Gozo: The Maltese archipelago’s hidden gem
Rich history, unspoiled rural vistas, passion for local produce and the best of family island culture take pride of place on the mantle of Gozo. Nestled in between Sicily and North Africa and just a third the size of its sister island Malta, Gozo offers a lot of bang for its buck, and the adventure begins from the moment you board the ferry at Cirkewwa. All-encompassing in its rugged beauty and rural landscape, Gozo has a way of slowing down time and pulling you into the present, something not to be taken for granted in the fast-paced world we live in.
Blessed with an average 300 days of sunshine per year, it’s likely you will arrive to blue skies when pulling into Mġarr harbour. Whatever your destination, once you alight the ferry, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the cacti and colourful flowers and fauna lining the village roads, and take in the unmistakable rustic feel of this small island.
Families are spoilt for choice when it comes to activities on Gozo, from tours of the Xwejni saltpans to hiking trails and coastline walks. On the walk to Calypso’s Cave, you will be rewarded with views over Ramla Bay on one side and acres of prickly pear cacti on the other. Stop for refreshments or visit the only stall atop the cave, selling hand-knitted, take-home treasures.
If you’re looking for a post-hike rest, then set up camp on the red sands of Gozo’s most popular beach, Ramla Bay, and paddle the afternoon away in crystal clear waters. You’ll have all the facilities you’ll need nearby, so all you have to think about is who packed the towels.
Up there at the top of the to-do list when visiting Gozo is a day trip to the island of Comino, a short but breathtaking boat ride (trips are hourly and ticket prices are reasonable) from Mġarr harbour. On the approach to the island, you’ll have a moment to take in the coves and coastline before docking at the Blue Lagoon. Azure waters frame the kind of white sandy beach you might expect from the Pacific Islands.
As the island is only two kilometres long with no tarmacked roads, Comino is an ideal excursion for those of us who relish a good hike or simply want to make the most of the golden sands and unspoiled views of the Med. On the beach, you’ll find a juice stand – a round of mocktails drunk from hollowed-out pineapples is the order of the day, before boarding the return boat.
All that fresh air is bound to get tummies rumbling and, luckily for its visitors, Gozian cuisine takes itself seriously and prides itself on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Small batch, traditional options take precedence when eating out on the island. Must-try local delicacies include date pastries, rabbit stew (the national dish) and a traditional sheep’s milk cheese known as Gbejniet, accompanied by homemade breads dipped in olive oil. With French, Italian and Arabic influences, the Gozian foodscape and its stunning choice of fresh fish and seafood, seasonal vegetables and herbs grown on the island – alongside a family-friendly attitude to kids’ dining – make eating out here a real pleasure. Fear not, there are always plenty of the more classic kids’ options available across the board, too.
And when it comes to accommodation, villas are the way to go for family fun. James Villas has 39 villas on Gozo, sleeping up to 12 people under one roof with cots and highchairs readily available for little ones. Villa Ta Cenc is a particularly lovely one on Gozo. It’s perfect for a family of four, situated just outside the village of Sannat within walking distance (even for little legs) of supermarkets and restaurants. The private pool is the main draw with its loungers, exposed wood beams, golden limestone walls and BBQ on the patio.
The rich history of Gozo will keep the whole family interested and engaged (yes, really). Gozo’s most recognisable landmark is the Citadel, an architectural feat with enormous historical significance. Visible from all over the island, the imposing and impressive fortified city has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, although just a few families still live within its walls. The impressive Ggantija Temples are worth a stop. One of the most mysterious temple sites in the world, there are many theories about the purpose of the temples, which are older than both the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, and have been preserved and kept open to the public.
The joy of Gozo lies in its ability to surprise you with just how much there is to see, how many activities there are for all ages, how passionate and warm the locals are – and the amount of history there is squeezed onto an island small in size, but big on sunshine.
How to book
James Villas‘ Villa Ta Cenc costs from £394 per person for seven nights, based on a family of four sharing, including return flights from London Stansted, car hire and ferry transfers from Malta to Gozo.
Find out more about visiting Gozo with kids.