Gozo & Malta - Facts and Information
Planning and Travel
Xaghra & Ramla
Xlendi & Kercem
Mdina & Rabat
|A trip that chose us
This was very different to our usual pattern of travelling to places that we have chosen - it was a prize won by Eleanor through Silver Travel Advisor. It consisted of a week's holiday with half board at a 5* hotel on Gozo including flights and transfers. The trip was arranged through Headwater and was officially an independent walking holiday, but we decided to pass on the more strenuous stuff and use it as an opportunity to see the island.
Malta had appeared briefly on our radar as its archæology seemed fascinating so having got there for free we decided to pay to take a few nights on the main island before coming home.
We had little practical choice in dates as we had already booked Tunisia for March/April and France for September so we plumped for a mid-May departure. Ideally we would have gone a month earlier as Gozo was beginning to get quite hot and vegetation was beginning to turn brown from the lack of rainfall.
Carrier was Air Malta from LHR. Service and food was acceptable and flights were on time
Getting around on the ground
Malta's veteran buses have recently been pensioned off and a new service pattern operated by Arriva has been introduced. Our original intention was to use the buses but we realised that this, whilst possible, would be very limiting in Gozo where services only operated hourly. In the event we used the hotel shuttle to get into Victoria on one day and then hired a car for the rest of the week. This was a good move as it gave us much more flexibilty and allowed us to get to places we would never have reached by public transport. In Malta, where much of our time was in built up areas the bus made more sense, although we found that services were not always as frequent as scheduled and that some timing information was wrong or contradictory. The buses in Malta worked for us but did mean that we missed out on the opportunity to explore some of the quieter parts of the island.
Hotel Ta' Cenc on Gozo was very pleasant. Set in a quiet spot on a limestone headland it has the typical range of pools, spas etc. Our room was comfortable and had a quiet seating area outside overlooking one of the pools with distant views of Comino and Malta. Some other rooms did not have such a pleasant outlook (but might prove to be quieter if the pool was busy in season). Staff were pleasant and helpful. Breakfast was a good buffet (although could be a bit slow to get started). The table d'hôte dinner gave a reasonable choice and was well cooked and ample - too ample if we're honest!
The Phoenicia Hotel in Malta was the only one offered by Headwater for add-on nights. Not really our sort of place but it did suit us well in terms of convenience as it was right outside the main gate into Valletta and the bus station. Our room was not large but was well equipped and quiet. Staff were fine. Breakfast was an excellent buffet. Dinner presented two options: grand dining (expensive) and a brasserie (not cheap and with a menu not to our taste). We identified a few not-too-touristy eateries just inside Valletta but in the event did not use them. This was because we found The Wembley Store just inside Valletta. This had a reasonable supply of deli type food, some excellent and very fresh bread and a good range of moderately serious Maltese wine (which was willingly uncorked if, like us, you were screwless). A brief note on wine might not be amiss. A lot of Maltese wine is made from imported Italian grapes but there is also some produced with local grapes. We found that around €15 got you quite a reasonable red from local grapes.
What we found
Gozo is a very quiet, attractive island. The built-up areas were more extensive in some areas than we had expected but they tend to be clearly defined and mainly located on hilltops. Outside Victoria, which bustles, the villages were very quiet with shops that were few and far between and sometimes hard to find. The churches are amazing, virtually all in Baroque style, large and lavishly decorated. However few were open and the best time to get in was just before or after Mass. Roads were very quiet. When we were there it was out of season which may have explained the lack of activity.
We were not over-impressed by Malta. The extensive built up areas were busy and often a bit scruffy and Valletta (as a townscape) disappointing. The churches and ancient sites were amazing though. When we did get into countryside it looked pleasant and it would have been handy to have had a car to do some exploring.
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