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Why You Should Visit This Lesser Known And Affordable Mediterranean Island This Summer

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Casual breakfast in a historic harbor town with cobbled streets dating back hundreds of years, verdant, orange tree-dotted hinterlands as far as the eyes can see, pistachio gelatos, and scenic coastal drives into blood-orange sunsets: soon enough, it will be summer in the Mediterranean.

View Of Mgarr Harbor In Gozo, Malta, An Island In The Mediterranean, Southern Europe

The ancient sea is expecting a record surge in visitors this year, with more Transatlantic flights added and train routes launching, but if joining the Santorini and Mallorca crowds doesn't sound too appealing, there's a lesser-known island that's just as incredible (and more affordable).

Home to unspoiled beaches, stunning rugged nature, and postcard-ready villages, Gozo is the culturally-charged sunny getaway you didn't know you needed:

Why You Should Visit Gozo In Summer 2024

Historic Cathedral In Victoria Or Rabat, The Capital City Of Gozo, An Island In Malta, In The Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

Gozo is an off-beat island belonging to Malta, a collective of three small islands barely discernible on a map, as well as a sovereign European country located just south of Sicily and halfway between the European mainland and North Africa.

Though it is relatively unknown to the American public, Malta has been a hugely popular destination for Europeans for decades, with holiday towns like Sliema and St. Julians teeming with British and Germans over the balmy summer months.

Qala Beach In Gozo, Malta, Mediterranean Sea In Southern Europe

However, while hundreds of thousands of tourists flock into the largest island – named after the country itself – where the biggest resorts and beach clubs are, Malta's smaller sister Gozo continues to be ignored by most, as it doesn't have an airport, and it's in theory ‘harder' to get to.

Gozo can only be reached via ferry from certain departure points in Malta, such as Cirkewwa and Marsamxett, and at only 25 square miles, smaller even than the main island is 95 square miles, it is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the Mediterranean.

On the other hand, the fact it is remarkably tiny and that it receives fewer tourists does not mean it has a lacking tourist offers – on the contrary:

Panoramic View Of Victoria, Also Called Rabat, The Capital City Of The Island Of Gozo, Malta, Mediterranean Europe

Gozo Is One Of The Prettiest Islands In The Mediterranean

With its rugged landscape, ocher-colored towns dominated by imposing Baroque churches and pristine coastline, where golden sands are hugged by teal-colored waters, Gozo is easily one of the prettiest islands in the Mediterranean basin.

Unlike Malta, which is heavily urbanized – it concentrates 94% of the Republic's 531,000 inhabitants – Gozo is primarily rural, with plantations and arid heartland as far as the eyes can see, and only 17 townships distributed around its small perimeter.

A Young Male Tourist Observing The Mediterranean Sea From A Cave Window In Gozo, Malta, Southern Europe

The biggest town – and the island's capital – is Victoria (known among some locals by its native Maltese name of Rabat), an ancient walled fortress best known for its landmark Cathedral of the Assumption, impressive ramparts and winding alleys.

Away from Victoria, other beautiful towns with ornate church facades and Malta's iconic red telephone boxes (a remnant of British colonial rule) include L-Gharb, Ix-Xewkija, Iz-Zebbug and Ghajnsielem, the main port, dominated by an 18th-century fort and a Neo-Gothic hilltop church.

Historic Basilica In Gozo, An Island In Malta, Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

As for beaches, Ramla, Marsalforn and Hondoq Bays are the top three best, having been awarded Blue Flag Status, though there are hidden gems like Ghasri and San Blas worth checking out – and they're all surprisingly a lot more peaceful than your average Mediterranean beach.

Gozo as a whole is incredibly peaceful:

Why Are There Less Tourists In Gozo?

Mediterranean islands are just overflowing with tourists these days, and neighboring Malta is one of them, with a growing population of expats and an economy that increasingly relies on tourist euros and dollars.

Aerial View Of The Inland Sea In Gozo, Malta, Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

Interestingly, there seems to be a consensus among the native Maltese and their representatives in government that Gozo should be protected at all costs.

This is Malta's most prized asset, where the most historically significant archaeological sites are, and where Maltese traditions are at their purest, strongest form, without interference from an increasingly internationalized community.

There are a handful of ships that dock in Gozo, but most would be calling at Valletta (the country's capital located on the main island), so the influx of cruise visitors and ‘day-trippers' is less pronounced, leaving town streets less congested and beaches cleaner.

Deep Blue Swimming Hole In Gozo Island, Malta, Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

Yes, there are tourists around – enough of them to make Gozo feel somewhat busy at weekends – but the volume is far from being overwhelming: in other words, you're unlikely to stand in line for hours to access attractions.

There are no airports in Gozo – it's only linked to Malta via regular hourly ferries that also transport cars – and there's a limited number of hotels on the island – 21, to be precise, excluding guesthouses and hostels – and only 1 five-star listing as shown on Booking.com.

Resort Zone In Gozo, Malta, Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

Malta, on the other hand, has a whopping 126 hotels, an additional 176 apartments listed as holiday rentals, and countless more Airbnbs and hostels: it is a lot more crowded, while Gozo is more exclusive, but not necessarily more expensive.

How Expensive Is Gozo To Visit?

There are standard hotel rooms in Marsalforn in Gozo from only $74 a night, a ‘very good' breakfast included, or ‘comfort' rooms in Nadur's aptly-named Quaint Boutique Hotel from $87 – if you're on a shoestring budget, guesthouse stays will only set you back $37 per overnight.

Woman in Hotel Room, Unspecified Location

Gozo's only five-star resort, Kempinski Hotel in San Lawrenz, with a lagoon-style pool, lush gardens and spa facilities, costs only $229 to book per night, while overnights in luxury resorts in Malta range between $290 and $409.

Popular listings include The Westin Dragonara Resort in St. Julians (Malta's resort capital), costing $341 per night, the Cugo Gran Macina in Senglea, to the tune of $366, and the landmark Xara Palace, in the Mdina citadel, for $409 nightly.

Maltese Rabbit Stew Served In Malta, Southern Europe

Malta as a whole isn't the most affordable of Mediterranean countries, but eating local in Gozo can be surprisingly cheap: expect to pay around $10 – $12 for a simple pasta dish, or the traditional Maltese rabbit stew in a local restaurant in a village, plus $3 to $5 for a glass of wine depending on the wine.

Overall, tourists spend on average $35 per day on meals during a trip to Malta (including the island of Malta and Gozo).

How Do You Get To Gozo?

Panoramic View Of Victoria, The Capital City Of The Maltese Island Of Gozo, Part Of The Country Of Malta, Mediterranean Europe

The only way to get to Gozo is first reaching Malta, where the country's only international airport (MLA) is, hosting nonstop flights from all over Europe, sometimes for as cheap as $18 on Ryanair.

Like any other small Mediterranean island where public transportation is suboptimal, with not-so-frequent buses and an absence of train service, you'll make the most out of your visit to Malta and Gozo with a rental car.

woman overlooking valletta, malta

As mentioned already, you can take your car from Malta to Gozo on the ferry from Cirkewwa, the northernmost point in the island of Malta, and the crossing time is only 25 minutes – you'll be in Gozitan shores before you even register you've departed Malta.

You will need a car in Gozo to visit all of those secluded natural sites, caves opening up to views of the azure Mediterranean and ethnic Maltese villages, but if you're simply looking for an easy day trip from Malta car-free, your option is the following:

the sun sets behind rocks in scenic Gozo

Take the ferry from Valletta, the Maltese capital, at a total duration of 45 minutes.

You'll be dropped off at Ghajnsielem Port, and from there, you can either take a taxi or a local bus to Victoria (Rabat), the Gozitan capital, which is roughly 3 miles inland.

It can be challenging to visit other destinations around Gozo with public transport, but if your only goal is to see the walled marvel that is Victoria, sample Gozitan food, and stroll the picturesque streets before catching the ferry back to Valletta, we don't see why not go for it.

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