Gozo’s luxurious Kempinski hotel encouraged my visit, the overall experience captivated my soul  

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Road leading to hotel's entrance

It would not be a stop in Malta without a trip to Gozo – at least not for me.

I have been to Malta and the neighboring Maltese Island of Gozo several times. With each visit, I promised to return to the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz someday.

The Gozo Kempinski folks were happy to accommodate when the opportunity (and airline ticket price) presented itself this past December.

I was also thrilled my trip would let me share that Gozo’s Kempinski was taking on a huge renovation ready for its summer guests.

So, armed with that information, I went to one of my favorite destinations in the world.

I arrived in Malta’s capital, Valletta, late in the evening and spent my first night at the luxurious Phoenician Malta. My only regret is that I was there for only one short night.

Since it was the December holiday season, just outside the hotel was a carnival with local food booths and amusement park rides. I rode the Ferris wheel to see Malta from a bird’s-eye view.

It was charming, just as I remembered.

The Phoenician Malta is surrounded by pristine landscaped gardens and is located in the capital of Valletta, near the city’s 16th-century bastions. The property has welcomed guests for 75 years and is a five-star stop. Think of a warm and welcoming staff, and beautifully designed rooms and suites with original features as well as a modern touch, all with the help of Peter Young. There are also bar and restaurant choices. I recommend you stop in at the well-appointed Contessa for dinner, where the chef uses local and seasonal ingredients for the most inspiring flavors.

Pool at sunset
Phoenician on the island of Malta. Photo credit The Phoenician Malta.

The following morning, I was off to Gozo. I booked a car from the hotel to the ferry for my short trip to the neighboring island. You can take the fast ferry, which I could not enjoy because of the day’s weather, or there is the car ferry. The car ferry is a more leisurely choice to arrive in Gozo, but you definitely get the local feel.

Once in Gozo, I was finally on my way to the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz.

Since it was the holiday, the Kempinski lobby had holiday trees and music, and there was an overall joyful feeling of the season.

Gozo is in the heart of the Mediterranean, and the property is an excellent place year-round to get a luxurious Mediterranean vibe. In fact, if you are looking for a summer, fall, winter, or spring getaway, this is the place to call home while visiting the plentiful historical sites in Gozo.

The rooms are spacious at the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz with balconies that offer views of the island’s countryside, rich with secluded beaches, caves to discover, and the beautiful Mediterranean sea.

View from Mediterranean Suite
View from Mediterranean Suite

The Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz is set in a semi-tropical garden atmosphere with 141 rustic rooms and suites. The Ayurveda spa should be your first stop, offering three outdoor pools, two heated indoor pools, an indoor whirlpool bath, an Asian Hammam, and a steam chamber.

You will also find plenty of dining options at the Kempinski Hotel San Lawrenz, beginning with L-Istorja. This gem is the best way to truly embark on a gastronomic journey featuring the flavors of Maltese and Gozitan cuisines. The restaurant’s name means ‘history,’ and the culinary experience features the history of Gozo’s diverse cultural influences. From a taste of the Middle East to the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, Italians, French, and British, the culinary landscape of this island is part of the charm, and L-Istorja will not disappoint.

The L’Ortolan restaurant offers themed buffets during the summer in an al fresco terrace atmosphere perfect for a Mediterranean night.

Other dining options include the Il-Baldakkin Gastrobar on the hotel’s terrace, which offers views for miles and light meal choices. Sweet indulgences are available at ARJA la Patisserie, and the Pool Bar features expert mixologists alongside Spanish tapas and homemade ice cream/sorbet.

While it might be hard to leave the relaxing space at the Kempinski, the island of Gozo is rich with historical must-sees.

The Kempinski San Lawrenz is west of Gozo. San Lawrenz was originally known as Ta’ Cangura, the name derived from the dedication of an old chapel in the area dating back to at least 1575.

Exploring The Legends & Architecture In Gozo

Gozo is the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago of three islands. The third is Comino, these days not inhabited. Gozo is 26 square miles, which is roughly the size of Manhattan.

Known for some of the oldest freestanding stone buildings in the world, Gozo’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites date back to 3600 BC.

Expect stunning architecture all around the island, a nod to the knights of Malta’s history, watchtowers, mystical caves, and magical hills and valleys. There is as much to do in Gozo as your time allows, and the energy is worth the discovery on this tiny mystical island.

If you know of Calypso’s cave from Homer’s Odyssey, the legend begins here. The sea nymph held Odysseus captive under her spell for seven years.

You do not want to miss the Ggantija Temples, which are 5000 years old and from the megalithic age and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are two temples to explore, the south temple being the oldest. Note that these temples dwarf the other Maltese prehistoric temples in Malta and Gozo.

The Xaghra Circle Hypogeum became widely known in the early 1800s and was forgotten until it was rediscovered in 1959. The circles are located near the Ggantija Temples. The excavations led to the discovery of natural caves inside the circles that were used as underground burial sites for the people who used the circles from around 4500 to 2500 BC. After that time, the temple people seemed to have disappeared from the area, leaving no clues as to their history or new location.

You will not be disappointed when visiting the gargantuan blocks of stone, and you will hear of Sansuna, “the strong woman of Ggantija,” as part of the legend of the megalithic temples at Xaghra. These stones are so large that the belief is that Gozo was once inhabited by giants, and it was said Sansuna moved these blocks herself to build the temple.

Salt pans, dating back to 1740 and still used today, are a worthy stop. During the summer, visitors might also be able to see salt harvesting, with the Cini family still at the helm of this tradition.

Many guests come to Gozo for the Citadel, which dominates the landscape above the town of Victoria. This place has been the scene of much island activity since Neolithic times and is the only cathedral on the island with no dome.

Dwejra Bay is recommended for a brilliant sunset. Notice the rugged beauty of the place and take in the timeless energy. Also, at Dwejra Bay, there is a watchtower dating back to 1562. As for sunsets, if you climb to the top, the sunset becomes even more magical as you are surrounded by the island.

Gozo is so full of mystery and magic, and as the sun sets here, it is undoubtedly an ephemeral moment not to be forgotten.

 

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