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 by a mere 5km stretch of sea, Gozo is distinctly different from Malta. The Island is a third the size of Malta, more rural and tranquil. Its culture and way of life are rooted in tradition and yet open to the present.
Exuding a relaxed pace of life, Gozo is the ideal secluded haven and at just 25 minutes or so by ferry from Malta, the hop can easily be made for even the shortest stay.
For well over two millennia, life in Gozo was harsh, as the island was left exposed to any passing raiders, much more so than Malta with its natural harbours and defences. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the rule of the Knights, Barbary corsairs and Saracens raided the island at intervals. In 1551, the latter carried out a devastating raid, taking almost the entire population away into slavery. The island never really recovered from this and remained under populated for centuries, until the arrival of the Knights saw the medieval Citadel in what is now Victoria refortified and the Gozitans began to venture down to the rest of the Island.
Gozo and its inhabitants have their own distinct character and identity, with noticeably different lifestyles, accents and dialect. Gozitans are known for their friendliness and warm welcome, going out of their way to help a visitor find their destination.
Festas and carnival times in Gozo also have a different feel to those on 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 stood still. The locals treasure their peace and the villages are tranquil, providing a wonderful respite from the modern pace that many of the city dwellers have to endure in their everyday life.
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, but 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 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 restaurants specialising in ethnic cuisines, such as Chinese or Indian. You will be spoilt for choice in Rabat, Mgarr and the resort towns of Marsalforn and Xlendi, as well as in several other places around the island.
You will find that it is comfortable to walk about at any time of day or night. The sense of safety and security is tangible as the locals take pride in the absolute absence of serious crime and the almost non-existence of theft.
Where to Stay
For a taste of village life, rent a villa or farmhouse, and a taste of luxury, rent one with a pool. Other accommodation ranges from deluxe hotels to self-catering apartments. Sea or country views are never hard to find in Gozo, wherever you choose to stay.