Winter Escape in Gozo.

Gozo is a perfect year-round destination. In the cooler months of the year, when the winters in Northern Europe get bleak and dark, Malta and Gozo still enjoy plenty of sunshine and mild temperatures.

The winter months are low season in Malta and Gozo, therefore you are guaranteed to find more peace and tranquillity away from the crowds. At the same time, you will benefit from off-season prices on services such as accommodation and transportation. There is more opportunity to meet locals and experience the Gozitan way of life, spending time in local villages and exploring the island at your own pace.

Following are some of the suggestions on what to do on Gozo in winter.

Hiking

Winter is an excellent time for exploring the island on foot, as the sun is gentle and the weather is generally good. The countryside is lush and green after the autumn rains, with beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and a slower, quieter, more intimate pace of life. The soft light conditions in winter are also ideal for photography enthusiasts.

If you plan on hiking, check the forecast the day before, as some of the rocks can get very slippery in the rain. Gozo has many nature walks of varying levels of difficulty. You can find many detailed route maps and descriptions on the Visit Gozo page for Country Walks.

Spas and Retreats

Source: Kempinski Spa

Gozo offers several spas, as well as short-term wellbeing and yoga retreats. The Kempinski Hotel and Spa in San Lawrenz has an indoor pool with Jacuzzi and an adult-only hammam with steam room and a pool, as well as offers a wide selection of massage and wellness treatments and an Ayurvedic Centre.

Amchara Gozo offers personalized wellbeing and detox retreats, with yoga, meditation and wellness treatments.

There are several private groups and practitioners offering short-term retreats on Gozo, thanks to the island’s accessible location in the centre of the Mediterranean, its pleasant climate and calm soothing energy. These are often advertised on sites such as Book Yoga Retreats or Retreat Guru.

Festivals

The main winter festivals are Christmas and Carnival. Christmas preparations are best experienced during the Advent season in December, while Carnival is typically celebrated in February-March, in the days preceding the Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.

Christmas

For Advent, a slope of a hill in the village of Ghajnsielem in Gozo turns into a re-enactment of the Biblical Bethlehem, complete with market stalls, a barn with live animals, and even a manger with baby Jesus, the nativity scene enacted by a young local family. Then, on the fest of the Epiphany, celebrated on the first Sunday after New Year’s Day, the Adoration of the Magi closes the month-long event in Bethlehem with the arrival of the three wise men on horseback.

Gozo also offers many small local fairs and Christmas art markets, as well as carol services and church concerts at Advent and Christmas time.

Christmas on Gozo is an opportunity to experience a less commercialized and more authentic holiday away from the crowds.

Carnival

Source: Flickr – grace scicluna

Traditionally, the Carnival season starts immediately after the feast of the Epiphany. However, it is usually in the week preceding the Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season that the Carnival festivities take off in many villages around Malta and Gozo. In Gozo, the most famous Carnival celebrations happen in the village of Nadur, with spontaneous dress-up parties in the street, as well as the organized Carnival with floats and parades.

Sightseeing

Winter is a good time to explore the churches and museums of Gozo, experiencing the culture and history of the island in a quieter environment.

Ta Pinu

Source: Flickr – K.H.Reichert

The Basilica of Ta Pinu is a national shrine built between 1920 and 1931, on the spot where an old chapel of Our Lady had stood previously, and where in 1880s a local woman is believed to have received messages from the Virgin Mary.  

While the Basilica itself is an architectural masterpiece, make sure you do not miss the mosaics of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary (commemorating the events in the life of Jesus and his Mother Mary) in the parvis of the shrine. You can also explore the hill of Ta Ghammar in front of the Basilica, which features 14 stations of the Way of the Cross.

Xewkija Rotunda

The church of St John the Baptist in the village of Xewkija in Gozo boasts the third highest unsupported dome in the Europe. It stands on the site of an earlier, smaller church, which in its turn was built on the grounds of pre-Christian temples.

Ggantija

Source: Flickr – sandrosamigos

Ggantija in the village of Xaghra is a Megalithic temple complex, older than the pyramids of Egypt, and in fact the world’s second oldest man-made religious structure after Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.

Cittadella

Source: Flickr – K.H.Reichert

The citadel in Victoria is a fortress in the centre of the island, built in the medieval period over earlier fortifications. It had been subsequently rebuilt and reconstructed several times, and thus features multiple layers of history. Until 1653, the population of Gozo was required by law to stay within its walls from dusk to dawn.

The Citadel now contains churches, museums and historical buildings, and is a fascinating place to visit.