There are few places in the world that are off the tourist track and the Azores is one of them! In the middle of the Atlantic ocean is a cluster of nine islands that you seldom hear about. Far from the Iberian coast is the Azores. Part of Portugal, the Azores is an archipelago that boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes, flora, and marine life in the world.
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Azores is located in the NorthAtlantic ocean, sitting between 1,400–2,000km west of the Iberian Peninsula lies the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal. Having remained in the shadow of mainland Europe for decades, the Azores is finally being recognized as an exotic destination that offers both adventure and relaxation. Countless dramatic waterfalls, lush green pastures, empty winding roads lined with hydrangeas, and lakes nestled in volcanic craters kilometeres wide, are justsome of its highlights.
The Azores has long been missed by most travellers. In fact, it wasn’t until 1432 that Portuguese settler sclaimed the islands. This was just 60 years before Columbus stumbled on the NewWorld!
With flights times from mainlandPortugal being just two hours, and four and a half hours from North America, getting to the Azores is a fairly easy no matter which side of the pond you’re on.
The Azores is made up of nine islands which are divided into three groups. Flores and Corvo, sit in the Western group; Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial are in the Central group; and São Miguel and Santa Maria lie in the Eastern group.Together, they extend for more than 600 km (370 mi).
São Miguel is the largest island of the archipelago, measuring 62.1 km in length and 15.8 km at its maximum width. It also has the most inhabitants of all the islands with over 140,000 people. The largest city in the Azores and its capital is Ponta Delgada and located right here on São Miguel island.
What to Expect in the Azores
It doesn’t matter if you go to one or all nine islands; you won’t be disappointed and you’ll want to go back for more!
The Azores is analogous to Iceland, but with nicer weather. They’re isolated, virtually untouched and showcases a dramatic volcanic landscape.
Everywhere you look are either hydrangeas, cute quiet towns of black and white brick buildings, meadows ofFriesian cows, towering trees, natural geothermal springs, and volcanic craters filled with aqua blue water, and black sand coastlines.
Every part of the Azores is a visual feast.
On the more practical note, all the creature comforts from home are here including a variety of restaurants, supermarkets, cafés, and bars. The mobile network coverage is top-notch and free wi-fi in most establishment around the island.
If you’re still not convinced yet on the awesomeness of the Azores, let’s take a look at…
11 Reasons Why You Should Visit the Azores
1. See Nature at its Best
If gushing waterfalls, magnificent volcanic landscapes, blue and green lagoons, rolling green fields bordered with flowers, and jagged coastlines aren’t your thing, then the Azores is not for you. On top of that, the Azores has been hailed as one of The World’s Top 10 Sustainable Destinations.
2. Picturesque Black-and-White Towns
As you navigate your way around the islands you’ll encounter meticulously decorated cobblestoned streets in adorable black-and-white towns.
Look out for the lavishly decorated 14th-century churches which were later given a Baroque facelift.
3. Endless Activities and Adventures
The Azores has something for everyone. The Azores has always been a sort of mecca for divers, but now many outdoor activities and tours are taking things to a whole new level. Choose from such as whale watching, paragliding, kayaking, sailing, swimming with dolphins, hiking, and surfing.
Still not convinced?
4. Cheap, Cheap, Cheap
The most expensive part of the trip is getting there (even then you can get good deals if you’re early) but once you arrive, money is a non-issue.
Visiting all the different vantage points and hiking the calderas are free. There are only small entrance fees to the various thermal pools which range between 2–8EUR.
5. The Azoreans are Friendly
Whether they speak English or not, the locals are friendly and all too willing to help you.
6. Swim with Dolphins and Go Whale watching
The Azores is one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Around the archipelago, there are approximately twenty-five different resident and migratory species which can be spotted. The Sperm whale is amongst the most common, and both the blue and fin whale are regularly found in these waters.
Endemic to the temperate and tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean is the super cute Atlantic Spotted dolphin. You can swim with and observe these playful creatures in their natural environment. There are literally hundreds of them!
7. A Land of Volcanoes
The Azores are considered to be the Hawaii of Europe with its volcanic activity playing a big part in its comparison. Across all the islands you’ll experience volcanic phenomena. From its black sandy beaches, natural hot springs, geysers in Furnas where hot steam from deep underground burst to the surface to where food is cooked in the volcanic underground.
Then there’s the Capelinhos volcano where you can literally walk on the lava remains of a volcano that last erupted in 1958.
8. Even When it Rains it’s Warm
Thanks to its distance from the continents and by the passing Gulf Stream, the Azores enjoy a mild climate with daytime temperatures fluctuating between 16 °C (61 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F)depending on the season.
9. Amazing Food and Wine
The Azorean cuisine is quite rich in flavours and thanks to the weather conditions green pastures provide plenty of nutrients to the animals. Rump stew is a speciality on the islands of SãoMiguel, Pico and Terceira and Santa Maria is famous for its turnip broth with pork.
Seafood is also popular with clams, grilled limpets, slipper lobsters, spider crabs and whelks all present on the restaurant menu.
In São Miguel, the most famous dish is Furnas stew because of how it’s prepared. This pot of meat and vegetables is buried in the fumaroles where it is slowly cooked over a 6–7 hour period.
To mop up all that stew you’re going to need some bread. There are several delicious kinds to choose including sweetbread and cornbread.
Azorean cheeses, almonds, jams, and the sweet Azorean pineapple are just some of the other culinary highlights.
10. Unique Handicraft
The settlers of the Azores brought with them a wealth of techniques concepts and objects that ended up combining with natural resources. This resulted in works made from the most diverse materials including, fabric, vegetables, wood, metal, stone, bone, ivory, and fish scales.
Look out for the linen and cotton embroideries of Terceira and São Miguel, wicker baskets in Graciosa, Faial andFlores and loom quilts made of colourful sheep wool in São Jorge.
11. The Time is Now!
With the introduction of direct flights to the Azores, this awesome news for travelers means that now you cango somewhere different that is still close to home yet refreshingly undiscovered.
As of early 2015, any airline company can now fly to the Azores thanks to the airspace being liberalised. Airlines such as Ryanair, TAP Air Portugal, Azores Airlines and Easyjet all have regular and more importantly, cheap, flights from Porto, Lisbon, andLondon.
Now is the time to go!
Article written by: The Intrepid Guide