The Mediterranean has long been a popular part of the world for those in need of a cheap but enjoyable summer holiday (writes Antony Hayes). With rich culture and ancient history present in each city and town, as well as the beautiful calm presence of the Mediterranean ocean, it is safe to say that there is something for travellers of all types. With this in mind, one part of the Mediterranean often neglected is the Maltese Islands and in particular, Malta's sister island of Gozo.
A short history lesson on Gozo
Gozo is the second-largest island of the Maltese archipelago and has been inhabited for over 7,000 years. It was a place of great cultural significance during the Neolithic period, when it is said (according to Maltese and Gozitan folklore) that giants built the Ggantija temples, thought to be the world's oldest freestanding structures; in addition to this, Gozo also has the world's oldest religious structures.
In the 16th century, Gozo was unfortunate enough to have most of its inhabitants enslaved by the Ottomans, and it wasn’t until between fifteen and thirty years later that it was repopulated by folk from Malta. The next noteworthy piece of history relates to the late 18th century, when Gozo was given autonomy from Malta for two years thanks to Napoleon: however, apart from this brief period, Gozo has always been governed by its bigger sister. More recently, Malta and Gozo played a strategically important role in World War 2 that helped the Allied forces gain victory over the Germans and Italians in North Africa.
Getting to and around Gozo
The closest international airport to Gozo is located in Malta, which means that visitors to Gozo will need to take a ferry to reach the island. This is best done by renting a car for the duration of your stay from one of the many rental car companies, and will make the trip much more pleasant. However, just be careful when driving, because most Maltese and Gozitan drivers appear to be of the impression that indicators are optional and accelerators only have an on/off function.
Upon leaving the airport, you will immediately be confronted with the reality that the Maltese Islands strongly emulate a scene from an Indiana Jones movie; this is mostly due to the lime washed buildings that seem to be an interesting blend of Mediterranean and Arabic architecture. While driving to the ferry port, you will have a chance to gaze upon the Maltese countryside which is typically dry but strangely picturesque, so don’t forget to pack your camera.
Accommodation and cuisine
There are a large number of accommodation options on Gozo, but the most popular seem to be self catering apartments that can be rented for a modest fee. During our visit, my partner and I stayed at the Tas Beja Village, which had a courtyard with a swimming pool and was very pleasant to reside in. As for cuisine, there are a large number of traditional and conventional restaurants available that range in price from cheap to silly-expensive. One restaurant I will recommend though is Ta' Frenc Restaurant, which takes luxury cuisine to a whole new level.
What to do in Gozo
While Malta is full of buzz, Gozo is the location of choice for those who appreciate a laidback lifestyle and are in search of some respite. When it comes to activities, travellers can view the castle, museums and ancient structures, or sedately browse the shops or market stalls. However, due to the pleasant summer weather, most travellers will prefer to spend the majority of their time swimming or taking part in one of the many snorkelling and diving trips around the idyllic Comino Island.
About the author
Antony Hayes is a British/South African freelance journalist who currently resides in Norway with his fiancée. He says: "I have learnt that there is no better way to find fuel for writing than travelling, and hope to get back out there soon. My definition of life is similar to that of experience, and when I experience life I like to write about it and share my perspective."