Malta’s appeal doesn’t stop with the main island. Gozo and the tiny island of Comino entice with their individual charm.
A day trip will cover both, but if you have time, spend a night in Gozo then take the early morning ferry to Comino. You’ll be rewarded with valuable alone time before the tour boats arrive.
To kick things off, here are some #eat #drink #explore #shop & #stay suggestions when visiting Gozo & Comino.
Whether choosing to self-guide or join an organised tour, your ferry or boat will land at Mgarr Harbour. Various means of transport (rental cars, public buses & tour operators) are waiting here.
City Sightseeing Malta’s two hop-on-hop-off round trip bus routes depart every 45 minutes from Mgarr Harbour. With air-conditioning and free wi-fi onboard, exploring Gozo from their easily recognised red buses is highly recommended.
The Capital – Rabat.
Located almost in the island’s centre, most roads lead to Rabat. Not to be confused with Rabat on the main island, in 1897 locals began referring to the capital as Victoria in honour of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.
The recently refurbished Independence Square (it-Tokk) is at the heart of the capital. Flanked by the impressive Banca Giuratale (formerly the seat of the municipal government of Gozo, now of the Rabat local council) and the stunning St George Basilica, the square hosts a daily morning market.
Villa Rundle Gardens have also been given some attention after a period of neglect. The perfect spot to take a breather and absorb Gozo’s atmosphere.
History enthusiasts can make their way to Il-Hagar Museum for a window into the island’s religious past.
Not to be missed is the Cittadella. 14.5 million Euros has been spent on restoring and fortifying the Citadel and other buildings within its walls. A new visitor’s centre will arrange tours but you’re welcome to wander unaccompanied. 360° views from the centre’s roof take in the entire island of Gozo.
While at the Citadel, pop into the Gozo Museum of Archaeology. Gozo and Comino’s ancient history is discovered through 3 exhibition sections: Prehistory, the Classical period and the Medieval and Early Modern periods.
Pottery shards from 5000BC, the Majmuna stone and a glass Roman Urn containing cremated remains are among the archaeological artefacts.
Sadly, a violent storm hit Dwejra Bay in March 2017, destroying a contender for the seven wonders of the natural world, Gozo’s Azure window.
Mother Nature left the rest of the area reasonably intact so hop on a boat from the inland sea through caves to the open ocean. Easily arranged on arrival it will take roughly 20-30 minutes.
Game of Thrones addicts will recognise Dwejra Bay from season one as the setting for Daenerys Targaryen and Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo’s wedding, where Daenerys received the gift of 3 dragon’s eggs.
The official Gozitan seaside resort town of Marslaforn is located northof the island. As expected, beautiful beaches and resorts line the coast. Locals have made this their go-to summer holiday destination whether for a weekend or staying for the whole season.
Seafood restaurants, bars and cafés follow the promenade serving fresh local specialities.
Legend has it that Gozo was inhabited by a race of giants and the UNESCO World Heritage site, Ggantija Temples could only have been built by them. Dating back 5,600 years, details have faded but the larger temple’s altar still has vague pitting and spiral decorations.
Entrance is through a newly built Interpretation Centre where you can experience what Neolithic life may have felt like.
Ta’Mena Estate (Rabat Road, Xaghra. Ph: +3562156 4939)
The brainchild of Carmena (Mena) and husband Frank, Ta’Mena is 25 hectares of agritourism. Step into a day in the life of a Gozitan rural estate with a tour of the vineyards and olive groves. Follow with wine and local produce tasting.
Tours take place every Saturday at 1:00 pm (weather permitting) and can be arranged through the week for groups of 20 or more. Regardless of numbers, contact them to see if a tour is already running that may be possible join.
On the south-west coast, Xlendi, a typical Mediterranean fishing village can be found. 3 kilometres of stunning cliffs run the coastline from Xlendi to Wardija Point. An important bird sanctuary for 2 species of breeding shearwaters.
Four chapels populate Xlendi built between 1650 and 1680. September 1st each year sees celebrations dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The day is spent feasting, challenging one another in water games and to conclude, an evening procession carrying a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel through the streets of Xlendi.
Ta’Rikardu (4 Fosos Street, Rabat – inside the Citadel. Ph: +356 2155 5953)
A taste of the farm in the Citadel’s streets. Wine and cheese are served direct from Rikardu’s vineyard and farm. Produce is available to take home from his shop/restaurant along with other local products. You can also arrange to visit Rikardu’s for a milking and cheese-making experience.
At Ta’Rikardu order the Gozitan platter and dunk freshly baked bread into Rikardu’s olive oil, add fresh and sundried tomatoes with olives, capers and gbejniet – Gozitan local cheese.
The Boathouse (Xlendi Bay (Xatt Ix Xlendi) Munxar XLN1010. Ph: +356 2156 9153)
Located right on Xlendi Bay in what was, appropriately, an original boathouse, the first thing you are in awe of is the view. The Boathouse then tempts with the fresh catch of the day and the popular ‘must-have’, their classic calamari.
Grilled in sweet chilli, basil, garlic, onions and white wine, all you need is a slight squeeze of lemon, a chilled Gozitan rosé and you’ll feel like you’re in heaven.
Gleneagles Bar (10 Victory Street, Mgarr. Ph: +356 2155 6543)
On your way back to the harbour check out the outstanding views from Gleneagles. This fishing themed bar offers a relaxed vibe for a few cold brews or their signature cocktail.
A twist on a Long Island Iced Tea, it includes all the white spirits mixed with either orange juice or Malta’s own Kinnie, a carbonated orange drink.
The Grapes Wine Bar (St George Square, Rabat. Ph: +356 7947 3536)
You would have noticed The Grapes’ bright green and yellow sign while visiting St George’s Basilica. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner you can get a glass of your favourite beverage all day.
Peckish? Gozitan platters are on the menu along with more substantial meals. Popular with a young crowd of an evening and weekends, The Grape is a fun spot to enjoy a beverage and watch the world go by.
Café Jubilee (8 Independence Square, Rabat. Ph: +356 79473536)
To take home some delicious Gozitan produce pop into Café Jubilee before venturing to the ferry terminal. The selection includes cheese, wine, liquor, preserves, sauces and sweets.
You can grab pastizzi for a snack on the ferry or sit down for Nanna’s classic ricotta filled ravioli or the deep fried Gozo cheese salad. It’s unlikely you can go past a coffee and a slice of their famous apple pie. The pie recipe hasn’t changed in 22 years and has a loyal following.
It-Tokk Open Air Market (Independence Square every morning)
Previously mentioned, It-Tokk is the daily market in Independence Square just down from the Citadel. You’ll find what you’d expect at a village market; fruit and vegetables, clothing and souvenirs, hats, fabrics and household appliances. Chat with the local stall-holders then follow the local shoppers to cafés and bars for a drink and a couple of pastizzi.
The following accommodation came to my attention but as Gozo and Comino was a day trip for us I can only go by the reviews and not personal experience. These 2 looked like great choices for a night or two in Gozo.
The Downtown Hotel (Europe Street, Rabat. Ph: +356 2210 8000)
Located centrally in Rabat, The Downtown Hotel offers budget-friendly accommodation with varying prices based on the view. Choose from an internal room, street view or country view with the sea beyond.
Facilities include a rooftop pool with jacuzzi, restaurants, a bar and it even has a bowling alley. Its claim to fame – hosting the Jolie/ Pitt family in happier times.
Maria Giovanna Guesthouse (41 Rabat Road, Marsalforn. Ph: +356 2155 3630)
In need of a little romance? Then reserve a sea view room at Maria Giovanna Guesthouse. You’ll enjoy a private balcony, ensuite bathroom and traditional furniture and antiques.
Conveniently located to the restaurants and bars on the seafront promenade, Maria Giovanna Guesthouse has 15 private air-conditioned rooms and the day begins with a hearty home cooked breakfast. The perfect start to a day exploring Gozo.
Farmhouse stays. (All over the island)
Gozo really does deserve more than a day trip so if you’re planning to make the most of Malta’s second largest island have a look at some of these farmhouse stays. Perfect for families or friends travelling together, these farmhouses range from rustic to luxurious suiting most budgets.
The tiny island of Comino is located at an almost equal distance between Gozo and Malta. Measuring just 3.5 square kilometres, it is easily explored on a day trip.
Comino consists of granite to about 85 metres deep. Underground caves have naturally formed where pirates would lay in wait until nightfall and maraud the passing supply boats. Named for the cumin flower that once spread across the island, Comino is now a bird and nature sanctuary.
Due to its size, Comino is easily done on foot but for something a little different head to Comino Segway Outdoor Explorers. Riding these all-terrain Segways across the island is an efficient way to see the sites with a 45-minute guided tour.
St. Mary’s Tower (It-Torri ta’ Santa Marija) was financed and built in 1618 by Alof de Wignacourt for early warning of an invasion of the Gozo-Malta Channel. Marauding pirates would also be prevented from finding cover around the island. As the highest point on Comino, the views from St Mary’s Tower are gorgeous.
From St Mary’s Tower, it’s a short walk to Lantern Point where you can get some great photos.
Cross the island to Santa Maria Caves. Best explored by boat or kayak, researching the area first is advised.
The crystal waters around Comino are perfect for snorkelling and diving. Marine life is prevalent and a Maltese patrol boat – P31 – formerly a German minesweeper is sunk just offshore for divers to explore.
Comino’s main attraction is the Blue Lagoon and if heading there in summer, it’s difficult to imagine this as a quiet island with a single digit population. The water is a bright shade of cyan and its pure clarity belies its depth. Swimming in Comino’s Blue Lagoon should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Comino Hotel & Bungalows (288H+R9 Ghajnsielem, Malta. Ph: +356 2152 9821)
The only hotel on the island offers hotel room accommodation and bungalows overlooking San Niklaw Bay. Modestly priced, it’s worth the additional fee for a sea view room. This is not a luxury resort but it’s clean and provides everything you need for a night or two on a secluded island.
Comino Campsite (Santa Maria Bay)
As Comino Hotels & Bungalows is only open half the year from May 1st until October 31st, the other option when staying on Comino is to camp. The site at Santa Maria Bay is equipped with public toilets and a stone fire. Access to the water is easy from Santa Maria Beach.
You won’t need a permit, so throw in a swag and sleep under the stars. Can you imagine how amazing that would be?
#eat and #drink
Comino Hotel & Bungalows has cornered the market in the eat and drink department. If you are visiting Comino outside the Hotel & Bungalows’ open months, it may be worth considering the cruises from Sliema.
Drinks are included in the cruise ticket price and light meals and snacks are available on the boat. Of course, you could travel to Comino via Gozo and pick up some local produce for a picnic.
Comino Hotel & Bungalows offers 4 or 5 areas serving food and drinks. An indoor restaurant, as well as 3 outdoor dining areas, allow for privacy or groups travelling together. The lobby bar serves drinks all day to be consumed on the property.
Luzzu cruises and other cruise companies take day trips to Gozo and Comino leaving from Sliema. 3.5 hours exploring Gozo on a bus tour is included with 3 hours moored at Comino’s Blue Lagoon. It’s a full day and a great way to see both islands if you are time poor.
I highly recommend allowing more time for these islands if you can. There’s a lot to see on Gozo so stay for a night or two. Head back to Malta via a relaxing day discovering the beauty of Comino.
Ferries to Gozo and Comino leave from Ċirkewwa ferry wharf at the northern end of Malta.
Crossing the channel to Gozo takes under 30 minutes and the summer schedule has ferries running 24 hours a day. Check here for the fares and schedule.
When to go.
Travelling to Malta during a glorious European summer is ideal if you’re happy to share the experience with thousands of like-minded travellers.
Accommodation can be scarce unless you’ve booked far in advance and prices reflect availability. If it’s at all possible for you to travel outside the high season it is highly recommended.
April/ May and October/ November may not have you in the core of the swimming and sunbaking season but the timing is ideal for exploring, visiting museums, and getting to know the locals.
Gozo and Comino offer a completely different experience to the main island of Malta. A quieter, more laid back vibe with a rural community atmosphere. Regardless of the pull in summer, both islands have things to see and do in all seasons.
Coastal and nature walks, history and museums, local food and wine and those intoxicating Mediterranean views. Spending time on Gozo and Comino: it’s a thing we love….
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