Why Gozo is the ideal day trip destination from Malta
A 30-minute ferry ride northwest of Malta, Gozo is smaller, sleepier and less touristy than its better-known sister. Despite spanning a mere 67 sq km - just over half the size of Jersey - the island has more than its fair share of attractions, with rugged landscapes, historic sites, tranquil villages and gorgeous beaches.
Getting to Gozo: one of the easiest and most affordable ways of getting to Gozo is to book yourself a great value break to Malta with TUI*, and enjoy a long day trip or even couple of days exploring this mini Mediterranean isle.
You can visit the historic citadel
Rising above Gozo's tiny capital Rabat (officially known as Victoria), on a site that has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, is Il-Kastell, a beautifully preserved fortified complex.
Inside its formidable sand-coloured walls, which date back to the 15th century, you'll find the ornate baroque Cathedral of the Assumption, plus an impressive collection of townhouses, palaces, chapels and judicial buildings.
Elsewhere in Il-Kastell, which is also known as the Cittadella, is an excellent visitor centre, as well as museums dedicated to archaeology, nature and history, including one in an atmospheric old prison.
There's a stunning stretch of coastline
Gozo is dotted with picturesque coves and beaches, notably the small but perfectly formed San Blas Bay and the larger Ramla Bay, both located on the north coast.
Another great place for a swim is Wied il-Ghasri, a pebble beach at the end of a narrow, meandering channel hemmed in by cliffs. Meanwhile, local fishermen offer boat trips into the evocatively named Inland Sea, a shallow lagoon surrounded by dramatic rock formations.
You'll find fantastic food
Gozo - and Malta more generally - has always been a crossroads in the Mediterranean and its cuisine reflects the many cultures, countries and empires that have passed through, from Arab and Roman to British, Italian and French.
Rabbit is a mainstay of the local diet: you'll find it fried, stewed, roasted, stuffed into a pie or served with pasta. Gbejniet, a firm cheese made from goat or sheep's milk, is another highlight and features prominently in tasty pastries known as pastizzi. Also, keep an eye out for ftira, a flatbread commonly topped with anchovies, potatoes and capers.
And you won't go thirsty: Gozo has several small wineries, as well as its own microbrewery, Lord Chambray, which has a tasting room in the village of Xewkija.
Plus a rich archaeological heritage
Set on the edge of the charming inland village of Xaghra, the Ggantija Temples are two of the oldest free-standing stone buildings on earth.
Dating back to between 3,000 and 3,600 BC, they are made up of huge slabs of limestone, some of which weigh more than 50 tonnes. The onsite museum contains artefacts from and associated with the site, including a "fat ladies" carving that has become a symbol of Ggantija (which translates as "giantess").
Alongside five smaller megalithic constructions on Malta, the two temples are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It's a world-class diving destination
Gozo's warm, calm and crystal-clear waters, numerous shipwrecks, reefs, caves and varied sea life make it an excellent place to dive and snorkel. You can swim with seahorses at sites like Wied il-Ghasri and Mgarr ix-Xini, and spot rays and barracudas at Reqqa Point reefs.
A particularly memorable experience is exploring the collapsed Azure Window, a great limestone arch that appeared in Game of Thrones before plunging into the sea during a storm in 2017. There are numerous dive schools on Gozo, notably in Marsalforn, the island's most popular resort.
There are some striking salt pans
Salt has been harvested on Gozo since the time of the Phoenicians - approximately 1,300 to 300 BC. Today, a handful of families continue the practice on the north coast of the island, making use of distinctive rock-cut, checkerboard-patterned salt pans.
This area is a scenic spot for a stroll, particularly during the salt harvesting season, which typically takes place between May and September, though watch out for the wind, which can be fierce in this part of the island.
It's a place of pilgrimage
Gozo has scores of churches and chapels, and whether you're a believer or not, the walk up to one of them, the Ta' Pinu Sanctuary, is a must. Perched on a hill above the rolling countryside, this huge Romanesque basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who reputedly spoke to a local woman on this spot in the 1880s.
Accessed via the village of Gharb in the northwest of the island, the route to the hilltop marked by marble statues representing the Stations of the Cross, Ta' Pinu is an important place of pilgrimage for people from across Gozo, Malta and beyond.
Comino is only a short boat ride away
Just off the coast of southeast Gozo, Comino has been a hideout for pirates and smugglers, a hunting ground for the Knights of Malta, and even a place of banishment for cholera and plague victims.
Today, this tiny, car-free islet is a haven for sunbathers, snorkellers and windsurfers. Its highlight is the picture-perfect Blue Lagoon, whose shallow, turquoise-blue waters are fringed by rocky outcrops and small patches of sand.
Comino gets packed with day-trippers from Malta during the summer months, so try to get there first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon to beat the crowds.
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Keen to get to Gozo? TUI offers affordable breaks to Malta from airports across the UK all year-round, whether you want the hot and sunny climes of summer, the mild conditions of winter or something in between.
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