For such a small island, Gozo packs in a wide variety of experiences and attractions. Travelling history fans shouldn't miss the megalithic temples at Ġgantija, and the recently restored Il-Kastell fortress towering above Gozo's compact capital of Victoria is one of Malta's finest sights. Mountain biking, kayaking and clifftop hiking are all opportunities for active visitors, while Gozo's food and wine scene focuses strongly on fresh local produce and briny-fresh seafood. While Malta can sometimes feel busy and crowded, sleepy and laid-back Gozo offers the perfect opportunity to breathe out and relax.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Gozo.
Perched on the crest of the hill to the south of Xagħra, the awe-inspiring megalithic Ġgantija Temples command soaring views over most of southern Gozo. As the name implies ( ġgantija – dje-gant-ee-ya – means 'giantess'), these are the largest of the megalithic temples found on the Maltese Islands – the walls stand over 6m high, and the two temples together span over 40m.
While the walls surrounding Il-Kastell date from the 15th century, there have been fortifications atop this flat-topped hill since the Bronze Age: it developed under the Phoenicians and later became a Roman town. After terrible raids on Gozo by the Turks, it became customary for all the island's families to stay within Il-Kastell overnight, a practice that lasted into the 17th century. Walk almost all the way around the city walls, for astounding views over Gozo and towards the sea
The collapsed cavern of Dwejra Bay has been invaded by the sea, and is guarded by the brooding bulk of Fungus Rock. A path below Dwejra (Qawra) Tower leads to a flight of stairs cut into the rock, leading down to a little slipway on the edge of the bay. There is good swimming and sunbathing here.
San Blas, a tiny, rock-strewn bay with some patches of coarse, rust-coloured sand, is backed by steep, terraced fields with prickly-pear hedges. There's parking space for only a handful of cars at the beginning of the very narrow track above the bay. It's a steep walk down to it, but you can take a jeep down or up (€2.50 per person).
A 5km hike west along the coast from Marsalforn is the narrow, cliff-bound inlet of Wied il-Għasri. Here a staircase cut into the rock leads down to a tiny shingle beach at the head of the inlet. It's a gorgeously picturesque place and there is good swimming and snorkelling when the sea is calm, but it's best avoided in rough weather when the waves come crashing up the narrow defile.
This winery near Xagħra en route from Victoria to Marsalforn sells good wine under the Marsamena and Ancient Gods labels, and has a well-stocked farm shop with its own Gozo sea salt, honey, olive oil, chutneys, capers and sun-dried tomatoes. Occasional food and wine tours (per person €16 including lunch) are held at 1pm on Saturdays. Booking ahead is essential.
Walk or drive west along the promenade, past the tiny sand beaches at Qbajjar Bay and the more scenic Xwieni Bay, until you reach a rocky shore. This wild and extraordinary landscape has been carved into a patchwork of salt pans. There's usually a small stall selling salt from the pans, which are owned by three families and still worked in summer.
Built between 1697 and 1711 to replace a church destroyed by a 1693 earthquake (which was in southern Italy but caused damage as far Gozo), the cathedral was designed by Lorenzo Gafa, also responsible for St Paul's Cathedral at Mdina. The elegant facade is adorned with the escutcheons of Grand Master Ramon de Perellos and Bishop Palmieri. Due to a lack of funds the dome was never finished, but a trompe l'œil painting makes it look as if it were.
The Basilica of Ta'Pinu, accessible via a short, scenic walk from Għarb, is an extraordinary sight – a huge, lone church on a Gozitan hillock, towering over the countryside. Malta's national shrine to the Virgin Mary is an important centre of pilgrimage. It was built in the 1920s on the site of a chapel where a local woman, Carmela Grima, claimed to have heard the Virgin speak to her in 1883.