AZORES ISLANDS: WHEN AND WHICH ISLAND TO VISIT
LET'S DISCOVER THE SUSTAINABLE TOURIST DESTINATION
The Azores are 9 volcanic islands in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between the Old World and America.
Still unknown to mass tourism, the archipelago is a wonderful destination for lovers of unspoilt nature, trekking and responsible, sustainable tourism.
It is the European destination where you can see the most whales, especially sperm whales, and many varieties of dolphins; where you can climb volcanoes, explore huge caves and dive in volcanic cones.
The Azores are also linked to the myth of Atlantis... and are considered the highest mountains on the planet, from the base of the ocean floor; among them, the Pico volcano stands out: it is the highest mountain in Portugal with its 2,351 metres. If you venture up to the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the other islands in the central group, and feel a bit like 'the king of the world'!
The Azores have a multitude of natural, historical and cultural resources that make them unique in the world; for this reason, they are the only archipelago to have been officially certified as a "sustainable tourist destination".
According to this certification, tourism in the Azores is committed to sustainability policies, such as the conservation of nature and landscapes; the protection of biodiversity; the production and management of energy and the quality of air, waste and water; the promotion of environmental education and the valorization of the islands' local products and cultural heritage.
9 islands, so far away from each other, that they are divided into three groups:
-Eastern Group: Sao Miguel and Santa Maria
- Central Group: Terceira, Graciosa, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge
- Western Group: Flores and Corvo
Lands of volcanoes, caves, lagoons, laurissilva forest and colourful hortensias contrasting with the blue Atlantic ocean, they are all beautiful islands. Each with its own characteristics and peculiarities, it is difficult to say which is the most interesting or my favourite. My advice is to go back several times to explore and discover them all.
The first time you go there, it is difficult to choose which one to visit and how to get around.
Let me help you; choosing an organised trip is certainly ideal, you save some precious time and you don't miss the best things of the islands; you travel in a simple and safe way, trusting in the organisation of an expert who will care about all details.
Below, a brief presentation of the islands you can visit in my itineraries, designed to experience the best of each island.
Sao Miguel: the green island, is the largest. The only island with hot springs, where you can immerse yourself in lush nature. There is a lot to see and to experience here.
Definitely not to be missed is the area of las Furnas, with its sulphurous hot springs, where the typical cozido is cooked with the power of steam. The Terra Nossa Botanical Park, not far away, with its infinite varieties of plants from all over the world and its iron-rich thermal waters, is a natural jewel.
The Blue and Green lagoons of Sete Cidades, an iconic image of the island, are breathtaking, as well as the volcanic landscapes that can be admired from the various viewpoints (miradouros) and along the trekking routes between the volcanic craters.
The tea plantations, unique in Europe, are another must-see, as the waterfalls hidden in the forests that you can reach during some hiking.
Terceira: the island of festivals and the traditional tourada a corda. Angra do Heroismo, a Renaissance city, still conserve its splendid aspect, even if it was destroyed by a devastating earthquake. It's part UNESCO World Heritage since 1980. Just think, there was a time in the Portuguese history when this Atlantic city was the capital of Portugal! Vasco de Gama arrived here in 1494 and Angra was the hub of international trade: all the spices and precious goods from the Brazil and India routes passed here. A guided tour to discover its history, monuments and traditions is could be very interesting.
Terceira boasts one of the most beautiful natural pools in the archipelago: Biscoitos. This is a special spot for a refreshing swim in the ocean, surrounding by lots of fish!
Don't miss the opportunity to descend into the Algar do Carvao volcanic cone; to explore the Gruta do Natal and to walk among the Furnas do Enxoifre, to experience the volcanic phenomena of Terceira, and discover the geological formation of the islands.
Pico: the island of strong colour contrasts: the intense black of the lava rock from which the typical houses are built; the dark blue of the ocean; the thousand greens of the central area, mountainous and dotted with small volcanic lagoons... and then him: the stratospheric Pico volcano, dominating the island with its 2351 metres; it is the highest mount of Portugal. Climbing to the top is an exciting personal adventure: a very epic hike!
Thanks to its whaling tradition, Pico is also the best island for whale watching. Don't miss a visit to the Whale Museum in Lajes, where you will learn about the history of whaling (the island's main activity until 1980) and the art of scrimshaw.
Finally, I recommend a walk through the UNESCO World Heritage vineyards: the vines, protected by black lava walls overlooking the ocean, form a breathtaking panorama!
At dinner, don't miss the opportunity to taste some typical local wines.
Sao Jorge: the island of fairytale treks. The most beautiful trails, among hortensias, waterfalls and breathtaking faijas (plain formed by lava flows) are here. A bucolic landscape without equal. My favourite trail is here, and I always love to take my travellers there! A place outside of space and time, where you can walk for hours in unspoilt nature.
The Simão Dias natural swimming pools set among the rocks, with their crystal-clear waters, are also unmissable.
Among the typical products, Sao Jorge is the island of cheese; visit a cheese factory and try the various mature cheeses to see which is your favourite!
Faial: the island of sailors. This island has been celebrated in the pages of famous books, such as Tabucchi's "Women of Porto Pim", and "Mobydick", which also talks about the Azorean whalers.
The island's highlights are undoubtedly the Caldeira (the 400-metre-deep volcanic crater with a perimeter of about 2 km that you can walk through on the official trek); the Capelinhos area, the lunar landscape created by the last volcanic eruption between 1956 and 1957; and then the picturesque town of Horta, whose harbour with its murals and Peter's Café are two must-sees.
Have a gyn tonic at the bar, which for centuries has been a meeting point for sailors from all over the world, and enjoy the Atlantic atmosphere.
Want to travel to Azores?!
Here I suggest a few trips I organize, depending on the number of days you have available:
- 5 days/4 nights: the triangle Pico, Faial, Sao Jorge
- 8 days/7nights: Sao Miguel and Terceira
-7days/6 nights: the best of Sao Miguel, Pico e Faial
- 10 days/9 nights: the central group Terceira, Pico, Sao Jorge, Faial
- 10 days/9 nights: the best of Sao Miguel, Terceira, Pico e Faial
Travel option "free departure", ideal for solo travellers or couples 2-4 people, with individual departures, on request, all year round.
Travel option "small group tour" (6-15 people) with scheduled departures on fixed dates, all year round and local tour guide.
Info for availability, programmes and costs at firstname.lastname@example.org