Best History & Heritage Sites in Gozo
Which historical site in Gozo would you like to know more about?
GOZO SALT PANS
"Salt is born of the purest parents: the sun and the sea"
The Gozo Salt Pans are giving insights into the history and heritage of Gozo; they are one of the oldest traditions and production in the island. Today these salt pans are still active and also become one of the most iconic landmarks in Gozo and definitely offers unique motives for your instagram.
The salt pans tell the story of a tradition that goes back to 700BC – 218BC and was passed down to Gozitan families for generations. The pans were originally created by the phoenicians for the production of highly coveted salt minerals, renovated by the Romans and passed on till today. A product that is the pure result of the sun and the sea meeting on land.
Gozo Salt Pans are about 350 years old and can be found all over the island, for example Xlendi and Dwejra. The most famous one’s are stretching about 3 km along Gozo’s north coast starting from Xwejni Bay. These are believed to be the oldest still active salt pans in the world. To this day, during the summer, it is possible to see Gozitans scraping the natural salt off the pans.
With the majestic cliffs and the sound of the sea pounding in the background, the Xwejni Salt Pans are a popular walking route and a great location for Yoga and Meditation. However, please respect the rules and do not walk directly in the salt-pans.
INSIDER TIP: When visiting the Xwejni Salt Pans, you might see Leli Tal-Melh (Emanuel the Salt Man), working and selling his salt just off the road next to Xwejni Bay (look out for the blue door in the rocks). Emanuel has been farming the Xwejni Salt pans since 1969. The salt would definitely be a great memory and souvenir to bring home from your holiday in Gozo.
- Location: Xwejni Bay (North Coast), Dwejra, Xlendi
- How to get to Xwejni Salt Pans: Car, Bus (310, 10 mins walk from the bus stop), Walk, etc.
- Road Conditions: Main Road & Parking
- Entrance: free
“The Heart of Gozo”
The Cittdella is one of the most prominent and prestigious history and heritage sites in Gozo. The Citadel, with its narrow and maze-like medieval alleys, allows one to enter a journey through 3000 years of Gozitan history. A must-see for visitors interested in Gozo’s history and heritage.
This small fortified town is built on a hill located in the centre of todays capital Victoria (Rabat) and the centre of the island, majestically overlooking the capital, the surrounding countryside and coastal areas, offering best views over the whole of Gozo. Vice verse, the Cittadella is visible from almost all over the island.
The Citadel hill that has been settled since the Neolethic times. However, the Citadel’s history, however, dates back to the late medieval era. It comes as no surprise that this natural defensive location was chosen for Gozo’s oldest capital. The citadel was serving as a sanctuary for the Gozitan population, who were taken into slavery multiple times during history.
The small city within the fortress walls once slumbered around 5000 people. Up until 1637 Gozitans were, for their own protection, legally required to spend their nights within the wall of the Citadel. Today the Citadel is still home to 11 residents.
A massive 5-year project undertaken by the government to renovate and restore the glory and impressiveness of this popular history and heritage site was finished in 2016. This project not only lets this important witness of Gozo’s history shine in new splendor, it also involved excavation works that led to the discovery of so far unseen parts of the Cittadella. For example, multiple new underground tunnels as well as its original main entrance were found.
Set inside the fortified town there is a baroque cathedral, as well as a number of Museums (Archaeology, Folklore, Nature). The old prison, used between the 16th and 19th century, allow visitors to travel back in time and imagine the lives of the prisoners. Some of the walls are lined with historic graffiti inspiring your imagination even more.
- Location: Victoria (Rabat)
- How to get to the Cittadella: It is possible to drive all the way up to the Citadel & (paid) parking area
- Road Condition: main road
- Entrance fee: entrance to the fortress is free, there might be fees for the museums & prison
“Oldest Freestanding Building in the World”
The Ggantija Neolithic temples, built ca. 3600-2500 BC, were excavated in 1826 and are an officially recognized UNESCO world heritage site. With the age of 5,500 years, the temples are a 1000 years older than the pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge, making them the oldest freestanding building in the world.
Until today it is unknown how these impressive structures, that are believed to be dedicated to a fertility deity, were erected. Ggantija means ‘place of giants’ in Maltese and this name represents one of the myths around this heritage site; locals believe that giants built these 6 m (19.69 ft) high temples.
The entrance to the spacious temple area is from the interpretation centre. At this newly renovated centre you will be able to get information about the temples and the Neolithic Period. Additionally, some of the most significant findings collected from various prehistoric sites in Gozo are displayed.
INSIDER TIP: Ggantija does not only attract visitors interested in Gozo’s history and heritage sites. The spirituality surrounding this historic site, make the temples also a popular location for activities like Yoga and Meditation.
Who would have thought that our tiny rock would hide this impressive secret just outside the rural village of Xaghra?
- Location: Triq John Otto Bayer, Ix-Xagħra
- How to get to Ggantija Temples: Bus (307, 311)
- Road Condition: Main Road, well maintained
- Entrance fee: ~ 9€/adult
TA' PINU BASILICA
“An Architectural Masterpiece”
The quiet village of Gharb is home to the architectural masterpiece and Gozo’s popular history and heritage Ta’ Pinu. Today’s basilica was built between 1922 – 1933 and is dedicated to the mercy of the Virgin Mary. However, the churches history goes back to the 16th century and its legends are full of miracles.
Upon visiting the Ta’ Pinu Basilica, you will be able to observe parts of the former chapel and the altarpiece within the modern construction. The entrance to Ta’ Pinu is free and you will be stunned by the 76 colored windows, the 6 mosaics and many votive paintings. The exterior of this masterpiece is just awe inspiring, especially with its 61 m high bell tower.
There are only a few (~ 219) churches & basilicas in the world which are recognized by the Vatican as a national shrine; our Ta’ Pinu Basilica is one of them. The basilica is also on the list of the National Inventory of the Cultural Property of the Maltese Islands.
Ta’ Pinu is not only an important religious site, with its beautiful design, finery and outstanding architecture the basilica also has a high cultural value, making it one of the most important and most visited history heritage sites in Gozo and the Maltese Islands.
There is also a small museum in the Basilica, showing a variety of offerings to the Virgin Mary and telling the stories of the miracles attributed to her mercy.
The basilica is located in open countryside surrounded by Gozo’s calm and pristine nature. Before or after visiting Ta’ Pinu, you will be able to enjoy beautiful views of the area. There is also a garden not far from Ta’ Pinu displaying beautiful statues. Take a long walk and take in the beautiful, picturesque scenery. quie
History of Ta' Pinu Basilica
The first records of the original chapel date back to 1534. During that time, it was owned by a noble family called “The Gentile”, who built the church in devotion to ‘Our Lady of the Assumption’. Unfortunately, details about the construction of the church are unknown.
In 1575, after a visit to the Maltese Islands from Pietro Dusina ordered by Pope Gregory XIII, the church (along multiple others) was found to be in very poor condition and ordered to be closed and demolished.
However, the demolition of Ta Pinu’s predecessor and its shrine ended quickly, when a workman broke his arm upon striking his first blow. This occurrence was taken as an omen, leading to the decision to save the chapel. It was the only one that survived Dusina’s decree to demolish other similar chapels.
In 1598 this survivor was rebuilt and completed by the beginning of the 17th century; the foundation for our beautiful Ta’ Pinu Basilica, named after the main benefactor ‘Pinu Gauci’.
In 1883 Karmni Grima, a Gozitan woman, heard the Virgin Mary’s voice coming from the altarpiece, after walking past the church. The beginning of a period full of miracles happening around the Ta’ Pinu Basilica.
Legends tell that over the next decades, several faith healings were witnessed. Also the escape of the entire island of Gozo from the plague, hitting surrounding areas, seems to be a miracle.
These miracles were attributed to Our Lady of Assumption and eventually lead to the decision to re-build Ta’ Pinu. Between 1922 – 1932 the church was re-built in a neo-romantic style, funded by the parish and with the help of local volunteers and funds from migrants. The old chapel and the miraculous altarpiece were retained and kept within the new building. Soon afterwards, the church got the title of basilica from the Pope and was recognized as the only national shrine in Malta.
Pope John Paul II visited the Maltese Island and Ta’ Pinu church in 1990. He celebrated a mass and decorated the image of Our Lady with 5 golden stars representing the devotion of Gozitans for the blessed Virgin Mary.
- Location: 700 m away from the village of Gharb
- How to get to Ta’ Pinu Basilica:
- 311 or 312 (1 km walk)
- 308 (150m walk)
- Car, Bike, Hike – towards Gharb Village
- Road Condition: main road, good condition
- Entrance fee: free (keep opening times in mind)