Gozo Adventure: from rocks to sea

Adventure lovers, welcome to your Neverland. A place where you can hike, bike, kayak, abseil, boulder, deep-water solo, swim, dive… all within a short distance from one another. Welcome to Gozo, Europe’s active hotspot. And Gozo adventure happens all year round!

The first time I visited Gozo, fifteen years ago, I remember liking how varied the island was, how many sights it manages to pack in just 67 square kilometers. We visited ancient villages, beaches with red sand, the prehistoric temples of Ggantjia, cliffs, canyons and coves, all just a few minutes drive from one another.

When we returned last April, the first thing we did was climbing to the highest point, Victoria’s Cittadella, and see the island from above. Cittadella is right in the centre of Gozo, and from there we saw the coastline on all four sides. After all, Gozo is tiny – Malta’s sister island is only about a quarter of the size of its larger neighbour, and all together with nearby Comino they form one of Europe’s 7 smallest countries.

Gozo sunset from Cittadella
View from the Cittadella, sea views on all sides

We were there as the sun was setting, slowly dipping into the sea off the western coast, painting the whole island golden. No one else was there. Nothing moved. The tourists had already left, and we enjoyed a moment of peace and stillness on the roof of Gozo – the perfect prologue to an action-packed day.

Gozo Adventure: Take your pick!

Gozo is adventure paradise. The island is still largely undiscovered by mass tourism, especially in low season. You can hike or cycle the island’s trails in total solitude, with the sea all around you. You can climb on wonderful limestone, hard and rough, miles away from the smooth and slippery crags of the Alps. You can kayak all the way to Comino, the smallest of the Maltese islands, and visit sea caves where smugglers and pirates hid their treasures.

flake out walls climbing mgarr ix xini gozo
Climbing on some magnificent limestone

And finally, Gozo has some of Europe’s best diving sites, with excellent visibility, shipwrecks, incredible morphology and rock formations, such as the famous Blue Hole. And what is even better, you don’t need to drive for hours to have a go at different activities. Whichever Gozo adventure you choose, everything is very, very close.

blue hole dwejra gozo
The Blue Hole

As such, we decided to try two activities during our ‘adventure day’ in Gozo: climbing in the morning, and kayaking in the afternoon. We also wanted to go diving, but in April the sea is still cold and strong winds make diving difficult.

xlendi bay gozo
Lunchtime spot, and excellent dive site

Rocks: Climbing in Gozo

For our first Gozo adventure, we met our climbing instructor Didi at Mgarr Ix Xini, a tiny but very special cove on the southern coast of Gozo. Mgarr Ix Xini is very deep and narrow, hemmed in by vertical cliffs, lending it the look of a fjord.

Mgarr Ix Xini fjord
Mgarr Ix Xini: even Mr. and Mrs. Pitt saw the beauty of this place

The sea was still and transparent – you could see the sea bed perfectly, schools of little fish playing hide and seek among the rocks, the sun reflecting on the sand, turning the water a pale green-aquamarine. Mgarr Ix Xini was a ‘getting away from it all’ kind of place, a Gozitan version of The Beach – and soon, it will stop being a hidden gem, as it was chosen by Angelina Jolie as the location for her latest film ‘By The Sea’.

xewkija dome far gozo
Great climbing below, fantastic views above

I really wanted to climb near the beach, but Didi had another place in mind. Flake Out Walls, a crag that was discovered by Didi himself and his friends, and that is perfect for beginners. Didi works for Gozo Adventures, the main operator offering adventure activities around the island – climbing, biking, kayaking and a lot more.

climbing flake out walls gozo
The Flake Out wall, perfect for beginners.

To be honest, Nick and I are not actually beginner climbers. We know how to climb, and we enjoy climbing every now and then, but climbing is such an intense activity (both physically and mentally) that unless you go regularly, it’s hard to improve, and so we’re a kind of eternal beginners.

Flake Out Walls are in a canyon formed by a river, that used to be completely overgrown with brambles, vines and bushes. Didi and his friends took two years to clean it up, to make the canyon walls accessible to climbers.

On the other side of Flake Out you’ll find Dream Walls, ‘climbing for grown-ups’ as Didi said – high, smooth-looking cliffs, ranging in grade from 5C to 8 – which in non-climbing language means from intermediate to downright impossible.

Dream walls climbing crag mgarr ix xini gozo
The “Grown up” wall

We spent the best part of the morning climbing top-rope with Didi. The grades were not challenging for us, and so we had the chance to enjoy the perfect conditions that Gozo offers – a warm, dry climate, even in winter, and excellent rock, still in pristine conditions thanks to being relatively little-known.

gozo adventure climbing
One of the “Grown ups” in action

In my opinion, climbing is one of the most relaxing activities there are. I’ve struggled with climbing a lot, when I first started. As someone who’s afraid of heights, the feeling of doing something that is totally unnatural, hanging over meters of void, gave me the chills. I’ve even had a couple of panic attacks while climbing – but somehow, I decided not to give up. I’ve learnt to trust my equipment and my partner, but most of all I’ve learnt to trust myself and my abilities.

Dream walls climbing mgarr ix xini gozo
Some rather difficult pitches on this side

Climbing is the only way for me to switch off completely. Only the rock and I exist. My mind is totally focused on the movements, on the aim of getting to the top. Any kind of trouble disappears. And the feeling of abseiling down, after having done it, makes me feel like a superwoman that’s capable of anything – the best cure for low self-esteem.

waterworks mgarr ix xini gozo
While having a break from climbing don’t forget to wander over and see the old waterworks

So, I said the grades were easy, didn’t I? Actually, I didn’t manage to finish my last pitch. The clock was ticking as we had to go kayaking in the afternoon, and my arms were just about to give up, and so I didn’t finish Caraboo. All climbers will know the feeling – and know that I’ll be back.

Sea: Kayaking in Gozo

After a great fish lunch at Zaffiro in Xlendi Bay, we drove to Dweijra, location of the famous Azure Window and other stunning rock caves and formations, like the Inland Sea, a lagoon, where the sea flows through a tunnel in the rocks. On the shore of the Inland Sea we met Xavier, one of the creators of Gozo Adventures, and our kayaking guide for the afternoon.

azure window gozo
The Azure window, Game of Thrones fans will recognise this place

Their signature kayaking excursion includes Comino’s famous Blue Lagoon and the sea caves around the coast of Gozo, and takes a full day. We would only be kayaking for an hour or so, visiting the cliffs and caves around the Azure Window and finally the big arch itself.

cliffs near azure window gozo
Some of the dramatic cliffs near the Azure Window

It was our first time sea kayaking – we had tried kayaking once previously, on a river in Laos, and it was a total disaster. Nick and I almost ended up divorcing. So, understandably, we were a bit apprehensive. However, maybe because the kayaks were better, we had a great time. Controlling the kayak was easy, but required a fair bit of muscles and hard work. After a morning climbing, my arms were spent, and every now and then I stopped paddling to catch my breath, only to start drifting away and find myself paddling furiously to catch up with the group.

gozo adventures kayaking cliffs
The cliffs from sea level are much more imposing

Kayaking through caves was a bit spooky, but a soothing experience. I felt as if I was in the bowels of Earth, in a rock-and-water belly, where darkness is almost total and the noise of water whooshing over the paddle and splashing onto the rocks made me feel a world away from everything else.

gozo adventures kayaking cave
Kayaking into a small cave to see the wonderful coloured rocks

Out of the caves, we paddled towards the Azure Window. The rock arch of Game of Thrones’s fame, where Daenerys and Khal Drogo got married, is majestic in real life, especially when you’re paddling around it. The Azure Window is quickly being eroded by the elements, and is expected to collapse any time. This doesn’t stop tourists from wandering on the top, despite warning signs. When we paddled near it, we could see the underside of the arch and a massive crack running across it. Needless to say, we turned back.

gozo adventures kayaking Azure Window
Just around the corner is the Azure Window

As an adventure lover, Gozo does indeed sound like the ultimate holiday destination. It just ticks all the boxes – ideal climate year round, affordable accommodation (even the 5 star hotel we stayed at, Ta Cenc Hotel and Spa, had rooms starting from €120), excellent food and activities for every season. Winter is prime climbing time, spring and autumn are ideal for hiking and mountain biking, summer is the perfect time for deep water soloing (climbing on sea cliffs then jumping into the sea) and diving, especially late summer when the crowds are gone.

xewkija dome close up gozo
One of Gozo’s spectacular churches

I’d love to return to Gozo, this time with a bit more time in my hands, and enjoy a variety of adventure activities. Get lost in the island’s trails, knowing that you can’t actually be lost for real, it’s so small you’ll always find your way around eventually. Finish climbing Caraboo, kayak to Comino and dive the Blue Hole – but most of all, enjoy the feeling of wild, windswept nature, of primacy and getting away from it all, that every adventurer seeks.

If you want to know more about this charming island, here’s a great post about discovering Gozo!

Where to stay in Gozo

After adventure, we love pampering ourselves, and so we chose to stay at Ta Cenc Hotel and Spa, a wonderful luxury property on the southern coast of Gozo. Ta Cenc’s rooms are in individual stone bungalows, built in Gozitan limestone, and set all around the hotel gardens overlooking the Ta Cenc cliffs.

Ta Cenc Hotel and Spa
The entrance to Ta Cenc Hotel and Spa

The hotel is wonderfully retro – a sign proudly advertises ‘London newspapers early every morning’, there’s a TV and a game room, and a decadent breakfast spread with Mediterranean and British favourites, and you can have breakfast under a secular carob tree.

Ta Cenc Hotel and Spa
Breakfast under a giant Carob tree

The Ta Cenc Spa is the ideal place to round up a day of adventurous activities. There’s a Jacuzzi and a warm water pool, half inside half outside, a sauna and a la carte massages. After an hour or so in the spa, I guarantee you’ll feel reborn!

We were guests of the Malta Tourism Authority and Ta Cenc Hotel during this tour. We would like to thank our guide Anna, Didi and Xavier, and all the staff at Ta Cenc that made our stay amazing. All opinions are our own – we loved Gozo and highly recommend it.

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27 thoughts on “Gozo Adventure: from rocks to sea”

  1. Gonna have to go kayaking there – it’s on my husband’s wish list to kayak thru caves. Looks like so much fun!

  2. Margherita! I love, love, love Gozo…one of my favorite places on Earth. Great post…so many fun things to do.

    Yay Team #wkendtravelinspiration!

  3. Well, you certainly inspired me to want to travel to Gozo. Not for the climbing as I am not sure I could do it (but my teens sure could and we travel as a family). It’s the beauty and the kayaking and the lure of the pirate caves that are calling to me. I don’t know how you did both in one day, your arms must be incredibly strong. Thanks for sharing the adventure and amazing photos.

    • Hey Rhonda! Actually, using my arms too much is why I’m crap at climbing. You’re supposed to use your legs! It was a great (if exhausting) day out!

  4. Both adventures look like fun. And, in a setting like the ones on your pictures, you can’t go wrong. I am not sure if I would do the climbing. I am afraid of heights too.Not sure how I will react being at the top of a cliff hanging from a rope.

    • Hey Ruth! I’m afraid of heights too, but climbing me helped me conquer it (partly). It’s great fun!

    • No worries Paula, many people in Sicily don’t know where it is and it’s just across the water 🙂 it’s a great place!

  5. My family are keen kayakers and we actually visited Gozo on holiday when I was a teenager, so I have no idea why we didn’t put two and two together! Your experience sounds awesome. I’m glad you enjoyed kayaking more the second time around!

    • Thanks Katie! I actually fell in love with kayaking and can’t wait to do it again! aaaaand, you muct return to Gozo|

  6. I admit I haven’t heard of Gozo before but this post has inspired me to learn more and visit. What a great little place that offers so much especially for adventure lovers. I’m not a climber but my husband would like this. Beautiful photos and great virtual tour with you guys. Love that church!

    • Gozo is amazing on so many levels. We only spent two days there, but we could have easily spent one week because despite its small size it packs in so much!

  7. Trust me, once you get over your fears, it’s really rather fun! The ‘getting over your fears’ part is difficult though. Not sure I’ve managed to! Thanks for your comment!

  8. Wow! I liked all the photos especially the first one. It excites me more going to Gozo. I have a plan going there next year.

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