The Azores is an archipelago of nine volcanic islands scattered across the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Although an autonomous region of Portugal, they’re located exactly half-way between Lisbon and Boston. You can fly directly to these paradise islands from the East Coast in as little as five hours.
With their subtropical climate, the Azores remain warm year-round and temperatures never drop below double figures. Once the rainy season (November to March) subsides, the islands are alive with flowers. The mild weather and scenery make the Azores an attractive choice for hiking, watersports and whale watching.
Find out which of these islands are the most interesting to visit.
As the largest of the nine, São Miguel is the ideal starting place for a vacation in the Azores. It draws together lush landscapes, fine food and cultural activities.
With its elegant black and white architecture, bustling marina and spread of museums, Ponta Delgada is the capital of the island. Meanwhile, over in Furnas, you can dine at Tony's Restaurant where local speciality, cozido, is slow-cooked on the volcanic soil.
São Miguel is teeming with natural beauty, such as the Sete Cidades crater lake. The Parque Terra Nostra is a botanical dreamworld where you can wander among ginger lilies and camellias before taking a dip in the thermal pools. An alternative is the Caldeira Velha natural hot springs that are buried within the rainforest and feature a waterfall.
One other unique attraction is the Gorreana Tea Factory. This historic tea plantation opened in 1883 and is the only one you can find in Europe.
Central Island Group
If you would like to island-hop in the Azores, you can visit the Central Island Group. Ferries operate year-round and connections between the following islands take 30-60 minutes. If you wish to visit islands further afield then flights are more time-effective.
This small island is dominated by the Caldeira. It takes 2-3 hours to hike around the crater edge but you shouldn’t attempt this on a wet or windy day. When the sky is at its clearest, you may even be rewarded with views of Mount Pico.
At the western tip of the island, you will find another volcanic landscape that will make you feel like you’ve traveled to the moon. During 1957-58, an underwater volcanic eruption took place just off the island. This resulted in the formation of Capelinhos, an extension to the island
Faial’s main town, Horta, is a popular stop-off for sailors who paint murals at the marina before they continue their journey. Come July, Faial is awash with blue hydrangeas.
Pico features rockier and moodier landscapes. Despite the terrain, the island has a fascinating culture of winemaking which will astonish wine enthusiasts.
Local vintners use the black basalt to create plots (currais). These expose the vines to the sun while at the same time protecting them from the wind. 2,000 acres of these plots form the Unesco World Heritage Site of Criação Velha and a wine tour is the best way to understand Pico’s viticultural traditions.
São Jorge is the wildest of the central islands. The heartland is occupied almost entirely by mountains which race dramatically to reach the shoreline. Sprinkled around the base of these cliffs are fajãs - small plains formed by a combination of lava flows. Tiny villages are nestled among these fajãs.
If you are seeking an escape to subtropical Europe, then the Azores are a fantastic choice that reduces your time spent in transit. You can even combine your Azores vacation with a trip to nearby Madeira.
Feel free to get in touch for more details about the Azores or Madeira islands
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