Gozo’s charm has always enchanted me. I first visited the island in 2009 and its stark contrast to Malta’s frenetic energy felt calming. It’s been over a decade since that first visit but the dialed-down, more low-key charm that dazzled me the first time around is still there. Gozo is home to just north of 30,000 people and unlike Malta, really feels like an island; a place largely free of traffic where prickly pears grow wild and the island is predominantly made up of sandstone buildings and rock walls. Boutique hotels sit in old converted houses with heaps of character, and while the hospitality industry (candidly) has a long way to go in terms of luxury travel and tourism, the bones exist here in a way that I find harder to find in Malta’s more populated areas. Planning on heading to Malta’s sister island? Here’s a rundown of some things to do in Gozo during your visit. If you can, give yourself at least a couple of nights there to enjoy the island’s pace and secret charms.
Explore the Citadella
1Perhaps the most famous must on the island is the Citadella, an old fortification that sits just a 5-minute walk from the island’s capital, Victoria (you’ll hear Victoria referred to as Rabat in Maltese). The Citadella includes more than it lets on at the outset so allow yourself a couple of hours to wander, take in the architecture and views, plus visit the shops, museums, and old prison tucked inside the walls.
Wander Rabat, Gozo’s Capital
2Let’s cut the confusion early: Victoria and Rabat are the same city, Gozo’s capital which is one of the primary hubs of restaurants, shopping, etc on the island. The name Victoria was bestowed in the late 1800s but signage and information will often still reference ir-Rabat. Whatever you choose to call it, Rabat is a lovely little enclave perfect for shopping, an afternoon spritz, or dinner. For a rooftop experience, head to the Roof at Il-Ħaġar, a small museum in town, where you’ll get to take in a beautiful vantage point over St. George’s Square. For dinner, check out Maldonado, which we adored for its creative cuisine and beautiful setting at a great value.
Take in the Sunset at Ta Cenc Cliffs
3The cliffs at Ta Cenc are one of the most iconic places on the island for sunset; wild and rugged with expansive views over the sea. We made it just in time for sunset and had virtually no one else around, but if you plan properly I’d suggest getting there an hour prior to sunset with a picnic to enjoy the moment. If we were to do it again, we’d take a blanket, a cheese plate and a bottle of wine to enjoy the evening glow. Watching the sunset here was one of my favorite things to do in Gozo; a reminder of simple pleasures! ✨
FYI, you’ll find parking here near a small dirt pathway that leads to the cliffs. It’s about a 7 – 10 minute walk to the cliff’s edge where you can watch the sunset.
Explore the Island by Water
4My feeling when visiting most island destinations is that seeing an island and its landscape by water is part of the experience when it comes to understanding the lay of the land and seeing secret coves and hidden caves. When it comes to things to do in Gozo, there are options for full-blown boat trips but there are also smaller boats for more limited time on the water to explore places like the Blue Grotto on a shorter outing. Summer is peak season (not a surprise) but the weather remains warm into early fall and even in November 2022, temps still hovered in the mid-70s with bright sun for the first half of the month.
Check out the Salt Pans at Masalforn (+ Calypso’s Cave)
5Masalforn’s Salt Pans have become an oft-photographed corner of Gozo, with little tide pools shimmering blue, pink and purple in the sun along a craggy outcropping. In the distance is Calypso’s Cave, rumored to be the basis of the story in Homer’s Odyssey. The beach is one of the best for swimming too in the summer months and makes a perfect destination for an afternoon. Malta’s embryonic tourism sector means that the salts from Xaghra aren’t really fully marketed yet (so much potential!) but you will find a tiny little outpost where you can purchase fresh sea salt from the local family of producers. The bags of salt start at around €2.50 and make great gifts!
Explore the Churches of Gozo — including Ta Pinu
6On an island that’s 99% Catholic and devoutly religious, it perhaps comes as no surprise that the tiny island of Gozo has 46 churches strewn across the island. Growing up, my grandparents had a Ta’ Pinu magnet on their fridge for my entire childhood. The first time I arrived in Gozo I recognized it immediately.
Many of the Maltese churches, with their red-domed roofs and unique architecture, are quintessentially Maltese to me, hard to be confused with anywhere else on the planet. Perhaps the most famous church on the island, though is Ta’ Pinu, a pilgrimage site known for its history with a local woman’s communication with the Virgin Mary — and its history with visits by the Pope. Whether or not you’re religious, you’ll find that the churches across the island provide some of the most beautiful architectural outposts given the pride and money poured into these buildings in the past. In Malta, don’t miss St. John’s Co-Cathedral (a must) and the Mosta Dome.
👉🏼 More Inspiration: 10 Things to Do in Malta
Sip a Craft Brew at Lord Chambray
7One area I see major potential in with Gozo is with artisanal products and producers; small-scale weavers, jewelers, and perfumers that seem harder to identify on Malta’s main island. For beer drinkers, you’ll notice a few local beers available when you’re traveling to Malta. Cisk is the ever-present Maltese beer but Lord Chambray is arguably the most famous craft beer producer in the area. We first discovered them at 67 Kapitali in Malta, a beer bar they’ve partnered with for a few collaborations, so made it a point to visit their brewery while in Gozo. The taproom is tiny but you’ll have access to the range of their offerings including flights (available at €8 for 4 pours of your choice).
Hike the Island
8When we arrived at our boutique hotel in Gozo, I was surprised to see pamphlets for hikes around the island. Malta has long gotten a bad rap for being one of the EU’s unhealthier outposts, but as an outsider it seems there’s been a shift recently with fitness studios, health food stores, veg-friendly restaurants, plus a movement towards, well, movement. For those in search of more active things to do in Gozo, consider a hike on the island to get the blood flowing while taking in the island’s views. Explore some hikes in Gozo for inspiration.
Hit the Beach
9When I talk with potential clients for Compass & Vine about Mediterranean escapes, I’m quick to identify Malta for what it is and for what it isn’t. For me, it’s a destination with stunning history (both prehistoric and more recent), beautiful architecture, great opportunities for boating and water-based pursuits, and charming villages. What I don’t really hype it as is a beach destination. While there are some sandy beaches in Malta, I always suggest a place with a great pool and a view for soaking up the summer sun. In Gozo, if you’re beach-bound, some of the top beaches include Ramla Bay, Dwejra Bay (the former site of the Azure Window and a good spot for diving), and Wied il-Għasri, which gets noted as being one of the more off-the-grid locales.
👉🏼 Read about my Heritage Trip to Malta
Go Wine Tasting
10When I was writing my post on 10 Things to do in Malta, wine tasting was one of my less-expected inclusions. Instead of venturing to the vineyards in Malta we hit a wine bar to sample a few different producers to see what we connected with. As it turned out, there were quite a few wines that wowed us — and the main island of Malta has a number of producers putting our some great wines from the island. Gozo, while smaller with fewer producers, also has its own wine production with its own DOC (actually referred to as a DOK in Malta). For winery visits, consider Tal-Massar in Gharb or Ta’ Mena which is offering up incredible locally produced items from wine to jams and olive oils. The storefront is unassuming to say the least, but we left our visit with an incredible stash of freshly made goods! Here you’ll find 5 – 6 wines produced from their vineyard including a Riserva that was particularly good (the Riserva clocks in at around €15 for context). If you’re like us and prefer to try a range of producers to sample a broader spectrum of styles, also consider a wine tasting night at Maldonado, a restaurant in Victoria offering great food and wines in a gorgeous setting.
Visit the Island’s Ancient Temples
11Years ago I remember stumbling upon an article that discussed the world’s oldest temples. They profiled 10 temples around the globe and three were in Malta. Three out of ten. Now, to be fair, these temples don’t bring the splendor and fanfare of the Temples in Luxor, for example, but the sheer age of these temples is pretty mind-blowing. In Gozo, you’ll find the Ggantija Temples, dating back to around 3000BC with rocks reminiscent of Stonehenge and a whole lot of questions about how these rocks got here made it here in the first place. The entry is €10 per person and includes access to the museum plus entry to the two temples.
12I spoke about artisanal products above when discussing Lord Chambray and that idea extends further with small-scale producers in Malta offering great locally made products that make wonderful gifts. Ta’Dbiegi Crafts Village is a hub for artisans with around 10 local producers offering up different crafts. Full transparency: a few outposts are kitchy and far from ‘local’ feeling but the better shops are very nicely done. In particular, don’t miss:
- Gozo Pottery Barn – gorgeous ceramics, including house signs for anyone that wants one custom made! She also does coats of arms to order.
- Gozo Glass – Producing a range of beautiful local glass products with a range of collections profiling different color palettes.
- The Perfume Studio – The owner, of Scandinavian descent, has a few global outposts for her perfumes and creations. There’s a selection of 12 perfumes available (I purchased Sunbeam), but one of her specialties is bespoke fragrances, customizing scents for your taste.
- it-Tokk – It-Tokk is a Gozitan producer offering lots of local food products from carob syrup to nougats and savory takeaways like Maltese cheeses.
- Angele Patisserie – This bakery is gorgeous and the outside doesn’t let on to what they have going on inside! Fresh pastizzis and lots of Maltese sweet treats.
Zip Around on an ATV
13When weather permits and you are ready to explore Gozo, a vehicle to get around the island helps with exploring the nooks and crannies. Consider renting an ATV from the ferry port to hit the road with the wind in your hair! Alternatively, consider a chauffeured tuk tuk experience if you’d prefer a driver.
During my past trips to the island, I’d only ever visited Gozo on day trips from Malta, and while that’s totally doable I’d highly recommend at least one night (two if you can!) to settle into Gozo’s pace. For accommodations, we chose Cesca Boutique Hotel in Xlendi this go-around, but it’s worth looking at Kempinski for something a bit larger, or ThirtySeven Gozo for another boutique option.
What are your favorite things to do in Gozo?