Gozo and Comino

It takes a pleasant 25 minute ferry trip (or, soon, a ten minute flight by seaplane) to reach GOZO. The island is distinctly different in character; quieter, greener and life is simpler and more relaxed. Some choose to spend an entire vacation in GOZO for its tranquillity and charm, whereas most visit for a day or two, time enough time to capture the essence of the island and visit the main sights.

The striking undulating Gozitan landscape is picturesque. As in Malta, towns and villages are built around baroque parish churches ancflarge squares. The largest town is the capital, Rabat, also referred to as  Victoria, with Gozo's most important historical sight the Citadel, the hulk of a castle that was Gozo's first settlement, last rebuilt by the Knights in 1699. Today it is a landmark, set atop a  hill overlooking the modern town and containing, within its walls, a fantastic medieval urban fabric, as well as the Gozo Cadledral and four museums. The rest of Rabat has other attractionsSt George's Basilica, an ornate church with a long history, pleasant outdoor cafes in Independence Square and a wonderful old town core full of baroque townhouses built along meandering alleyways.

Beyond Rabat, the second largest concentration of sights is in Xaghra. Its parish church towers over an open square ringed with a couple of old colonial era bars alongside more modern restaurants, all with outdoor tables. The town is home to the oldest Neolithic temple in Malta -and the oldest freestanding building in the world -still surprisingly intact despite its age 5,600 years. Xaghra also boasts one of the best preserved windmillsof the islands, called Ta' Kola, nowopen as a museum, On the outskirts of Xaghra, Calypso's Cave is allegedlythe one mentioned in Homer's Odysseus and is definitely worth a visit for the view over the bay.

In summer people gather in theseaside resorts of Marsalforn and tiny Xlendi, The former is an open bay with Gozo's largest concentration ofplaces to stay and eat, and, a couple of kilometres along the coast, are the salt pans for the production of natural sea salt Xlendi is dramatically set in a gorge amid high sheer sea-cliffs. There is more natural beauty beyond the mouth of the bay -put on your walking shoes for a scenic walk aroundthe gorge. For some more natural wonders, head to the west, the least developedand hilliest part of Gozo. Down towards the coast is the bleak landscapeof Dwejra renowned for its Azure Window, a natural arch cut through a rocky peninsula, and the enchantingFungus Rock. Dwejra is also a beautiful spot for scuba diving. If you fancy a swim, there are several beaches scattered around the island, the 'hot spot' being Ramla Bay. On the way back, take a detour to Gharb, the bestpreserved old town in the islands, where property prices have risen sky high. Its town core, set around a church with an unusual concave facade and medieval bell towers and dome, is lined with ornate townhouses renowned for the beauty of their stone balconies.

Accommodation in self-catering establishments and hotels is widely available. Restaurants also pander to Gozo's traditional strength and serve hearty local dishes and delicacies, particularly fish and seafood. The downside of the quiet rural life is that nightlife is very limited -especially in winter evenings when the open air venues are closed. It is highly recommended to hire a car if you want to make the most of your time in Gozo, particularly if your stay is short. Comino, the smallest of the three islands and inhabited by just four people, consists mainly of the rocky habitat known as garigue which harbours a sizeable diversity of shrubbery. There is one hotel and a dramatic coastal tower, St Mary's Tower. The main attraction of the island is the Blue Lagoon, a strip of turquoise water very popular with boats and swimmers throughout summer. It's possible to visit between March and October, when the hotel's boat shuttles across the islands. During the rest of the year, boat services to Comino are limited to a small ferry that operates between Cirkewwa in Malta and the Blue lagoon.

At a glance

For a holiday within a holiday -Gozo offers something else, a tranquil and charming retreat.

A visit to the fortified Citadel and to the Ggantija Temples.

Without a car if you're visiting for just a few hours.

Hooked. Several visitors came, saw, loved it and settled here.