Click here for the previous article – Around the South, East & West of Malta
As you drive up towards the higher part of the island, you start leaving the mass of the buildings behind and can get a glimpse of the more rural side.
Start off by visiting the small village of Mgarr. Its farmers are the ones with the best reputation on the island.
If you happen to be visiting in May, make sure to go to the Strawberry Festival. Apart from finding loads of fresh strawberries, you’re sure to find all sorts of delicious jams and pastries.
If you are a meat lover on the other hand, this is the place to eat the traditional rabbit recipe. If you’re not too keen on that, check out the menu for a few more interesting items. Mgarr is home to the most popular traditional local restaurants, so just ask around, you’ll be sure to be pointed to one not too far away.
Sunset at Riviera
Just up the road from Mgarr and before you turn into the popular Golden Bay, go straight and find the steps down to Riviera beach.
It’s my favourite because it is minimally commercialized – only one kiosk, offering the convenience of fresh drinks and food and avoiding carrying of coolers, but at the same time nature is what takes centre stage here.
Stay around till sunset time and watch the sun kiss the horizon as the tower up on the cliff looks over.
If you happen to be there on a full moon, linger longer, it’s very probable that people will be jamming with their guitars and percussions, calling the moon to come out.
As you keep on heading North towards Mellieha, look towards the shoreline on your left. You will see a tiny, colourful village that looks something out of a movie. Well, that’s because it is. Popeye’s Village was the film set for Popeye, starring Robin Williams in 1980.
Just up the road from Mellieha and on your way to Cirkewwa, where you need to head to take the ferry to cross over to Gozo, you will spot a red tower on your left.
This is one of the many watch towers that were indispensable for the safety of Malta in the old days.
Feel free to stop by and walk up the steps to take a peek inside if you’re curious. Then of course, while you’re at it, look out, the strategic placement ensures great views.
The little island of Gozo
The ferry service at Cirkewwa, offers the 20 minute cross between both islands round the clock. You will be surprised at the shift of lifestyle once you set foot onto the quieter, greener Gozo.
Despite the size of the island, there is the need of renting a car to get to most of the places worth seeing. What’s more I suggest an overnight stay, even for just the feeling of waking up to the stillness of the island.
Spreading the visit over two days will let you savour it better. Here’s my suggestions:
Rabat & Cittadella
Start off with a nice cup of tea in one of Rabat’s squares, with a couple of pastizzi maybe, the local crispy pastry pockets filled with cottage cheese or peas. Then stroll away from the main road and into Pjazza San Gorg, a pedestrian square surrounded by beautiful traditional houses and then go get lost in the alleys around.
Back out to the main square, you’ll find a daily market known to the locals as It-Tokk.
Do save some energy for the little hill up from this square to Cittadella though. It’s the old bastioned city Gozitans used to run to for safety when the corsairs used to attack. It’s worth a couple of hours of wandering through its streets, the cathedral and maybe a stop over for home made local food – stuffed olives, sun dried tomatoes and the famous Gozo gbejna could be a good start to a culinary discovery of the island.
(Note: You might find Rabat marked as Victoria on the map)
Dwejra & the Fungus Rock
Photo by SimonMalti – Fisherman near Fungus Rock, Dwejra, Gozo
Many flock to see the Azure Window, a natural arch made by rocks over the open seas at Dwejra. Games of Thrones scenes were shot here once. Take a picture here if you must but do look behind you and catch a glimpse of the uninhabited Fungus rock.
If you walk down the hill, you can take a swim in the inland sea, if the weather permits. If not, just take a ride on one of the small boats which will take you out to the open sea and see the Azure Window from a different perspective.
Down the hill towards Xlendi bay and its cliffs, you will find a little arch in the village of il-Fontana, a shelter for villagers who in the past used to utilize the spring inside as a source for water. The local ladies used gather here to wash their families’ clothes and housewares.
Ir-Ramla l-Hamra is the most popular beach on the island, due to its red sand after which it’s named. Be warned though, if the day’s really hot, the sand will scorch your feet. Bring a pair of flip flops that you can leave at the water’s edge.
Other less popular beaches with tourists are Wied il-Ghasri, San Blas and Hondoq ir-Rummien.
On your way out of the island, you might want to visit this little alcove, just West of the Mgarr harbour. In 2014 Brangelina were here for a couple of months, shooting their movie By the Sea.
That’s for a quick run through the island of Gozo. If you stay longer however, do yourself a favour and just go get lost, you’ll come across nameless spots which are as beautiful to see as any other tourist attraction, or who am I kidding? They’ll probably be better.
Have a great time wanderer!