Gozo, meaning “joy” in Castilian, is the second largest Island of the Maltese archipelago, with a population of approximately 30,000.
Though separated from mainland Malta only by a 5km stretch of sea, Gozo is distinctly different from Malta. The Island is a third the size of Malta, more rural and simple with its culture and way of life rooted in agricultural and fishing activity.
Presenting a relaxed pace of life, Gozo is the ideal secluded safe haven. It is just 25 minutes away by ferry from Malta. The hop can easily be made for even the shortest stay.
Life in Gozo was harsh for well over two millennia as the Island was left exposed to any passing raiders, much more so than Malta with its natural harbours and defences.
Gozo’s history goes back to pre-historic times. The Neolithic Temples of Ggantija, which are the oldest free standing structures in the world, date back to over 7000 years.
The Maltese Islands were conquered by several rulers including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and several European Feudal Lords.
In 1530, the Maltese Islands were handed over to the Knights Hospitaliers of St. John the Baptist after they were thrown out of the island of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire.
Throughout the Middle Ages and during the rule of the Knights, Barbary corsairs and Saracens raided the island at intervals. In 1551, the Saracens carried out a devastating raid, taking almost the entire population away into slavery. It took a long time for Gozo to recover. The Island remained under-populated for decades until the Knights refortified the medieval Citadel of Rabat and the Gozitans began to venture around the rest of the Island.
Gozo and its inhabitants have their own distinct character and identity, with noticeably different lifestyles, accents and dialects. Gozitans are known for their friendliness and welcome to visitors, going out of their way to indicate a direction or help a visitor find his destination.
Festas and carnival times in Gozo have a different feel to those in Malta. The village of Nadur celebrates carnival with a black sense of humour, quite unlike its more joyful counterparts elsewhere.
The real beauty of Gozo, apart from its stunning seascape and interior, lies in the villages. Here, it seems as if time really does stand still. The locals treasure their peace and the villages are tranquil, proving to be a wonderful respite from the trials and tribulations of everyday life for visitors.
Village bars open early in order to cater for the early risers who attend the first mass of the morning and close fairly late at night, catering for the socialising needs of locals and visitors. These watering holes have stayed unchanged for decades, the only sign of time passing by being the food and drink displayed for sale on the solid shelves and the Edwardian glass cases.
All roads in Gozo lead to Victoria, also known as Rabat, which is where the fortified citadel sits atop a summit.
Victoria is not just the geographic heart of Gozo. It is also the centre of everyday activity. It manages to combine the bustle of its market and shops with a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. It is a great place to watch the Islanders go about their day, especially when the main market square, It-Tokk, comes to life.
The town also has a thriving cultural life all its own with some surprising attractions ranging from opera to horse races in the main street on festa day.
Gozo also offers some of the best sandy beaches and diving sites in the Maltese Islands. A visit to Ramla Bay and Dwerja with its Azure Window is a must!
The Village Festas held every week from May to September are of particular interest with all the street decorations, illuminations, band marches and the world famous fireworks. One must not miss the 7th September “Flames of Victory” Pyrotechnic Show synchronised with music held in the village of Xaghra.
The Island is well served by restaurants where the eating is good and varied. Apart from restaurants and cafés offering local dishes as well as continental menus, one can also enjoy themed restaurants such as Chinese and Indian. Restaurants are mostly found in Victoria, Xaghra, Qala, Mgarr and the fishing villages of Marsalforn and Xlendi. In Gozo there also several Hotels and Holiday Residencies.
Gozo is small, beautiful and safe and therefore there is no fear in walking around at night. The sense of safety and security is tangible as the locals take pride in the absolute absence of muggings and the almost non-existence of theft. In fact most Gozitans still leave the key in the front door all the time and never lock their parked car!
Gozo, also known as the Island of Calypso, with its history, culture and natural beauty.