10 days in Malta [Part 2 – Gozo]

Being on Gozo doesn’t feel like you’re still on this planet, let alone in Europe. So I hope you can butter up your bosses for a few extra days of leave, Nomads, because you won’t want to miss it. I’m trusting your appetite should be suitably whet after last week’s blog on the main island.

Being on Gozo doesn’t feel like you’re still on this planet, let alone in Europe. So I hope you can butter up your bosses for a few extra days of leave, Nomads, because you won’t want to miss it. I’m trusting your appetite should be suitably whet after last week’s blog on the main island.

Boss-buttering dependent, you’ll land in Mgarr, off the ferry from Malta, where you can stock up on wringlingly-fresh fish for the BBQ at the Bugeja market if you’re cooking yourself or head to Tmun Mgarr for a taste of the island’s best restaurants.

We stayed in closeby ix-Xaghra, a pretty little town with a scenic central square for convenient and tasty restaurant options. Our AirBnB was stellar; a serene villa with plenty of zen Asian influences, great communal space for cooking, relaxing and a dainty pool to cool off from the hot Gozo heat. Each room is rented separately, so we got the benefit of great facilities without having to book out a huge space.

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Use your first day on the island to explore and pick out where you want to spend some good quality sunning time. If you thought Malta was small, Gozo is teeny tiny so you can jump in your car rental and feel like a very accomplished Nomad with minimal effort (and fuel costs!)

From Xaghra, drive up to Marsalforn and follow the coastal road until you reach the salt pans at Xwieni Bay. You’ll spot the shallow rectangular pools with a white gleam, slowly drying out into that wonderful artery-clogger, the same way they have since the Knights first established them. From there continue to Wied-il Ghasri for some premium wild swimming in the picture-perfect cove. After winding down the steep staircase, you appear at a narrow shingle beach – enough for just a few people. But from there the heavenly water stretches out into a long corridor towards the sea, flanked by high rocks on either side, making a unique swimming experience. You can clamber up on to the rocks to sun yourselves in between and bask in your cleverness for finding something so beautiful and secluded.

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When you’re ready to move on, head inland along the road to Ghasri, turning off on Triq il Fanal to the Basilica of Ta’Pinu, a huge remote church with 360’ views and landscaped gardens.

Stop in for lunch at Il-Kunvent in the sweet little town of Gharb. Father and son were holding fort on our visit and the local pizza pie filled our starving stomachs.

Carry on towards San Lawrenz and find the Ta’Dbiegi craft village, where you can see the artisans and work and purchase their finest lace, glass and pottery. Our spare room has benefitted from a beautiful hand-woven rug in colours that take me straight back to Wied-il Ghasri. It’s the kind of place with quality souvenirs that’ll finally shame your brother out of buying you the novelty t-shirt from his next trip.

Your last stop is Dwejra, whose geology is straight out of a fantasy novel. In fact, the Dothraki wedding in GoT season 1 was set at the Azure Window, a natural arch at sea. Though it lives on in many people’s DVD collections, the Azure Window is sadly no more, having come to an end worthy of GoT, as it fell crashing into the sea in real life in 2017. You can read the news story all about it. It’s still an incredible area, which well deserves your time though, if only for the Blue Hole underneath, a 25m deep swimming hole for you to float about in.

After the day’s exertions, head back to Xaghra for a well-earned dinner at Oleander on the market square, with great ambience and delectable local food and wine.

Your second day should definitely be a beach day. After a leisurely morning by the pool, call and place your order at Maxokk Bakery for one of the ftiras they’ve been making since the 1930s. You won’t regret it. If you can’t wait long enough to eat it at the beach, the market square in the day is a beautiful spot for a bench-based picnic (and a sneaky ice cream afterwards).

There are a myriad of beaches to choose from for your afternoon jaunt; the rocky red sands of San Blas Bay or the smoother silts of Ramla Bay.

Country Terrace in Mgarr is a wonderful spot for your last dinner in Gozo. Set above the town, a terrace table provides a stunning view across the water, all with the backlighting of Narnia-worthy lamp-posts. The fresh fish and produce makes for a tasty meal… and of course, we didn’t forego the bruschetta.

For your last day on Gozo, a popular day trip is to the island of Comino, sandwiched between Gozo and Malta. The turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon draw in the crowds during the summer months, with shallow clear waters and white sandy seabeds. Full disclosure, Nomads, that the idea of many people and little shade made us miss out on this particular attraction… so there’s no judgement from me if you spend the time on the beach finishing that novel instead.

It’s impossible to write about Malta and Gozo without it becoming a semi-evangelistic endeavour, but Nomads, you will love it and I can’t wait to hear your tips below.

10 days in Malta [Part 1]

Malta is absolutely the destination for your 10 day break if you love a mix of classic beaches, wild swimming and picture perfect towns to get lost in. For anyone like me, who can’t sit still on the beach for an entire fortnight, Malta offers cobbled streets and film-worthy history as well as other worldly landscapes.  Best of all, its teeny tiny size means you can base yourself wherever you like and still have countless adventures each day with the aid of a hire car.

Malta is absolutely the destination for your 10 day break if you love a mix of classic beaches, wild swimming and picture perfect towns to get lost in. For anyone like me, who can’t sit still on the beach for an entire fortnight, Malta offers cobbled streets and film-worthy history as well as other worldly landscapes.  Best of all, its teeny tiny size means you can base yourself wherever you like and still have countless adventures each day with the aid of a hire car.

1 week on the Island Malta

Malta’s capital is enchanting. You can stay in a whole host of beautiful hotels in Valletta itself, but why not stay in the historic Three Cities, which neighbour the capital and are a delightful ferry ride area. Gliding in Valletta by boat definitely sets the slower holiday pace for your gentle meandering around the city streets and still doesn’t take too long. We stayed in a historic stone townhouse, converted with gorgeous interiors and rented out on AirBnb.

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Your route into the city.

Take at least a day to explore Valletta itself. Grab a map from tourist information and admire the beautiful buildings, instagrammable door knockers and picturesque piazzas. We loved the intimate Manoel Theatre, with all the beautiful opera costumes throughout the ages. I took a million photos on Strait Street, the old red light district, which has preserved many of the vintage signs. There are also a plethora of 5D experiences popping up, which for a novelty fiend like me, is the ideal. Summer is HOT aka the perfect excuse for many iced coffees. Our favourite was definitely Caffe Cordina in the prettiest of the piazzas, where we discovered the Crema Fredda Al Caffe. Friends, it may not look like much, but HEAR ME, this was created by some sort of alchemy (and addition of ice cream, naturally).

Two other highlights were the War Museum and the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Turns out that Malta’s war history is fascinating – tales of resistance, spirit and amazing community. The Upper Barrakka Gardens are accessed by the most picturesque lift (/elevator) I’ve ever seen. The Gardens themselves are stunning and offer some of the best views in Valletta. Spot the cruise ship you’d like to join! If you time your visit for 12pm or 4pm, you’ll witness all the pomp of the cannon firing.

Valletta (and Malta in general) is a foodie paradise. It’s the best of European food with exotic Arabic influences and pasta to die for. Fresh seafood abounds. There are a whole selection of bistros down the back streets. Sit with an Aperol Spritz (perhaps at Artisan Cafe & Craft Beer) and decide on your nightly pick. We went for D’Office Bistro with a charming bicycle outside. The pinnacle of Valletta dining is absolutely Guze Bistro with a cosy interior like you’re in a chic converted wine cellar. We ate Trio of Pork and lamb shank and died a little. Delicious.

 

You can while away a perfect half day getting lost in the lanes of the Three Cities. Grab lunch at the waterside Tas-Serena, where the Maltese platter is divine. There are plenty of beautiful dinner options too, where you can sit and people watch whilst those on yacht holidays try out dry land for the evening. We loved the ravioli, tortelli and atmosphere at Il-Hnejja.

An easy half-day trip from Valletta is the Blue Grotto at Wied iz-Zurrieq, which is also achievable by public transport (details and timetables at tourist information). As you join a boat trip, you’ll motor out towards the impressive natural arch towering above you, before dotting into different caves where the shades of blue will have you trying to capture each of them in photos, inevitably just emerging as a bunch of very similar looking photos that baffle your friends and family. *Sigh* We stumbled upon el Patron for amazing coffee milkshakes. For those interested, there are neolithic structures close by which would be easy to tag on to a visit.

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Another wonderful day trip from Valletta is the ancient walled city of Mdina, the Silent City. Phoenicians, Romans, Medieval Arabs… A day spent wandering the red streets and frozen in time residences is like being on the set of an Indiana Jones film. Lunch on ftiras (Maltese sandwiches) on the rooftop of Fontanella Tea Gardens & Vinum Wine Bar, overlooking the city walls.

If you’ve got a car, start off at Dingli cliffs (where The Cliffs is another great food option for farm-to-table delicacies.) The cliffs are the perfect spot for a short hike. Be sure to stop off at Ta’Qali craft village to stock up on nougat, lace, rugs and hand-blown glass (you can watch them in action). The village is made up of old corrugated iron Nissen huts on a former airforce base, which definitely adds to the charm.

If you’re not hiring a car, you might want to move up towards some of the northern beaches at this point. Avoid Bugibba and St Paul’s Bay, but do stop in at Cafe del Mar (with an advance reservation). Heck, make a day of it. It is delightful – what could feel more luxe than sipping prosecco in an infinity pool with a glamourous soundtrack and poolside snacks like sushi.

You’re due a beach day. On Malta, you don’t have to settle for one beach in one day. They are so close together, that you can move as often as the shade does. Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay are next door neighbours and many rate them as the best beaches on the island. To go further off the beaten track, head up to Marfa Peninsula (stopping in at the iconic Red Tower for a minor detour) and explore Armier Beach amongst others. When you need refreshment, Baia Beach Club is there waiting for you with a cocktail outstretched and even gourmet restaurant fare.

And there you have it. You won’t want to leave, believe me and if you’ve another few days, well don’t worry because I’ve got another post for you on Malta’s second island, Gozo, the quirky little sister who listens to bands you’ve never heard of and wears your clothes better than you do. Read on, Nomads!