The nation of Malta is actually made up of three distinct islands — Malta, Comino, and Gozo. A few days in, and in spite of its diminutive size, I’d seen only a small fraction of what Malta had to offer. But when Anders was blessed with an unexpected day off of work, he didn’t hesitate over what we should do with it — a road trip around neighboring Gozo.
The first step? Catching the ferry. I have a horrible condition, for which there is currently no known cure, which does not allow me to arrive for scheduled transportation within a non-panic inducing timeframe. Despite many valiant attempts, it appears it is physically impossible for me to arrive at an airport more than ten minutes before check in closes, or to rock up to a bus or boat more than five minutes before the doors swing shut. Doctors are currently searching for answers as to what causes this terrible travel disorder.
True to form, we made it with no time to spare, and as soon as our heartrates returned to normal, we were off to beautiful Gozo.
At under 42 square miles in size, we were confident we’d be able to squeeze in most of the island’s attractions in one day — including an underwater viewing.
Yup, we were going diving in my favorite way possible — a couple tanks in the back of the car, and a local expert in the driver’s seat. We decided to start the day with our scuba adventure and set off straight for the Inland Sea. But of course, I couldn’t quite let Anders drive through adorable San Lawrenz without hopping out of the car to grab a few photos, could I?
My travel writing professor at NYU once tried to make us promise never to use the word charming in our prose. I let the man down often, and I’m going to do it again: San Lawrenz was one of the most unassumingly charming towns I’d ever seen. And it was barely 11am.
Arriving at coastal Dwerja, we found the crowds I’d been expecting for a beautiful day in the midst of Malta’s summer high season. But immediately I could see why they came.I’ll save our diving stories and photos for another day, but suffice it to say that between the Inland Sea, the Azure Window, and the Blue Hole, Dwerja is a mind-boggling highlight that should not be missed. Basically Earth is just showing off at this point, right?
All that diving made us hungry, and we glanced at a map trying to imagine what would be the most idyllic place on the island. We settled on Marsalforn, a former fishing hamlet turned Gozo’s main holiday resort village. This being Gozo, “main holiday resort village” means there is more than one hotel within eyesight of another. It was perfect. We were drawn in by the guidebook’s promise of a sleek waterfront wine bar, but found it shuttered.
We ended up at a nearby spot serving the usual uninspiring “international” cuisine — but hey, no complaints with a view like this, right? (I mean, if you want to get technical about it I can complain under a vast array of conditions. But let’s pretend I’m a perpetually upbeat person.)
And then we were off again, this time towards a somewhat mysterious destination. A Maltese friend had raved about a tucked away spot called Wied il-Għasri, but the guidebook was a bit vague on how to get there. It’s a small island, we assured ourselves, and took off along another stunning coastal road. Along the way we passed more mysterious geological formations, a few quiet stretches of sand populated by colorful umbrellas, and a vast patchwork of still-active salt pans.
And then we saw it — a tiny white sign pointing us towards a rough path that we hoped would bring us to Wied il-Għasri. We giggled nervously as we bounced along the dirt road, but eventually came across another car and a winding path down to the water.
It was a very close approximation of I’d expect Mediterranean heaven to look like.
Once a ground of kayakers passed through and our one family of fellow beach goers hit the road, we had the place totally to ourselves. We might have stayed all day had we not run out of drinking water. Later, I read the rocky cove was a hotspot for seahorses, and I cursed not bringing our snorkel gear down.
Finally, we made our way to Victoria, the island’s capital. We would our way up to Il-Kastell, the city’s walled citadel, but were disappointed to find much of it under construction. No matter — there was cold water for sale, and fabulous views from the top.
One cool discovery as we made our way back to the car was a World War II bunker turned art gallery — the dripping ceiling and musty smell won me over immediately. Talk about giving new life to an old space.
Even outside the citadel, “modern” Victoria is a bit like stepping back in time.
For our final stop of the day, napping was a necessity. We debated between heading to Ramla Bay or San Blas Bay but settled on the former as it seemed far more likely have ice cream vendors. We predicted correctly.
One interesting note about Malta’s beaches — while I went vaguely expecting the same kind of casual toplessness I’d found in Ibiza and other Mediterranean destinations, deeply Catholic Malta took me by surprise. Instead, stern warning signs forbade any version of nudity, and the statue of a saint plopped in the center of the sand watched gravely over the merrymakers.
As the day dipped into late afternoon, we started stirring towards the ferry. But before we pulled away from the beach, I insisted we make one more stop — to Calypso’s Cave, overlooking the very beach we’d just been on. As with many of our destinations for the day, the road could barely be considered a road — in fact, it felt more like we were traipsing through someone’s farmland — but the journey was as fun as the destinations.
Yes, Gozo wowed me. In fact, I wouldn’t even hesitate to say that our casual, itinerary-free day of road tripping around the tiny isle was the highlight of my time in Malta. With its manageable size and crowds and its gluttony of gorgeous sites, I can’t think of a better destination for a drive.
Where’s your favorite place to road trip?
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Many thanks to the Malta Tourism Authority for providing me with a rental car for the duration of my stay. As always, you receive my most honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.