Gozo, Malta’s Diminutive Sister

I’m on the entrance to Calypso Cave on the island of Gozo and may nearly see Sicily solely 60 miles away. It’s claimed that Odysseus was saved right here as a prisoner of affection for 7 years by the nymph Calypso till he appealed to Zeus and was let loose. He would have had a implausible view of Ramla Bay, slightly below, which is the most effective seashore on the island. It’s a smear of orange sand fringed by the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean and in early March is totally abandoned.

Gozo is simply 5km from Malta and the truth that there’s no airport, solely ferry entry, means it’s not as developed as its bigger sister. At lower than 9 miles lengthy and 5 miles broad, biking or climbing, is the proper solution to get round and I’m doing a little bit of each. I’ve been staying on the Ta’ Cenc Resort, who’ve offered my bike, however I’m on my solution to the Kempinski Resort which has one the most effective spas in Europe. Though the biking is pretty leisurely, I do know I’ll want to assuage my aching limbs on the finish of the day.

The route takes me all the way down to the compact harbour at Marsalforn, a pleasing place for lunch, then alongside the coast, previous a patchwork of salt pans. When the tide recedes, the water evaporates leaving deposits of salt, and for hundreds of years, this was one of many solely sources of earnings for the locals. A few of them nonetheless do it in the present day, though tourism is now the biggest employer. There’s been quite a lot of haphazard growth right here, happily all low rise, and most is in-built native golden limestone so it blends harmoniously into the panorama.

Malta Gozo Salt pans: when the tide recedes, the water evaporates leaving deposits of salt

When the tide recedes, the water evaporates leaving deposits of salt

This enticing stone is seen at its greatest within the geological landmarks at Dwejra Bay the place wind and sea have conspired to create pure sculptures. Guarding the mouth is Fungus Rock, 65m excessive and named after the medicinal plant that grows there. A pure arch, the Azure Window, juts out into the ocean and, on a very good day, frames the sundown. There’s additionally the Inland Sea, which was as soon as an enormous cave till the roof collapsed. Its crystal clear waters kind a blue lagoon and it’s linked by a small tunnel to the bay past.

Gozo, Malta: Azure Window

Azure Window

Subsequent day I’m climbing, climbing out of Mgarr port previous the sprawling Fort Chambray, to a 17th watchtower, certainly one of many, erected by the Knights of St. John to identify marauding pirates. There’s a very good view of the island of Comino right here, the smallest within the Maltese Group and the wind is whipping up the waves. On this climate, the towering Ta’ Seguna cliffs look notably spectacular and as I stroll at their edge, I’m intrigued by small stone constructed huts. They will’t all be bathrooms however my information tells me they’re hides, constructed by locals to lure birds, now an criminality.

The islands have had numerous homeowners through the years, a truth mirrored within the language which is derived from Sicilian Arabic. It makes use of Latin characters, maybe as a result of it was solely written down within the 15th century and is the one Semitic language to take action. In consequence, spellings are pleasant quaint and place names verge on the unpronounceable. Mercifully everybody speaks English, because it was a British colony till independence in 1967, and lots of the store indicators convey again reminiscences of England within the 50’s.

It’s price visiting the Ggantija Temples, apparently the oldest freestanding constructions on the planet, predating Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. There’s a wonderful museum right here and the complicated consists of two Neolithic constructions courting from round three,500BC The title derives from the phrase ġgant, which means large in Maltese, because the locals presumed solely they might have constructed them. In actual fact it was most likely early immigrants from Sicily who practised fertility cults right here.

The island’s capital, Victoria, was renamed in 1887 in honour of the British queen, however remains to be recognized regionally as Rabat. It’s a bustling place, present process a lot renovation, however it’s price exploring the slim winding streets the place the residents nonetheless depart keys of their entrance doorways. On the prime of the city is the Citadel, designed to shelter the inhabitants when pirates had been sighted.

In Gozo, residents still leave keys in their front doors

In Gozo, residents nonetheless depart keys of their entrance doorways

Nowadays it homes a folklore museum however remains to be residence to Gbejniet, a neighborhood speciality cheese. Rikardu, proprietor of the Ta’ Rikardu wine bar, makes this contemporary day-after-day from unpasteurised sheep or goat’s milk and is glad to show. Even higher he serves it at his desk with crispy bread referred to as Hobz. Better of all is his handmade ravioli, filled with tender cheese and topped with scrumptious tomato sauce.

Rikardu, owner of the Ta’ Rikardu wine bar in Gozo

Rikardu, proprietor of the Ta’ Rikardu wine bar

Though Gozo is only a 25 minute ferry experience from Malta, it’s like coming into one other world, notably because the inhabitants are often called Gozitans, one thing straight out of Star Trek. Actions like diving, climbing, biking and browsing are all on supply, excellent for spring and autumn. Within the peak of summer season, although, you may simply wish to take issues straightforward and lounge on the seashore at Ramla and who may blame you? In any case, Odysseus obtained caught right here for 7 years however then he was a prisoner of affection.

Reality Field

Journey

  • Air Malta flies direct to Malta from London Heathrow.
  • Go to Malta has details about the islands.

Tour

  • Headwater’s Gozo Actions vacation combines a number of the most interesting strolling and biking routes across the island, staying at two 5 star lodges. Costs begin at £1239 per particular person, inc flights from London Heathrow with Air Malta, return ferry and all transfers. To guide name 0160 682 8527.

Keep

  • The Ta’ Cenc Resort is a 5* base for climbing and biking.
  • The Kempinski San Lawrenz can also be 5* and has the most effective spas in Europe.

Eat

  • Zafiro Restaurant, in Xlendi, serves good native meals.

Learn additionally

  • Historic tour of Valletta, capital of Malta
  • The hidden wonders of Gozo, Malta’s sister island

All photos © Rupert Parker

Magazine version of Gozo, Malta articleYou may as well obtain the journal model (PDF) or view it on slideshare, scribd or issuu.

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