Although Malta is one of the world’s smallest countries, there are an amazing number of interesting things to see and do without traveling far. Our home base was the 14 x 7.25 km island of Gozo, a fascinating place with a distinct local feel and jaw-dropping natural scenery. Compared to the main island of Malta, Gozo is quiet, but nonetheless, it offers plenty of adventure opportunities for active families.
Here’s a look at a few of Gozo’s not-to-be-missed highlights:
Tips for a Family Holiday in Malta: Visiting Gozo
Azure Window and Inland Sea
This limestone natural arch over the sea in Gozo is popular with scuba divers and TV fans alike, as it is setting for the famous Dothraki Wedding from Game of Thrones. Those who have no idea what I’m talking about need not worry, as this attraction is astounding with or without having seen the show.
Adjacent to the arch is the Inland Sea, a natural tunnel that leads from picturesque lagoon to the open sea. A quick 15-minute boat trip takes you on a loop through the tunnel and out to dramatic high cliffs around the arch.
I’m not a diver so I can’t comment on the dive experience, but the Blue Hole in this area is rated as one of Europe’s top diving spots.
This UNESCO-protected treasure is comprised of two of the earliest freestanding temples in the world; they were built around 3.600 and 3,200 BC. The stones are massive and you get a good feel for the original structure of the complex while walking around and through it. The name Ggantija is from ggant, Maltese for giant, as the locals believed these temples were built for them. You are left wondering how in the world these ancient people moved these gigantic stones in place without significant equipment.
It doesn’t take long to see the temples and they are impressive given their age. With children, this attraction is best explored with a guide who can help everyone visualize the original structure.
Cliffs of Gozo & Comino Boat Ride
The cliffs of Gozo are something else — the soaring rock face that extends down Gozo’s coast is breathtaking and can only be truly appreciated from the water. A windy day gave us a wild ride around Gozo, but it was well worth the adventure. Families can boat to the Blue Lagoon for a swim in the warm, bright blue water.
We used Xlendi Watersports for our outing who offer both self-drive and guided boat trips. Our experienced captain took us out for a two-hour cruise in a open boat that was in good condition. This operator seems to be quite popular and they have an array of vessel options from which to choose, as well as jet skis.
Given the rough seas we experienced, I would not self-drive around Gozo with children unless you have extensive boating knowledge.
The local tour company Gozo Adventures provides hiking, biking, climbing, canoeing, diving and cultural excursions around both Gozo and Malta. We went out for a few-hour kayak ride near historic saltpans, where the island’s sea salt products are still sourced today. It’s fun and invigorating to be active on the water and with enough time, you can kayak into caves (good for older-school age kids or teens).
We also want on a short guided hike on one of the many paths and smaller streets that wind through the villages out to the seaside bluffs. The beauty is that the hikes on Gozo can be as short or was long as you want, as there is an extensive bus system throughout the island.
Lunch and Swimming at Marsalforn
Marsalforn is a bay with a roped off area for swimming. There were tons of kids playing in the warm surf when we were there. The bay also has a number of casual seaside restaurants for a fresh Maltese lunch of local goodies including cheese, olives, and fish. This is a good stop for families to play and dine by the water.
I ran out of time to make it there, but Ramla Bay is Gozo’s only soft sandy beach and is a favorite place for an extended beach day.
Ta’ Mena Estate
The Malta Tourist Board also recommends Ta’ Mena Estate for families, a wine producing estate where children can engage in grape/strawberry picking, animal petting, and cooking lessons.
Where to Stay on Gozo
Villa from the Baron Group: If you want to live like a local an don’t mind the independence, rent a villa. We stayed at well-equipped, lovely villa called The Almonds by the the Baron Group with spacious bedrooms, an open kitchen and living room, plus a sweet garden and pool area. The villa is spotless, air-conditioned, and all of their rentals come with a local resource to call with questions. The Baron Group has an appealing selection of homes on Gozo. The only downside is that these villas can be isolated with limited local resources. I highly recommend renting a car if you go this route.
Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz: I didn’t get a chance to tour the resort, but there is a five-star Kempinski Hotel on Gozo for families who want a full service property. They have rooms, residences, a spa, and a kids’ club for ages 3 and up.
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Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino was invited on a media trip to experience and write about Malta. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy.