This is part 18 in a series about my summer 2017 trip, which took me to Norway, the Netherlands, and Malta. You can read an overview of the trip here.
Most people don’t realize Malta, the country, is an archipelago, of which Malta is the largest island. The second largest island is Gozo- a 26 sq. mi island with a population of over 30,000, to the northeast of Malta. In between the two is the unpopulated island of Comino, which is a major tourist destination, with hikes and hotels, and a well-known picturesque bay called the Blue Lagoon. I wasn’t sure if I should take the time to go visit Gozo on my stay in Malta, as the trip is long and seemed a lot to do in a day, but I am sooooo glad I did, as my day in Gozo and Comino was the highlight of my trip.
There are a number of ways you can do the trip. There’s a ferry with regular service (every 25 mins, 24 hours a day, for people and cars) throughout the day from Malta to Gozo, which is probably the way to go if you’re able to spend several days on Gozo. There are also a lot of “party boats” with open bars that go to Comino and/or Gozo, which really isn’t my thing. I settled on a boat operated by Hornblower Cruises, a family-run business. The ticket was 25 EUR, and included the boat from Malta to Comino and the Blue Lagoon, onward to Gozo, and back. I paid 5 EUR extra for roundtrip transfers from my hotel in Paceville, and then 5 EUR for a guided tour through Gozo, which was *well* worth it.
I was picked up right on time from my hotel at 9:30am, in a van that ended up being filled with hungover European kids in their early 20s. The drive to Bugibba, where the boat would leave from, was pleasant despite the traffic, and we left right on time at 10:30am. I’d say the passenger mix was almost all European, though a mix of families, honeymooners, and club kids. To avoid the sun, I stayed on the lower deck, which was pleasant enough.
It was about an hour ride to the Blue Lagoon, which was quite the scene. Since so many boats go there, it’s not quite as relaxing as you might imagine—but the water was still the clearest blue I had ever seen. We got there before most of the other boats, and moored. The way the trip worked was that a lot of people on the boat would spend a full 4.5 hours at the Blue Lagoon, which would be boring to me. For those of us who were going onto Gozo, the boat would take us after 1.5 hours at Gozo and then return for us later in the day.
There is a small beach, but the boat staff recommended folks use the boat itself as a base to save money. There were lounge chairs and astroturf on the upper deck, as well as a waterslide attached to the boat, which was fun. The boat had snorkel equipment you could borrow with a 10 EUR refundable deposit, though there wasn’t much to see in the water.
I still had a good time just swimming around for a bit, before getting food from the galley on the boat, which was pretty affordable – 6,50 EUR for burger, fries, and a diet coke.
About 25 people from the boat continued on to Gozo. We arrived at the dock in Mgarr at around 1:15pm, and there were two minibuses with tour guides waiting for those of us who paid the 5 EUR for the tour.
It was a very quick tour, but still gave a very good sense of the gorgeous island. The first stop was the capital of Gozo, Victoria, where we were given an hour to walk around. The big sight there is the Citadel (Cittadella), a UNESCO site dating back the 16th century, that has several museums on sight. It also has some phenomenal views of the entire island. I didn’t do the museums, but enjoyed wandering around.
From there, I wandered into St. George’s Square and browsed some of the little shops and cafes, before finding a gelato and a small park where I just sat and read and enjoyed the scenery. The city was getting ready for the St. George’s Festival, so it was interesting to watch the preparations. In all, it was unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been—hopefully the pictures give you a good sense. It was also very hot.
We met back up and got into the minibus for a 10-minute drive to Ta Pinu, a massive 16th church on a hill (full name Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu), which also provided some breathtaking views.
And then it was onto the highlight of the day, and perhaps of my time in Malta. It was a twenty-minute ride to Dwejra Bay, which upon first glance looks pretty dinky – a small inlet with a lot of fishing boats. But for 4 EUR, you can ride on one of the small motorboats, through caves, and into the bay, with some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen water so blue. Indeed, this was where something called the Azure Window used to be- a natural limestone arch that stood for centuries until it tumbled into the ocean in March 2017. But it is still a lovely ride, and refreshing on such a hot day.
The last stop on Gozo was Qala Belvedere, a fantastic scenic lookout.
A long, but beautiful day. I highly recommend exploring Gozo – perhaps even spending a night or two there if you can fit it in! Check out this video I put together of the highlights of the day: