A Hidden Gem in the Mediterranean
Gozo, or Ghawdex (Awdesch) as it is locally known, lies 25 minutes away by ferry from the most northern point of Malta, Cirkewwa Harbour. Gozo is the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago, measuring about one third the size of Malta, and is the home of around 30,000 inhabitants. The island is known for its remarkable peculiarities: the pristine coastline and untouched country trails blend into the picturesque scenery; Baroque churches rise from the heart of small villages and traditional farmhouses dot the rural landscape.
Developed just enough to guarantee a sustainable economic activity, Gozo is a masterpiece wrought by nature and shaped through 7000 years of culture by a population which nurtured Calypso’s island into the beautiful place we know today. Based on the values of sustainability and the need to protect the natural environment of Gozo, the Government of Malta has embarked on an ambitious yet achievable vision to transform Gozo into an eco‐island by 2020.
The eco‐island vision opens up to most sectors which determine life on the island and at the same time unites everything into one perspective and a common strategy. The four main pillars of this strategy bring together the environmental challenges on the island, the economic aspirations of its people, the development of society, and the preservation of its cultural identity.
The Villages, History and Lifestyle
Since its inception, Gozitans are increasingly feeling ownership and responding positively to the eco‐island proposals and initiatives launched. These include new ways of collecting and preserving rainwater, clean‐up campaigns on land and in the sea and the drive towards renewable energy and energy‐saving infrastructure. While the eco‐island initiatives being implemented in Gozo will mainly favour the lifestyle and well‐being of its residents, Gozo as an eco‐island will become more attractive for the tourism industry. Visitors who spend time in Gozo relish the beautiful countryside, the island’s rural character and rich cultural history, and experience the charm and hospitability of its people.
Visitors may easily encounter farmers working their land, and get to meet the cottage‐type entrepreneurs managing their shops equally on the main street or tucked away in the Lilliputian villages. Life on Gozo is tranquil and soft‐paced. It is slightly more up‐beat in the Capital, Victoria, where all the amenities of a modern town centre are to be found.
Gozo’s double insularity, it being an island which is peripheral to an island‐state, is insignificant next to the internet connectivity present across the island. Gozo’s other big attraction is underwater sports. Diving is a major attraction in Gozo primarily because of the unique and world‐acclaimed diving sites. Natural attractions on the island have been enhanced by several other sites where vessels have been scuttled – creating interesting diving attractions and also useful breeding grounds for marine life. Infrastructure servicing the diving industry has been amply developed on the island, which also boasts top medical services in this regard – including decompression facilities. Testimonials of divers who visited and revisited the island hark on the complete experience which only Gozo can offer.
Progress cannot be stopped, nor slowed down, yet it can be directed in ways that render Gozo authentic. The emphasis is not on ‘not doing’ but on ‘doing it well’. Ultimately, the aspiration of turning Gozo into an eco‐island seeks to enhance the island population’s quality of life. Gozo remains idyllic as a place to live in. This builds on this and expands into areas such as sustainable economic development, the creation of quality jobs and the tapping of more specialized niches in tourism such as health‐tourism, sport‐tourism, cultural tourism and eco‐ and agri-tourism. Gozo revolves around people, generation bridging and development. In short, it looks into ways how locals can live a better life, and also how Gozo can be more attractive for foreigners to visit, live and invest in. In this nine by five mile sun blessed Mediterranean island, the enterprising visitor discovers unexpected surprises at every corner… from peaceful and well restored farmhouses in picturesque villages to five‐star accommodation in any of the luxury hotels, …the close encounter with nature on land and sea, …friendly locals, …breathtaking dive sites at short driving distances from each other, …a mouth watering Mediterranean cuisine ‐ and several heritage sites chief among which, the World Heritage Site of the Ggantija Temples, the oldest standing prehistoric structure on earth dating back over 5500 years …and the fortified town of the Citadel, also of prehistoric origin. The Gozitan experience is truly unique for visitors and residents alike.
And now, the island is also being discovered by a new breed of visitor, one who arrives directly for a short, yet fulfilling experience on cruise liners which are increasingly opting to include Gozo in their list of destinations. These modern day visitors who want to discover Calypso`s abode, fall in love with Gozo, the Mediterranean island still steeped in mystery and intrigue: sun‐drenched, warm hearted and brimming with character.
The pace of life is truly different on Gozo as the island is the place where myth and reality meet head-on. The island has still succeeded in retaining its dream-like qualities of traditions, peace and solitude. If Ulysses were to come here today, he would find it even harder to leave.
Today, Gozo can certainly be considered as a holiday destination in its own right, as it has all these special distinctive characteristics which make it absolutely unique!