Vying for the title of ‘most peaceful Mediterranean island’, the Maltese island of Gozo, with its dramatic coastline, rugged interior and rich history truly lives up to its association with the nymph Calypso, famously featured in Homer’s Odyssey.
A remarkable destination, which I highly recommend as a surprise winter short break location, as much as sizzler summer holiday haunt.
In winter, away from the summer crowds, the harsh beauty of the church-dominated rural interior, the impressive Azure Window dominated coast and the capital, ir-Rabat (Victoria), stand out as dramatically as at any other time of year. Medieval ramparts and charming villages are plentiful, and for the record, the crystal-clear night sky competes with even the remotest of islands.
All this, and the ever-friendly welcome of the Gozitans, chilled pace of life and exciting variety of outdoor activities, make Gozo a perfect short-break destination.
In addition to climbing, biking, kayaking, diving and trekking (among other activities), the emphasis on cultural events, local cuisine and history is significant. Historically the island boasts many fascinating exhibits, including the Ġgantija Temples, which are among the oldest free-standing temples in the world, and date from the time when Gozo was first inhabited by Sicilian farmers over 7,000 years ago.
Modern Gozo is still heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church with an imposing collection of churches scattered across the island. Particularly remarkable is Rotunda of Xewkija, located in the village of the same name, whose dome is larger than St Paul’s Cathedral. It offers a place of worship for around 3,000 people, which is more than the whole village population.
The most impressive access route to Gozo is across the Cirkewwa Mgarr waterway from Malta. Crossing the often rough winter sea, arriving in the southerly port of Mgarr, you immediately find yourself swept up in the sea-culture of Gozo. Almighty double church spires beam across the ocean like spiritual lighthouses to the whole island’s fishing community.
Don’t be fooled into thinking a short break will be enough. Even though Gozo covers only 67 square kms, you will soon be seduced by the island’s gentle pace of life, love of a good party and otherwise under-promoted plethora of cultural exhibits.
After all, Odysseus was detained for seven years. Once in situ you may plan to stay longer.