Friday, 27 November 2015

Go to Gozo!

If you want guaranteed sunshine, beautiful scenery and exceptional value for money, then look no further than Malta's little sister, Gozo.  A three and a half hour flight from the UK, Gozo is like stepping back in time to an era when life was easy and chilled.

Flights into Malta's Luqa airport are plentiful and next Easter sees flights at only £72 return from London Luton.  With self-catering accommodation for a family of four being in the region of £300 for a week's rental, an Easter break could cost as little as £600.  Even with spending money, the cost of this family break comes in at less than £1000.

The islands of Malta and Gozo are surprisingly easy to navigate by bus and, with public transport being so cheap, there is absolutely no need to hire a car.  A circuitous bus journey takes tourists from the airport to the ferry terminal at Ċirkewwa in an hour, allowing little ones to watch out of the window as the bus weaves around the island. The half-hour ferry ride is part of the fun for the kids and you'll find that plenty of accommodation in Gozo is easily accessible, by foot, from the ferry port.  Għajnsielem, meaning "Peaceful Spring", is a village just above the bustling port with a supermarket, a vibrant village square and stunning views over to Comino, the third island in this archipelago.

Gozo is idyllic.  With only 30,000 residents, there is an air of calm surrounding the island and the rural scenery is stunning.  The Capital city of Victoria is bang slap in the middle of Gozo, a mere 6 kilometres from the ferry dock.  The city formerly known as Rabat, (it was renamed after Queen Victoria in 1897), boasts 15th century walls which incorporate a couple of informative museums and an old prison.  The views from the battlements are amazing and, to see the whole island of Gozo stretched out beneath you, is beautiful.

As mentioned earlier, the bus system is excellent on Gozo and daily bus passes for the family will only set you back 5 euros.  We spent a couple of days exploring the island and stopping off at inviting beaches and coves.  One of the highlights of our many bus trips was to Dwejra on the west coast of the island,  Here, the Blue Hole and Azure Window are breathtaking geological features which make for a great afternoon's entertainment as you leap over the cratered limestone and peer into the rockpools.  Xlendi, just down the road and along the same bus route, makes for a wonderful al fresco meal as the sun sets in the cove.  Ramla Bay with its red sand is also worth a stop, although it can get pretty rammed in the height of summer.

Eating out in Gozo is amazingly cheap and, believe me, you'll eat more than you want (or need) once you see the prices!  Very quickly, we found a favourite restaurant and ate there regularly, realising that to eat out is an easy option on this island.  The centre of Għajnsielem is a great place to sit and watch the world go by!  A round of drinks for mum and dad and two ice-creams for the kids never set us back more than 3 euros in our favourite bar and, as the sun set, the village's children would appear with a football and off our two would run, bridging the language gap with sport.

Beautiful squares, looked down upon by magnificent churches, are dotted around Gozo and it's worth asking locals whether the local villages have any community events planned.  We were lucky enough to coincide with a feast day in Qala and saw another side to this sleepy island; the locals definitely know how to party!

No trip to Malta and Gozo would be complete without a stay in Valetta and, here, you can splurge as there are always good hotel deals.  Just outside the city gates, we stayed at a 5* hotel for a treat and it was worth every euro.  The children swam in the luxurious pool and we made the most of the buffet breakfast the following morning, taking enough goodies to keep us going all day!  Valetta is a wonderfully elegant city with a Unesco World Heritage Site status.  The National War Museum is fascinating for the boys in the family and the water fountains at Misraħ San Ġorġ are fabulous for the kids to cool down in.  For children, a day's worth of exploration will be enough in Valetta and a stopover on the way to the airport would be the perfect way to end the holiday.

Gozo really is the place to go.  It's laidback, it's cheap and it's geographically stunning.  The self-catering accommodation is amazing value for money; old characterful buildings have been renovated and most have pools - what more could a family want on a value-rich holiday?  A lot of holiday-makers head to Malta for their guaranteed sunshine in the spring months but Gozo, in my opinion, is a better alternative. 

Go to Gozo - I promise you won't regret it.

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