Surprising to many, myself included, Montenegro makes good, yet relatively unknown, red, white, and rose wine from both foreign grapes (although grown in Montenegro) and a handful of indigenous grapes found only in Montenegro. The most popular indigenous grape is the Vranac grape, which is used in red wine and is easily found in local restaurants and wine shops throughout Montenegro. Vranac, and generally all the wines that we tasted in Montenegro, was quite good. Outside of Montenegro, however, they are difficult, if not impossible, to find. Even Dan, my wine snob, liked Montenegrin wine!
Montenegrin grape vines.
Since we love wine and wine tasting, I was on the hunt for Montenegrin wineries throughout our entire trip to Montenegro. I was pleased to find a number of wineries offering visits to tourists, but Savina was the only working professional winery that I found (via Trip Advisor) close to Perast, where we stayed for the majority of our trip. As soon as I read the reviews, I promptly booked a tasting via email. It sounded lovely!
The Blue Lagoon is a pristine lagoon with crystal clear turquoise waters on the tiny, car-free island of Comino, Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. The Blue Lagoon is truly stunning and one of the “must see” activities in Malta. I’m talking paradise pretty and waters as turquoise as those you see in travel magazines. Since its so pretty, its super, super, super popular with tourists and a crazy amount of people descend on the Blue Lagoon everyday. Despite its touristy nature, I loved the Blue Lagoon and was more than happy to spend a day there! Dan on the other hand, thought it was just too touristy. We’ve summarized our experience in this post and how to make the most of your day!
Gozo is one of three Maltese islands in the Mediterranean Sea (the other two being Malta and Comino). Gozo is the middle island in terms of size and a world apart from its big sister Malta. On our trip to Malta earlier this year, Dan and I ferried over to the Maltese island of Gozo for a couple nights to experience old school Malta, and that is exactly what we got.
Mgarr Harbor, Gozo.
If you told someone that you were traveling to Gozo on vacation, they may have no idea where or what Gozo is. That’s because Gozo receives a lot less tourism that Malta or Comino, despite being close neighbors. This is probably due to the fact that Gozo lacks an airport, so you must go through Malta to access Gozo. In any case, we found Gozo to be very chill and laid back, gorgeous, a bit of a time capsule, and less expensive than Malta.
Many companies offer day tours to Gozo from Malta and some Blue Lagoon tours offer a couple-hour stop off in Gozo, but I would not recommend these. You will miss out on what makes Gozo special.
WHAT TO SEE ON GOZO, MALTA
Gozo’s most famous site, the Azure Window (of Game of Thrones fame, Dany and Drogo married there), sadly crashed into the sea during a storm in 2017. You can still visit the site where it was located, Dwerja Beach, and that’s just what we did! Even without the Azure Window, Dwerja Beach is very pretty and an interesting place to walk around a photograph. Just across the street is a popular swimming hole with crystal clear water. There is a parking lot at Dwerja Beach, a handful of kiosks selling food and beverage, and a sit down restaurant on site. I would plan to spend 30 minutes at Dwerja Beach, longer if you want to swim or eat.
Former site of the Azure Window.
Swimming behind Dwerja Beach.
Quite close to Dwerja Beach is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu. Ta’Pinu, for short, is a gorgeous basilica overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And I mean GORGEOUS. Ta’Pinu is particularly well-known for a chapel that, as confirmed by the Catholic Church, has asked parishioners to say Hail Mary three times and then performed a miracle. Many people make pilgrimages here, and the Pope has even visited Ta’Pinu. Entrance is free and you are not supposed to wear short shorts or tank tops, but this rule was not strictly enforced in the Summer heat.
Interior of Ta’Pinu.
View from Ta’Pinu.
Danny at Ta’Pinu.
One of my favorite places in Gozo is Xlendi, a cute seaside town! Xlendi has great views, cool water front restaurants, and some walking trails. It also has a very small beach that is not exactly swimmable due to its size and boats; however if you take the path around Xlendi to the water, there are fabulous views and a few diving boards built into the coast! Swimming in this area seemed more sanitary than right in the port. There is parking around town. Xlendi would also make a nice town to stay in if you want to be in a town.
Swimming near Xlendi Bay.
Xlendi at sunset.
Marsalforn is another cute little beach town with lots of restaurants and bars. The beach here is slightly larger and the water is gorgeous. Marsalforn would make another cute town to base your stay on Gozo.
Just next to Marsalforn are the famous salt pans of Gozo. There is not much to do here except snap a picture and buy some salt from the older gentleman selling freshly made salt but its a cool place to see and quite close to Marsalforn. Tip if you’re planning on buying salt, which you should, bring a plastic ziplock bag to put it in. The bag our salt was sold in started to leak.
Real salt from Marsalforn – just used it Tuesday!
If you are a history buff, you cannot miss a visit to the Ggantija Temples on Gozo. Similar to the Hypogeoum on Malta, the Ggantija Temples are ancient temples that were somewhat recently discovered and not much is known about their background. However, the temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and date back to around 3500 BC (older than Stonehenge!). There is an interesting museum that you visit before seeing the temples, which provides some interesting information and gives some suggestions as to what the temples may have been used for!
Just next to the Ggantija Temples is the Ta’Kola Windmill, which is an old windmill that you can visit and climb to the top. We did this, but only because our ticket to the Ggantija Temples included entrance to the windmill, as well. The windmill was interesting, but I probably would not go back. The most interest part was viewing it from the outside.
We also visited the Ta’Mena Estate, which is sort of a famous Agritourism farm and winery on Gozo. Ta’Mena hosts tours and tastings every Thursday (and I think Saturday), which you need to book in advance. The tour was quite long, but it did come with a substantial food and wine tasting after the tour. Ta’Mena also opens a shop after the tour selling all sorts of its organic products. The food tasting is enough for lunch.
Welcome to Ta’Mena Estate.
Victoria is Gozo’s capital city, and its quite a lovely city. Victoria is home to quite winding streets, old school public squares, lots of churches, and a number of restaurants and shops. We spent an afternoon here and really enjoyed this picturesque town. If you are looking to shop, Victoria is definitely the spot. My favorite store was the adorable House of Gozo located right off Gozo’s main square.
Victoria is also home to the Citadel, which was way cooler than I anticipated. The Citadel is the old walled-city and it looks straight out of Game of Thrones. It reminded me a lot of Dubrovnik, too. While its a steep climb uphill, the views from the Citadel are worth it. The Citadel is home to some shops and restaurants. Be sure to bring water in the summer.
Top of the Citadel in Gozo.
Inside the Citadel.
Reminds me of Dubrovnik a decade ago.
WHERE WE STAYED ON GOZO
We stayed at the adorable Cescas Boutique Hotel, halfway between Xlendi and Victoria. Cescas is owned by the same people as Ta’Karolina Restaurant in Xlendi and like Ta’Karolina, the hotel is quite modern and swanky. Cescas is located in a remodeled farmhouse and its really in the middle of nowhere – definitely a place to get away from it all. Cescas has a lovely pool and serves a nice breakfast each morning.
Dining room views at Cesca’s.
The pool at Cesca’s.
WHERE WE ATE
As mentioned in my previous post on my week in Malta, we ate pretty well on Gozo. My favorite restaurants were Stanley’s Chippy Shop in Victoria and Ta’Karolina and The Boathouse in Xlendi. Here are a few pictures of some of my favorite foods.
Dan and me at Ta’Karolina.
Fried Gozitan cheese.
English breakfast at Cesca’s.
Nutella milkshake paired with Maltese red wine in Marsalforn.
Also, while not technically a restaurant, Lord Chambry Beer is a local craft beer brewed in Victoria. Its available all over Malta in general, even on the Gozo Ferry line(!), and each beer is named after something Malta-related. Definitely worth trying on Gozo!
HOW WE ARRIVED
The only way to reach Gozo is via the Gozo Channel Line car ferry from Cirkewwa (Malta) to Mgarr (Gozo), which run every half-hour. The ferry was easy and only took 25 minutes. It cost €4.65 per person round trip (more for a car, clearly). You do not need to buy tickets in advance and you actually don’t even need a ticket on the way over from Malta; tickets are only checked on the return trip from Gozo. The ferries have a cafe serving food and drinks, as well as some small souvenirs. There are taxis meeting the ferry in both Cirkewwa and Mgarr.
Ferry to Malta.
Ferry to Gozo.
Pulling into Mgarr Harbor.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR VISITING GOZO
As of July 2019, there are no ride sharing apps working in Gozo. I.e. no Uber, Lyft, ECabs, or Bolt. There are buses that run around Gozo, they are not frequent. If you do not rent a car, a taxi is probably your best bet.
In the summer, its HOT on Gozo. Take a hat and carry water with you everywhere. And on that note, while water is easy enough to find (usually for 1 euro per bottle), places in Gozo did not seem to have great air conditioning. We had trouble cooling down.
Try to spend at least 1 night on Gozo, if not a few, to get a feel for the island.
Take cash out on Malta. There are ATMs on Gozo, but they have been known to go out island-wide.
SOME PICTURES OF GOZO
And, since Gozo was so gorgeous, I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures from Gozo!
Walking to Xlendi.
The famous fishing boats.
View of Victoria.
Outskirts of Victoria.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Cescas Boutique Hotel: Triq tal-Ghajn, Il-Munxar, Malta. A true boutique hotel in a renovated farmhouse in Gozo. Kind of in the middle-of-nowhere, you can technically walk to Xlendi and Victoria. Good breakfast included with booking. Wifi and AC included. Pool on premises.
Ta’Mena Estate: Rabat Road, Xaghra XRA 9010, Malta. A popular winery and farm, with tours offered twice a week (I believe on Thursday and Saturday). Book in advance via email.
The Boathouse: XLN1010, Xatt Ix Xlendi, Il-Munxar, Malta. Right in downtown Xlendi, next to Ta’Karolina. Closed Wednesday. Open Thursday – Tuesday 12h – 15h30, 18h – 22h. Reservations recommended, especially for waterside dining.
Ta’Karolina: Triq L-Ghar ta Karolina, Munxar, Malta. Open 12h30 – 15h30, 18h30 – 22h30. Highly recommend booking a reservation online, especially to secure one of the romantic tables on the water like we had!