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Just a 20-minute ferry ride from the northern tip of its big sister Malta, Gozo has something of an Aegean island feel to it, with a wild terrain of rocks, gnarled trees and sheer cliffs.

Apart from a few very good hotels and rented farmhouses with pools, it has no pretensions to be anything that it isn't.

This is a place you come to for a step back in time, relaxation, good hiking and excellent scuba diving.

To get your bearings, the best spot is on the ramparts of the ancient Citadel in Gozo's capital Victoria. From here you can see just about everywhere on this 10-mile-long by five-mile-wide island.

The first thing that strikes you is the size of its churches. They are huge, their domes and spires towering above the tiny stone houses.

The Citadel itself was founded on an old Roman temple and then developed by the Moors and finally the Knights of St John as a defence against pirates.

It has a delightful little barcum-souvenir shop called Ta' Rikardu in a cellar cut into the walls. Rikardu makes his own wine and he's happy to sell it to you for PS1 a glass.

Victoria's main square is a pleasant place for a coffee. There are stalls selling lace tablecloths and handmade woolly jumpers and, if you're self-catering, you can buy fresh fruit and bread here.

The island has two excellent beaches, Ramla Bay and San Blas Bay. And Gozo is the unlikely home to prehistoric temples that are even older than the Egyptian pyramids. Dating back to 3,600BC, the limestone GgGgantija (Maltese for giants) are the oldest freestanding structures in the world.

One of the loveliest spots is Xlendi, a fishing village which nestles in a cove on the west coast.

At Dwerja, there is the Inland Sea. The only way out of it is through caves, lined with pink coral, cut into the rocks. But a small boat will take you through and out into the open sea.

Also at Dwerja is a cliff used for abseiling and a scuba diving centre.

Nearby is the Azure Window, a striking arch of rock forming an artistic natural frame for views of the sea.

Mgarr, the colourful main harbour on Gozo, is worth a morning's stroll past the dozens of fishing boats bobbing gently under the watchful gaze of the enormous Church of Our Lady on the hill above the town.

And as the sun sets, it's time to relax over a drink on the balcony of the Gleneagles pub, overlooking the water. And if you're lucky you might even catch sight of the local farmers bringing their horses and ponies to cool off in the water by the harbour's edge.


WHEN TO GO: Gozo has mild winters (although you might need to pack a mac) and scorching summers. Beat the crowds, the lobster-pink sunburn and high-season prices by visiting in spring or late September.

GETTING THERE: Malta's national airline Air Malta offers flights from nine UK airports. Other airlines include EasyJet, Ryanair, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson Fly and Small Planet Airlines. Flight time is around three hours.

BOOK IT: Malta Direct offers seven nights at the fourstar Cornucopia Hotel on Gozo from PS319pp, based on two adults sharing a room, with breakfast, including flights with EasyJet departing Gatwick on February 9, car hire, ferry transfers and entry to a local attraction., 0845 604 0035

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Relax on the beach at San Blas Bay. Below, enjoy lunch by the sea


Churches tower above Mgarr harbour

Dwerja and, below) the Azure Window
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXML
Date:Jan 20, 2013
Previous Article:WIN; an all-inclusive holiday in Malta.

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