As a small town girl from Maine I never thought I would be able to explore different corners of the world. So each time I board a new flight I have to pinch myself as a reminder that it’s real, that it’s actually happening. When I boarded Turkish Airlines flight 0004 it didn’t feel real, it was one of those pinch me moments. Was I actually going to Malta? Yes, I was actually boarding a flight to a new country. A country that is often overlooked and never considered as a stop on European tours. So, to be able to share this Maltese experience with all of you, in the hopes of inspiring you to visit, that’s just incredible to me.
Upon landing at Malta International Airport my eyes were glued to the window. I had never seen anything remotely close to a coastline like this. It looks like the edge of the world. The words, “you, me, and the sea” ring through and through. We deplaned onto the tarmac, shuttled to the terminal, made our way through customs- I was finally on European soil.
Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz is centrally located on Gozo just a short ride from the Azure Window, multiple lookout points, and the dining and nightlife of the island. The hotel itself is amidst 30,000 square meters of semi-tropical gardens. Think lush greenery and flowers galore. It’s impossible to escape the aromas of the outdoors.
The décor is elegantly rustic with Mediterranean accents echoed throughout. I had the pleasure of staying in a deluxe room complete with a balcony overlooking one of the five pools, king bed, and separate seating area. If you’re celebrating a special occasion upgrade your room to the junior suite. This room has all of the subtle luxuries the rest of the hotel has and then some. With a private terrace overlooking the Gozo countryside you’ll never want to have your morning coffee or evening nightcap anywhere else.
When visiting Kempinski you’ll have to find a really good excuse to leave the hotel with six restaurants and five pools it’s nearly impossible to get sick of this property. My personal favorite was Trattoria San Lawrenz. Dinner al fresco with Italian inspired dishes like risotto and catch of the day, surrounded by newly formed friendships and some of the best wine I’d ever had- you could say Gozo was quickly becoming my new favorite place on earth.
Also worth noting, the expansive spa. Kempinski, The Spa has 9 spa and 5 traditional Ayurveda treatment rooms, two heated indoor pools, an indoor jacuzzi, an Oriental Hammam, relaxation areas and a steam room. You may be asking yourself, what is Ayurveda? Not to worry, this was my first time experiencing Ayurveda too! Jessica, of Bon Traveler, turned me onto this amazing form of treatment. Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz has one of the largest Ayurveda centers in all of the Mediterranean. Ayurveda dates back 5,000 years; these treatments engage all of our five senses through aromas, plant based products, ancient Indian techniques and nurturing treatments. The purpose of Ayurveda is to restore your mind, body and soul and remove the underlying causes of disease. I was so fascinated by this holistic approach to medicine that I decided to pursue Ayurveda in my everyday life. More on that another time.
Whether you like lounging by the pool, indulging in exceptional spa treatments, scaling the coastline or splurging on delectable cuisine- checking into Kempinski San Lawrenz is the first step to creating those unforgettable Gozitan experiences.
There is so much to see and do on the small island of Gozo! Here are a few highlights to help you prioritize your itinerary:
Azure Window in Dwejra Bay (2.6 km / 1.6 mi from Kempinski San Lawrenz)
You know this iconic spot from Game of Thrones and you should really get to know it in person. On any given day you’ll find locals and travelers taking in the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. The Azure Window not only makes for great photo ops but some great swimming as well. There are a couple of spots you can swim in but I preferred the blue hole. A place where swimmers, scuba divers and waders unite. Be sure to wear water shoes when making your way down to the blue hole. The terrain is wet, narrow and rough; I immediately regretted wearing flip flops.
Victoria 3.9 km / 2.4 mi (from Kempinski San Lawrenz)
The capital city of Gozo. I encourage you to go and get lost in the winding streets of this ancient Rabat (main city) of Gozo. You’ll discover Saint George’s Basilica, the Citadella and Cathedral of the Assumption, delicious food, friendly people and local shops.
Ggantija Temples 6.9 km / 4.3 mi (from Kempinski San Lawrenz)
This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to 3600-2500 BC making them older than the pyramids of Egypt. The architecture is so impressive, knowing that these structures were built during a time that had no power tools or metal tools, the wheel had not been introduced makes it even more fascinating.
Ramla Bay & Calypso Cave (sandy beach) 8.9 km / 5.5 mi (from Kempinski San Lawrenz)
Known for its rusty red colored sand and teal waters; the only red sand beach in Malta. You can access the beach by bus from the village of Nadur or walk about 40 minutes from Xaghra.
Not only is this a great lookout for Ramla Bay but it is also the spot that was mentioned in Homer’s “The Odyssey” where Calypso kept Odysseus as a prisoner of love for seven years. Side bar: can I just say how historical Malta is!? I NEVER expected it.
If you’re not eating at one of the five restaurants at Kempinski San Lawrenz I highly recommend Ta’ Philip Restaurant. Their specialty? Bringing every guest an authentic Gozitan dish. Whether it’s the fresh Gozitan cheese, freshly caught brown meagre, or the caramel and fig ice cream you won’t be disappointed. All of their ingredients are locally sourced and you can taste the freshness in every bite. My favorite part? The wood fired oven. It cooks everything to perfection, to the point that I wanted to lick my plate clean! Daily specials vary from Avocado and Peeled Prawn Salad to homemade Raviolli, braised rabbit to suckling pig or the daily catch. There is a little bit of everything for everyone. Tip: indulge in the Gozitan wine, olives and bread.
Getting to Gozo is very easy once you’ve landed at Malta International Airport. When staying with Kempinski San Lawrenz a driver will pick you up once you’ve landed, you’ll then proceed to the ferry. In case you forgot, Gozo is Malta’s sister island and the only way to get there is by sea! The ferry ride is about 25 minutes and you won’t even have to get out of the car once on board, though I do recommend going to the upper deck for some incredible views of both islands. Once you’re on Gozo it’s about 25 minutes to the hotel.
Getting around Gozo is easy as well. You can either rent scooters, rent a car or hire a driver. All three are great options! I personally loved having a driver it made for a stress free experience as there tends to be traffic on the narrow streets.
Plug type: G Type
Language: Maltese, Gozitan, English
Timezone: UTC+01:00 (6 hours ahead of EST)
European Greeting: Yes (first greeting: handshake; second greeting one or two kisses)
Climate: Mediterranean, mild winters and warm/hot summers
Visa: With a U.S. Passport you do not need a Visa
Terms to know
Though Malta is an English speaking country, it is still important to know a few sayings in their native language.
Good morning: Bonġu
Rabat: Main City
Saħħa: Cheers (when cheersing in Malta you always look one another in the eye)
Tajjeb ħafna!: It is very delicious
Narak dalwaqt!: See you soon!
Over to you. Have you visited Gozo? If not, what’s your favorite spot to travel to in Europe? Currently taking any and all recommendations for future trips!
The Sunny Side of Things was a welcomed guest of Kempinski San Lawrenz, but as always, our opinions are our own.