  • Museums and Galleries
  • Parks and Gardens
  • Ggantija Temples
  • The Citadel, Victoria