If you haven’t heard of Gozo before, well, don’t feel bad — it’s reasonably far off the beaten path. Gozo is part of Malta and is a very small island to the north of the main island of Malta, with the extremely tiny and mostly uninhabited island of Comino between the two.
Gozo has a total population of around 40,000 people and is just shy of 70 sq. km — roughly the size of Manhattan in the US. It’s been inhabited for thousands of years, with some of the surviving temples and ruins dated as far back as 5000 BC.
Neolithic temples and ruins can be found on both the main island and in Gozo, with the Ggantija (Giant’s Tower) temples in Xaghra where we live some of the best preserved and most popular as far as tourist destinations.
Very little is known about the early people who inhabited the island, other than they likely crossed over from nearby Sicily.
Life in Gozo in the past wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, as the Ottoman’s visited the island in the mid 16th century and enslaved nearly the entire population, with the Knights of Malta serving a key role in re-populating and protecting the island in the late 16th century.
Much of that history is still apparent today, with most of the villages in Gozo perched atop hills where farmers could retreat to relative safety at night.
The main city in Gozo is Victoria, with the fortifications of the massive Citadel dominating the skyline of the city for many centuries, from which much of the island is visible.
There is a Ministry of Gozo and local offices but it’s very much a part of Malta, although many Gozitans take pride in their “country” way, as the pace of life is much more agrarian and slow-paced in Gozo as compared to the main island.
If you’re looking for clubs and wild parties, stay in Malta; if you enjoy scenic hills, countryside, and a more sedate, relaxed way of live, check out Gozo.
The fact that Gozo is only accessible by ferry or plane has helped insulate it from the hustle and bustle of Malta, although it does get busy during the prime tourist season each year, with many travelers from the UK coming over for holiday.
As far as major things to see and do in Gozo, the Citadel in Victoria is definitely worth a visit, as are the Ġgantija temples, the Azure Window natural rock formation, and any of the amazing churches (especially in Xewkija) that dot the island.
The red beach at Ramla Bay (with Calypso’s cave of Odysseus lore said to be nearby) is another very popular spot in the summer, as is the nearby town of Marsalforn that sports many different seafood restaurants, bars, and dive centers.
Nearly everyone speaks excellent English but most day to day conversations are in Maltese, so there’s still very much a local flavor. Gozo is well-known for it’s local cheeses and several local wineries produce nice, inexpensive wines — not to mention the ever-present Cisk beer.
Living in Xaghra has been a great change of pace for us, as daily life is a lot simpler and down to earth, such as walking to the town square every day to buy fruit and vegetables from the truck that’s there every day, then over to the butcher’s shop for fresh chicken or beef.