It is well worth while making the trip to the smaller island of Gozo (ferry from Marfa, 20 minutes), the history of which is bound up with that of the main island.
The island of Gozo is separated from Malta by a channel some three mi/five km wide, divided into two (the North Comino Channel and the South Comino Channel) by the little island of Comino. Like Malta, Gozo rises gradually toward the southwest, though here the limestone hills are lower and the cliffs on the southwest coast are correspondingly less formidable. The northeast coast, with few indentations, has no natural harbors like those of the main island.Gozo is further in spirit from Malta than the eight-kilometer channel Il-Fliegu, which separates the two islands, would suggest. Sleepy Gozo is like a step back in time compared with the comparative fast pace of Malta.The island's proud emblem of three green hills (said to be Zebbug, Xaghra and Nadur) over a blue sea is the first silhouette of landfall; peaceful villages cling onto the side of the fertile and flat-topped hills. The greens of the landscape and valleys are a welcome surprise after the summer has baked Malta into a dry brown desert.Bathing and diving here are superb, and the walks are peaceful.There are a handful of good restaurants, some pretty handmade lace to buy and the finest hotel on the Maltese islands.
Sannat is Gozo's most southerly village, close to Ta'Cenc Cliffs.Attractions here include the 145m high layercake cliffs with their breath-taking scenery, and the handmade traditional Gozitan lace.Sannat was the traditional center of the island's lace-making cottage industry and on rare occasions you still see women sitting on chairs in the shade of the 18th century parish church of Ste Margaret, working on off-white lace tablecloths and other crafts.The Maltese lace industry was established in the early years of the 17th century. The earliest forms came from Italy and were altered to create the easily distinguishable type known throughout the world as "Maltese Lace."
This was once the breeding ground of the Mediterranean peregrine falcon, the Maltese falcon. The species is now extinct in the Maltese islands. From the limestone cliffs there are breathtaking views of the sea and the valleys.
The huge basilica of Ta'Pinu with its solitary 47-meter-high campanile is the national shrine and a church of pilgrimage, not a parish church. Built in a neo-Romanesque style, at an architecturally uninspiring time between the two world wars, the taut exterior stands in austere isolation amid the surrounding cultivated fields. By contrast, the interior is plain, reverential and moving.A place of worship has existed on the site since the early 16th century. In 1575 the original structure was condemned, but the demolition never occurred. The church was disused until the late 17th century, when it was repaired for the last time. Today the old structure is incorporated into a small chapel behind the apse.
Fungus Rock and Dwerja Bay
This 60m high monolith guards the entrance to an almost circular black lagoon with a spooky seaweed-covered bed. The climb to the top is only for aspiring mountaineers. Dwerja is a placid place to swim. There are two small grottos, and plenty of fish for divers to spot off Fungus Rock and this is considered one of the finest diving spots in the Mediterranean. In calm weather the bay is an idyllic spot to anchor for the night. The clear but dark sea and deserted ragged coastline makes this ideal territory for keen snorkelers as well.
There is not much going on here, the most eastern settlement on Gozo. There are, however, good places to swim nearby. The clear and sheltered waters off Qala Point, with its lone and now crumbling redoubt, are tantalizingly visible from Comino's northern headland. But it is hard to reach. There is a rudimentary footpath in an old quarry area, which peters out into a scramble ending west of the rock Gebel tal-Halfa, but it is an infinitely easier journey by boat.The swimming and snorkeling in the inlets are superb.
From Nadur (look-out point) the knights were able to keep vigil over the Malta-Gozo channel at all times. The village, with its imposing houses, is the largest and wealthiest of Gozo's settlements after Victoria.Side by side and to the north of Nadur lie three good bays: Ramla, San Blas and Dahlet Qorrot. The most accessible and best for children is Ramla, with its wide red-sand beach, but the most rewarding swimming is off the rocks of San Blass, a miniature fjord at Wied Ghasri.
Sts Peter and Paul Church
This church was begun in 1760 and designed by Guiseppe Bonnici. The wide robust and symmetrical building took 20 years to complete. The facade, and the dome with stained-glass windows were added in the mid-19th C.The interior is splendidly ornate with extravagant marble inlaid floors, walls and pillars. Around the turn of the century, the Maltese painter Lazzaro Pisani painted 150 canvases to be attached to the vaulted ceiling; the images and the stories told are the liveliest of many such ecclesiastical works on the islands.In the right-hand aisle is a twinned processional statue of the saints, made in 1881 in Marseille. Also on the right, in the transept is the macabre skeleton of St Coronatus, brought here intact along with a cup of his blood soon after he was martyred in A.D. 100. His skeleton is now clothed.
Mgarr - Gozo Heritage
This is an excellent thematic presentation (in five languages) of Gozitan history. The tour starts with Neolithic man and wanders through more than 5,000 years of local history, aided by cleverly designed audio-visual techniques and static sets on themes including the legend of Calypso, the Romans, Dragut Rais, World War II and a contemporary harbor scene are all worth seeing.
This is said to be the cave described in Homer's Odyssey, into which Calypso enticed Odysseus. It is set on a craggy bluff, with a panorama of the Mediterranean, the fertile Ramla Valley and red sandy beach of Ramla below. Still, the cave is no more than a cramped hollow caused by a rock slide in the Xaghra cliffs.
This is the oldest and main western village, with its own dialect. The village has remained tranquil and unspoiled, although development is occurring around it at an increasing pace. The village has an exquisite parish church, fine old carved stone balconies and several good restaurants.
Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception
The foundation stone for this church was laid in 1699, 20 years after Gharb had become a parish and had outgrown its older church of St Mary's. Designed by Guiseppi Azzoparto, the structure has obvious Roman baroque swathes, a concave facade split by a razor of a balustrade and two dominant bell-towers. The upper facade neatly hides the drumless dome collecting the whole into a uniform and manageable size.The three statues of Faith, Hope and Charity on either side of the square complete the fine building.Inside, the plan is circular and the main altarpiece "The Visitation of Our Lady to her Cousin St Elisabeth" was a gift from Grand Master de Vilhena in the early 18th C. An inscription on the right-hand clock face reads "heed precious time."
St Mary's Church
This 16th C. church at the bottom of its own pastoral little valley is still in use. According to legend, the icon of the Madonna performed a miracle here, forming a spring of oil from underneath it. It is said that so many people came to collect the miraculous oil that it eventually dried up.
This old fishing community has evolved into Gozo's main summer destination, overrun with cafes and shops. There is a diving center as well as free diving along the coast.In the tiny harbor, Il Mengq, there are fishermen usually willing to take visitors fishing.
The old fishing village of Xlendi was Gozo's most beguiling spot, but has now been overrun by tourism and development.The attractions here cater to divers and swimmers. There is a good beach and natural coves for divers, as well as a diving school.The Mgarr ix-Xini Tower was built here in 1658.
The Gozo Carnival, held over three days every February (a few days after the Valletta Carnival), hails the end of winter and the coming of summer. Adults and children run amok in fancy dress among carnival floats.
This village lies southwest of Victoria. Here is the Chapel of the Annunciation (half in a cave and still in use), dating from 1347. Most of the present structure dates from the early 17th C.
Place of Giants
This is known as the loneliest chapel in Gozo. The beauty of the little square building lies in its windswept location. The front door is always open. Behind the security bars is the altarpiece of San Dimitri on his white steed.
San Lawrenz, Malta
This is the westernmost settlement on Gozo, where late author Nicholas Monsarrat once lived. It is the only village to take its name from its patron saint (whose emblem is a palm frond on a gridiron - St Lawrence was burned in A.D. 258).
Ta'Dbiegi Crafts Village
This is one of the highest of the villages straddling the spine of a ridge. It is known as Gozo's windy city. The main attraction is the 18th century Parish Church of the Assumption.
Ghammar - Way of the Cross
In the groves of Ghammar hill, overlooking Ta'Pinu, is a Way of the Cross, with 12 life-size marble statues.
Map of Gozo Attractions