Can.I.Rock.it?

The Gozo Trail

In I spied... on August 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

I think the reason why most of the hotspot holiday destinations have such an emphasis on nightlife is because they have to make up for the fact that everybody gets so bloody bored during the day.

Going back and forth from hotel bed to sun bed on a manicured beach some 1o feet away from reception– well there’s just no challenge, no adventure in it, nothing to explore…

Knock yourselves out...

I’m not writing this blog to try to convince you to forget the pristine white sun beds and discotheques the size of football pitches. In fact, I’d much prefer if everyone didn’t go to the place I’m thinking about. So that it remains my little secret for a bit longer.

But just as I do in Paris, I like to leave a trail for anyone that happens to be in search of the same thing as me….

I don’t claim to have discovered the lost island of the mediterranean here, but you won’t find Gozo in a packaged deal on ‘Expedia.com’. Nor will you find it in the ‘Top 20 European Hotspots of 2011’.

Having entered the field of tourism rather late, this place is a bit of a blank canvas.

The maps available of the island aren’t great and the local secrets are hidden, perhaps deliberately.

Gozo does not like road signs and so a lot of your time on the island will be spent getting lost.

[Don’t pay more than 30 euros a day for the extremely loyal 4×4 Suzukis available to rent on the island. And don’t be fooled by the basic appearance of this little jeep. He will get you pretty much anywhere.]

(Not the ash tray, the map)

Planning ahead of your day is essential. As I mentioned, the island’s best secrets, are indeed secret and you’ll need to get an early start in order to find them. They are badly indicated on the maps and roads, if at all.

But half the fun is trying to find the best spots on Gozo…

:::

“Mgarr Xini”

While the views over the canyons en route to Mgarr Xini are beautiful, you’d better hope that you don’t run into another car on this dicey one-way cliff-side track (a road it is not)! Once there, Mgarr Xini is very peaceful and idealic surrounded by a canyon perfect for diving into the crystal clear waters. There’s a family-run restaurant on the beach serving fresh fish and local cuisine.

How to find it:

Follow the road from Xewkija

:::

“Unnamed Bay” – (and so I hereby proclaim it as “MessyNessyGozo Bay”)

You will be the only people here. Bring a pic-nic because there’s nothing and no one around if you want to stay for lunch.

How to find it:

To be honest, I can’t actually remember how we found this amazing place but the mouse pinpoints this spot in the screen shot below. Drive as far as you can until the trail ends. Then begin your descent to the bay by foot. You’ll need some decent shoes, although I came unprepared and did actually manage to get down in flip flops. Be aware that you’ll have to climb back up at the end of your stay, so make sure to have fresh water on hand.

:::

The Natural Swimming Pools overlooking the cliffs of the Salt Plains

Be careful, be careful, be careful. As much as those natural swimming pools look calm and inviting, they are also dangerous. Don’t be a gung-ho cowboy like I was! I jumped right in, exposed myself to a massive wave and was flung out by the force and landed inches from the cliff edge. Eeek! So why am I recommending you go? If you stay low, hold on to the sides and have a good footing, it’s the most exciting swimming pool you’ll ever dip your feet into…

How to find it: 

The salt plains are entirely accessible by car – a 4×4 that is….

They are usually well indicated on maps (despite there being very few tourists) to the west of Xwejni Bay, north of Zebbug.

:::

Comino 

Comino is the island in between Malta and Gozo that probably has the most turquoise water you’ll find anywhere in Europe. You’ll see a lot of signs and flyers around Gozo selling day trips on boats around the island and its coves and caves. Now you have two options. You can either sit on a boat with up to twenty other tourists and see Comino that way or, you can go down to the Mgarr Harbour and do a little homework. You’ll quickly find the group tours have a guy who will be willing to take you and your family / friends alone for a very reasonable price, on a private tour. I recommend you book this for an early morning time slot to avoid the daytime crowd coming from Malta.

:::

I heart Ramla Bay

Ramla bay is the largest and most accomodating beach on Gozo. With that, you’d think it would be overcrowded and spoilt but it’s far from the case. I do recommend however that you get another early start on one of your mornings and head to Ramla before 8am to walk alone along the stretch of fiery orange sand and see the sun rise over the beach. Someone in our party wanted to try spear fishing before the fishermen scared away the fish. I went along and sat with a book on shore. It’s not a sunrise you’ll ever forget.

Ramla bay is also a great spot for an evening picnic after the sun has gone down.

:::

There are plenty of hidden bays and beaches to find on this island and I believe it would be possible to fill up an entire month on this small island trying to find them all.

Where to Stay:

Abraham’s Farmhouses might be one of Gozo’s best assets. This hamlet of traditional-style villas (modern on the inside), was built by a native Gozitan, Mr. Abraham. Each villa has it’s own pool, a fully equipped kitchen, air con, several floors of luxury bedrooms, indoor lounge spaces and terraces equipped with additional plates & cutlery, outdoor fridge, sink, BBQ and of course, al fresco dining areas. There is a wonderfully friendly family supermarket five minutes away on foot. Xanghra, the town where the villas are situated, is surely the prettiest on the island and naturally, the closest to Ramla Bay. Airport transfer from Malta, which could be slightly hectic trying organise on your own, is all taken care of by Abraham’s extensive network. Abraham really has thought of absolutely everything. He warmly greets you upon your visit and welcomes you into your villa. After that, he pretty much leaves you to your own devices unless you need him, as if he knows Gozo is an island you need to discover on your own.

Prices on each villa vary. We were a group of six and required three bedrooms. At the time, only a four bedroom villa was available and we still only paid 250 Euros each for the entire week‘s accomodation (with a bedroom we didn’t even use).

 www.abrahamgozofarmhouses.com

Where to eat:

Gozo is not winning any award for its fancy restaurants and spectacular acheivements in cuisine, but you can eat very well on the island. The seafood is always a safe bet and the local wine (especially the rosé) is excellent. If you’re staying in a farmhouse, you obviously have the option of self-catering and cooking with local ingredients to dine under the stars of your roof terrace. Lunches however are usually on the road. By asking locals which restaurants were good and not good, we were sent to Otter’s restaurant and Menqa l’Antika in Malsaforn.

Right on the waterfront, Otters Bistro was great for a fresh seafood and pasta lunch after a long morning of snorkeling. Menqa L’Antika was a wonderful choice for our last dinner on the island; we ate very well (perhaps a little too well) and the waitress was the friendliest many of us had ever come across.

Where to party:

La Grotta, located on the road down to Xlendi Bay is the island’s night club that has been open for over a decade. Sitting on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a canyon, this truly is one of the most breathtaking nightclubs I have ever seen. As for the clientele, unfortunately, I can’t say the same! The local Gozitans do not make the most sophisticated club-goers…(although it’s all in good fun). But if your group heads semi-early around 10pm, you’ll have the nightclub and the dance floor to yourself until about 1am in this absolutely spectacular setting. Definitely worth a visit. Drinks are mind-blowingly cheap too!

Last few tips…. 

  • Locals are friendly, ask them anything and they’ll do their best to try and help  you. Although they do have creative ways of pointing you in the right direction.
  • The native language is a combination of Arabic and Italian. It’s impossible to pronounce, let alone learn. Everybody speaks English. Thank God.
  • If you’re unable, scared or too lazy to scramble over a few rocks to get to a secluded beach, don’t bother coming to Gozo.
  • If you don’t drive and nobody in your party does, don’t bother coming to Gozo.
  • Remember they drive on the left side of the road here, like the British.
  • Locals reckon you can cross the length of Gozo by car in 30 minutes.
  • This is not a shopping trip. There is no shopping to be done on Gozo. Fashion is not their strong point.
  • Be aware and appreciate that Gozo is a very old and unspoilt island. There are temples on Gozo that pre-date the Egyptian Pyramids and Stone Henge.
[How to get to Gozo: There is no airport on Gozo but there are daily low-cost flights to Malta. From Malta, a car transports you to the harbour 45 minutes from the airport to take a ferry across to Gozo.]

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