And so back to Malta before I get caught up in the world of the Camino de Santiago in a couple of weeks’ time. If you happen to find yourself in Malta, i’d recommend a side trip to Gozo.
The second largest island in the Maltese archipelago, Gozo covers an area of only 67 square kilometres and lies a mere 6 kilometres off the coast of the mainland. Inhabited since 5000 BC, the island has spent most of its history linked to its larger neighbour to the south, apart from a couple of years at the end of the 1700s when rather randomly Napoleon briefly granted it autonomy. Its rural landscape currently houses about 30,000 people.
From our base near Valletta it was admittedly a bit of a treck, involving a long bus ride to the north-west of the island where we picked up the car ferry with what felt like half the population of Malta. You don’t go to Malta in summer for peace and tranquillity apparently. The ferry was pretty cheap though, less than €5 for a return ticket, and in summer it runs every 45 minutes or so throughout the day, whilst the crossing takes just long enough to enjoy a coffee on the deck in the sunshine.
As well as being home to some of the world’s oldest free-standing structures in the Ggantija temples, Gozo also hosts a remarkably high number of churches, beautiful little towns and impressive rocky coastline, bordering the clear cobalt blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Having not really considered how best to get around or what we actually wanted to see, we were talked fairly quickly into joining a hop on, hop off bus trip by a ticket tout outside the ferry port. For another €5 it was too cheap to pass up and at least it would give us an overview of the island in a limited amount of time. We only hopped off at a few places, visiting the island’s capital, Victoria, a craft village and the seaside resort of Xlendi, where we had lunch and a Cisk whilst watching a solitary jellyfish drift around in the shallows. Needless to say, I didn’t pop in for a dip.
As small as Gozo is you definitely need to set aside more time if you are going to do it justice. I’d recommend forsaking its far more populous big brother and spending a few days exploring its obvious charms.