Malta is an incredible country literally bursting with culture, history and natural beauty. In fact there is so much to do that writing a single blog post about our recent trip just wasn’t possible. Whilst many of the better known sites are on the island of Malta itself the neighboring island of Gozo has a lot to offer and we spent an entire day there taking it all in. If you are heading to Malta make sure you take a day trip to Gozo as well !
To get to Gozo you head to Cirkewwa, Malta Island ( about 45 minutes west of Valetta) and catch the ferry over to Mgarr, Gozo. Ferries leave every 45 minutes all year round and take 30 minutes. Passengers standard fare €4.65 for adults, Children 3-12 – €1.15 and children under 3 are free. If you are very confident you can take a car over which costs €15.70. The ferries are large and have a cafe, bathrooms and ample seating both indoor and out.
Wine and cheese tasting
Once we arrived we heading straight to Ta’Mena, a quaint family run winery and agribusiness founded by the Spiteri family and in particular their late mother Carmela, popularly known as Mena, and her late husband Frank. The family have decided to regenerate their original two hectares of fruit and vegetable gardens, t and realise their late parents’ dream of integrating agriculture with tourism so that one sector sustains the other. Today the estate covers around twenty-five hectares and is bursting with grapes, tomatoes, cheese, olives and many animals including, to my great surprise, Emus !
We tasted some great wines and sampled some of the home-made delicacies including goats cheese, olives and their famous tomato paste – a Gozo speciality. Clearly you can see their tasting portions are a little more generous than we are used to !
For more information on Ta’Mena see their website HERE
The Xwejni Saltpans on Gozo’s northern coast are still used today for the collection of sea salt. Hewn out of the coastal rock, the saltpans are part of the island’s first industry. Centuries ago salt was used as a bartering currency for consumables not available locally. Nowadays, salt collected from the Saltpans can be found in most supermarkets on the Maltese Islands.
I spoke to a lady selling salt in a stall and she told me her family had their ‘plot’ for many generations. The community harvest the salt together which is done during the summer months from June until the end of August.
Victoria and The Citadel
Victoria, also known as Rabat, is the capital city of Gozo. The area around the town, situated on a hill near the centre of the island, dates back to Neolithic times. Victoria is the name given by the British government on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, at the request of the Bishop of Malta.
The Citadel has been at the centre of activity on the island and was fortified during the Bronze Age around 1500 BC. It was later developed by the Phoenicians and the Romans. Gozo was a privileged Roman Municipality, independent of Malta, and the Citadel was the centre of its administrative as well as its military and religious life, an important temple to the goddess Juno stood where the Cathedral now stands.
In recent years it has undergone an impressive restoration and is incredibly clean and easy to walk around although there are a lot of stairs to the top !
Lunch at Ta’ Philip.
“Ta” means “of” in Maltese so this award-winning restaurant is literally named after the quite charming and very talented owner Philip, who also happens to be the brother and brother-in-law of the ladies at Ta’ Mena.
We found many Maltese people have a connection to Australia and Philip was no exception telling us he lived in Melbourne for many years and loved it. He proudly entertained us with beautiful food and wine – truly some of the best we have had anywhere – and then showed us through his very impressive kitchen and wine cellar. What a shame we couldn’t stay there for days !
If you are heading to Gozo make sure you book a meal here ! BOOK NOW
The Azure Window
If you are a Game of Thrones fan, or even if you aren’t, you may well-recognise this much photographed natural rock formation. In season 1 of the viral TV show it is where Dany marries Karl Drogo who dies later that season. Perhaps that was prophetic as only a few months ago during a mighty storm the ‘window’ part collapsed into the sea and is no more. Still a popular attraction these photos below show before and after.
With a 3 day heat wave gripping the southern Mediterranean it was 42 degrees by the time we got to the Temples. With the reflection from all the pale surfaces it felt even hotter so we only had a short visit but I have to say we were quite in awe of what we saw.
The temples are the oldest freestanding structures in the world ! Excavated from 1816-1820, the complex comprises of 2 Neolithic temples dating from the third millennium BC (c. 3500 BC) – 7000 years ago. That is 1000 years older than the Pyramids of Giza !!
Apart from the temple ruins themselves there is a small but very informative museum on site. Displays include evidence of intricate hair-braiding by the women, pottery and artwork that suggest the civilization was relatively advanced for the time. There is also evidence in the temples of sacrificial alters and advanced engineering and construction techniques including plastering.
The people who created the temples disappeared without a trace around 2500 BC and the cause remains a mystery to this day.
What a pleasant surprise Gozo was. Many Maltese actually go to Gozo for their own holidays and you can see why. Its quieter, greener and less populated than the island of Malta and there is a lot to do and see. Next time we will be staying a few days I think !
Footnote * We did this trip as guests of Malta Tourism Authority . All meals, transport, entry fees and our wonderful guide Mariella were provided. I would happily pay top dollar to do every single one of these things again and genuinely can not recommend them enough !