The Villages of GOZO
Victoria – Main Town of Gozo
The capital of Gozo, Victoria, is also locally referred to as Rabat. Here we find the outstanding Citadel situated high above the present town. These fortifications, reconstructed by the Knights of St John, are of extreme cultural and historical importance and offer a 360-degree view of the island of Gozo. The Citadel also houses the Gozo Cathedral and Museum, the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, the Folklore Museum, the Citadel Armoury, the Old Prison, and the Natural Science Museum. Below, the modern-day town lies around an open square, known as it-Tokk, which functions as a busy marketplace during the day and is transformed into an entertainment and dining space by evening. It is also the seat of two prestigious and competing opera houses, these being Aurora and Astra.
Ghajnsielem is the first village one encounters on the journey from Mgarr Harbour. The steeple of Lourdes Chapel, Fort Chambray, and Ghajnsielem Parish Church are important and aesthetically interesting landmarks that are clearly visible as one steps off the ferry and lands on the Gozitan ground.
Gharb is said to be one of the oldest villages in Gozo, where various discoveries from the Neolithic period and Bronze Age were made. Gharb also houses the Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary, a place of pilgrimage and worship. Among the attractions of this village are the Gharb Folklore Museum and the Ta’ Dbiegi Crafts Village, displaying various handcrafts such as traditional Gozo lace, filigree, pottery and mouth-blown glass. This picturesque village is well known for its beautiful old-style farmhouses adorning its landscape.
Ghasri is the smallest Gozitan village, but still well worth a visit. The imposing Gurdan Lighthouse, which rises 180 metres above sea level, is situated on a hilltop that offers 360 degree views of the island of Gozo. For this reason, hiking is particularly popular in this area. Ghasri also has a beautiful valley running through it, eponymously named Wied il-Għasri (Ghasri Valley), where one can go on country walks. The mouth of the valley is formed around a secluded and sheltered inlet which is ideal for bathing and snorkeling or diving.
Kercem village is surrounded by lush countryside, with the Lunzjata Valley and Xlendi cliffs close by. It was first inhabited around 5000 years BC, with several archaeological findings in and around the village revealing this. The annual traditional St Gregory procession from the Matrix church in Victoria to the medieval chapel of St Gregory in March is among one of the main attractions of this quaint village.
Marsalforn is undoubtedly the most popular Gozitan summer sea resort. It has a strand laden with top restaurants specialising in seafood which both locals and tourists like to visit and relax in. A must for all food lovers and for that summery sea town atmosphere.
Situated in the southern part of the island, Munxar lies close to Sannat and the small fishing village around Xlendi Bay. It is a picturesque place with some of the most outstanding landscapes on the island of Gozo. The parish of Munxar is dedicated to the shipwreck of St Paul on the Maltese islands, which is an important date in the local Christian calendar that falls on February 10.
Nadur, whose Arab-root place name means lookout, has always been historically associated with the island’s defence. In fact, the Knights of St John had constructed a tower known as the Dahlet Qorrot or San Blas Tower in order to guard over the latter two bays and anticipate or prevent attack. Today this tower has the name of Ta’ Sopu. In the mid-19th century, during the British reign of the Maltese islands, Ta’ Kenuna Tower was also built to safeguard the small island of Gozo and to communicate messages over to the mainland. Farming is an important industry in Nadur, with a great majority of local citrus fruits hailing from its farming community. Olive oil production is another traditional practice that is still going strong.
Qala is a quiet rural village which contains one of the very few windmills that survive on the Maltese islands. From its rocky coastline Qala provides beautiful views over Comino and Cominotto. It also encloses the Hondoq ir-Rummien inlet and the ruins of a defensive structure known as St Anthony’s Battery stand high upon its rough coastal edge, guarding the Gozo-Comino channel.
The small village of San Lawrenz lies on a plain in the western part of Gozo. It is surrounded by three hills, one of which happens to mark Gozo’s highest point. Dwejra point is also situated at the limits of this quaint village, and attracts several tourists to its geological marvels. San Lawrenz is still very much traditional and rural in its way of life. Some of these wonderful customs can be observed and experienced during the yearly village feast of St Lawrence, celebrated during the first week of August.
Lying in the south of Gozo is the agricultural village of Sannat. Here elderly women still sit outside their homes to practise their traditional pastime of lacemaking, producing fine shawls, tablecloths and mats as well as bordered handkerchiefs. This village also boasts some old as well as modern beautifully carved stone balconies, visible as one winds their way around its narrow streets. The cliffs of Ta’ Cenc lie at a short distance from the village core. Here one can find a site of true geographical and archaeological beauty, with the Imramma Temple and the three limestone dolmens standing on the precipice. The unspoilt environment of Hanzira valley, which leads to the pebbly beach of Mgarr ix-Xini, also forms part of Sannat. The latter bay, which contains a submerged ferryboat wreck on its seabed, is also an extremely popular diving spot.
Xaghra stands among the most historically rich villages of Gozo. The Neolithic temples of Ggantija, claimed to be the oldest freestanding archaeological structures, are found here. Lying on a plateau hilltop to the north east of the capital of Victoria, it offers views of Ramla Bay and Marsalforn among other picturesque locations such as the surrounding valleys. Among the other village attractions are the 18th century Ta’ Kola windmill and the Pomskizillious Museum of Toys, featuring an exhibition of antique collectible toys.
The oldest Gozitan village of Xewkija lies between Mgarr Harbour and Victoria. Gozo’s strong Arab influence can be witnessed here thanks to the discovery of a 12th century inscription on a tombstone slab ascribed to a young girl called Majmuna, who had died and was buried in the area. The Majmuna Slab is permanently exhibited at the Museum of Archaeology in Victoria. Xewkija’s parish church is dedicated to St John the Baptist, and its dome – which permits an unrestricted panoramic view of Gozo – attracts visitors all year round. The fishing trade is still strong in Xewkija, with fishermen using traditional methods and constructing cane fish traps by hand. Among the strong points of this village are its beautiful landscapes adorned with old watch towers, with manifold possibilities of trekking and hiking routes, and the secluded inlet of Mgarr ix-Xini, which is accessed through Xewkija. The heliport is also situated at the village limits.
Zebbug is a small village situated close to Gharb and Marsalforn. It lies on a hilltop that majestically overlooks the coast to the north west of the island. Its place name literally translates as olives, a crop which used to grow profusely on the village slopes. Lace-making, among other traditions, is still very much alive here.