Malta and Gozo are the two islands making up The Republic of Malta. They may be part of the same country, but they are incredibly different islands. When planning my trip to this pair of islands, I was pretty torn and struggled to decide how to split my time. The internet didn't help. There's was surprisingly little information on Malta vs Gozo. If it hadn't been for the advice of a fellow traveler, I don't know what I would have done. In the end I decided to spend most my time on Gozo, and I'm glad I did, but that's not the right decision for everyone. Here are the pros and cons of both islands so you can decide what's right for you.
The Case for Matla
Malta is by far the more popular island. Tourists flock to Malta to see the sites and enjoy the beaches. It's a huge cruise ship destination and a popular spot for UK tourists. When you get there, it's obvious why. Malta is a gorgeous island with tons to see and do. In the debate of Malta vs Gozo, Malta makes a strong case. It's got the infrastructure tourists look for, the history and intrigue of a fascinating destination, and (apparently) a nightlife you probably won't remember too well the next morning. If you're considering Malta, here's what you need to know.
There are TONS of accommodation options: Due to the amount of tourists that come to this island, you can find anything from hostels to five-star resorts in pretty much every city on the island.
You won't get bored: There are tours everywhere. Whether you want to take a sunset cruise or go kayaking all-day, there are plenty of tour options and they are easy to find. And you don't even need to plan ahead; companies line the shore offering last-minute seats on their daily tours.
There's tons of history: The Maltese refer to their island as "a small island with a big history". They're not wrong. Exploring the museums and historic sites of Malta, I was blown away by what a rich history hides on this island.
The island is just plain cute: I can't think of a better word for it. Maybe quaint. The winding streets and limestone buildings are a photographer's dream-come-true.
It's where the party's at: Or at least, that's what they tell me. I'm more of a early to bed early to rise girl, but apparently the nightlife in Malta is pretty killer.
There are tourists everywhere: With all those pros, Malta draws a crowd. I felt I was constantly surrounded by other tourists. While this may not be a con for everyone, it was definitely a con for me.
Beware of scams and inflated prices: Because of all the tourists, prices tend to be a bit inflated in Malta. I was actually surprised by how expensive the restaurants were in Malta and this was another huge downside for me.
The public transport is a joke: We waited for a bus for an hour. It came... and drove straight by without stopping. So we waited another hour for the next bus. And this was considered normal. Unfortunately taxis aren't in my budget, and if they aren't in yours either, than be ready to be VERY patient.
The Case for Gozo
Gozo, often referred to as "Malta's Little Sister," is a smaller island off the coast of Malta. But as a little sister myself, I know that being the little one doesn't make you any lesser. Gozo is only a 25 minute ferry ride from Malta, but it's a whole different world. It's quieter, filled mostly with locals, and much more targeted toward the nature/outdoorsy type. In the Malta vs Gozo debate, I'm partial toward Gozo. Here's why:
It's a LOT quieter: Since it's less popular and a ferry ride away, you get a lot fewer tourists on Gozo. This means the island is quieter and makes for a much more tranquil vacation spot.
The prices are more digestible: From beautiful bed and breakfasts at 30 euro a night to delicious Italian meals for a few bucks, you can easily enjoy a relaxing vacation in Gozo without burning a hole in your pocket.
It's perfect for the outdoorsy type: While Malta is good for the historic-minded, Gozo is for those who want to get their hands dirty. From hiking to kayaking to rock climbing, there are countless opportunities to get outside and immerse yourself in the stunning natural environment of Gozo.
The public transport is reliable and goes everywhere: Unlike Malta, every bus I took in Gozo arrived exactly when it said it would (and actually stopped to let me on). The bus system is pretty extensive and goes just about everywhere on the island.
Things are pretty spread out: If you're aim is to do a lot of hiking, this won't be a problem. But if you just want to see the main sites and move on, you might get frustrated by the distance between everything. The buses will get you everywhere, but you'll be riding them quite a bit.
Everything shuts down early: As in I had to walk home from sunset one night because the last bus came at 7:30pm. Now that's only in some of the more obscure locations (the central buses go until 11-ish), but it's a trend that mimics the general feel of the island. People go to bed early and wake up early, meaning this is not the place to go for a party.
You're pretty much on your own: For me, this was actually a pro. But it can be a con if you aren't as comfortable as I am exploring a country with zero guidance. There aren't a lot of information or tourism centers and unless you've organized something in advance, you won't find quite the support for tourists that you find in Malta.
Malta vs. Gozo: My final verdict
I preferred Gozo. Without a doubt. It's quieter, draws less tourists, and full of breath-taking nature. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a relaxing, peaceful vacation. It's ideal for the independent traveler looking for a local experience. Gozo island is less crowded and, in my opinion, more beautiful. Plus, if you're interested in outdoor travel there is way more to keep you entertained in Gozo.
That being said, Gozo may not be the winner for everyone. If you want to visit museums and art galleries or spend the time shopping and being waited on at five-star restaurants, stick with Malta. If you want a big nightlife and to meet lots of other travelers, stick with Malta.
The moral of the story is, Malta and Gozo are very different islands. I cannot say there is one clear winner in the Malta vs Gozo debate because the truth is, it all depends on YOU. What are your priorities when you travel? Figure that out and then you can easily decide which island you want to spend most of your time on.