Pull on your most ghoulish mask and join the locals at Gozo’s spontaneous 'silent' carnival.
Forget neon colours and bombastic music. Malta’s sister island has produced a thoroughly unique form of carnival: zany and macabre, with grotesque masks and satirical floats parading through the streets at night.
Nadur is the place to be for this deeply traditional but spontaneous carnival - and you won’t be alone, this is an extremely popular event among locals, so you may want to take note of the travel tips below!
viewingmalta.com - Peter Vanicsek
The reason it’s called a 'spontaneous' carnival is because, well, that's what it is. Unlike the mainstream carnival celebrations in Valletta and Gozo’s capital Victoria (Rabat), Nadur’s carnival is not organised by any formal committee, and there are no rules. And it all takes place under cover of darkness.
Participants simply turn up in whatever disguise they fancy, but most are masked and hooded in funny or grotesque get-ups, some of a satirical nature, and many go as far as remaining completely silent so as not to give away their disguise. This is why it’s also known as the Silent Carnival. Some of the more grotesque masks are simply fashioned out of sack-cloths, however, revellers do tend to loosen their tongues after a few drinks, and late at night, the street party has been known to turn wild!
The Nadur floats are little more than farm carts dressed up to express satirical comments on public, and sometimes, private individuals. Make friends with a local and ask them to interpret the placards and explain the mini-scenes acted out on the stage-like floats.
I cannot stress enough how popular the carnival in Gozo is with the locals, so if you wish to join them (and, of course, you must) leave your hired car at the hotel, hop on the bus and sail past the lengthy queues for the ferry. The crossing from Cirkewwa to Mgarr takes 25 minutes. A special schedule operates on carnival weekend to accommodate the increase in traffic with extra crossings even at night. There is also a special public transport schedule on Gozo that weekend, with buses running at 1am to all localities on the island, and also to Mgarr harbour to coincide with the ferry.
Party and stay
Follow the locals’ example and stay on Gozo for the carnival weekend so you can enjoy the party to the max. The Maltese prefer renting out self-catering farmhouses with their family and friends where the party continues behind closed doors, but the island has several types of accommodation to choose from, all featuring that unique Gozitan characteristic of warm, rustic charm.