The nine islands of the Azores are midway in the Atlantic between Europe and North America. Forming the westernmost point of Europe, these volcanic islands are a paradise for nature lovers and people looking for an active holiday. The scenery is spectacular and includes waterfalls, volcanic craters, iridescent blue crater lakes, thermal springs, geysers, wild hydrangeas and the highest peak in Portugal – Mount Pico. The Azores are a great holiday for the active. You can walk, cycle, rock climb, canyon and canoe. And with real opportunities for spotting whales and dolphins, wildlife enthusiasts will be happy too. There is one direct flight a week to the Azores although on other days you can fly via Lisbon. The Azores are best seen on a multi-island itinerary of at least seven days – see below for information on each island. Please do get in touch if you would like to visit these magical islands.
All of the islands have great walking trails and many of the walks can be self-guided. But the well known ascent of Pico should be done with a guide. There are some excellent walking guide books and a decent map is available.
Known as Ilha Verde (Green Island), Sao Miguel is the largest of the Azores with vibrant blue crater lakes and hedgerows packed with hydrangea from April to early summer. There are hot springs and geysers and the Spa town of Furnas has a thermal mineral lake and botanical gardens. There is also a pineapple plantation on Sao Miguel. It is a great island for an action packed holiday – you can walk, cycle, canoe, canyon and rock climb. For a taste of local cuisine, try the traditional meal of meat and veg cooked underground in the vapours from the mineral springs. There is some lovely walking including to and around Sete Cidades – two lakes, one blue, one green, said to have been created from the tears of two lovers forced to part.
Graciosa is a laid back island with picturesque scenery of idyllic pastures, whitewashed houses, and red tipped windmills. Walking is not the main attraction but you can walk around the caldera at the Furna do Enxofre and there are other walks in the rolling countryside.
Some call Faial the blue island because of the abundant hydrangeas that bloom spectacularly blue in July and August. The marina of Horta is a big attraction, a place where transatlantic yachts stop to restock supplies and fuel and where you can take some great whale watching trips. Visit Capelhinos, the site of a major volcanic eruption in 1957 which added another 2km to the island.
There are seven crater lakes on Flores and incredible wild hydrangeas. Part of the sheer coastline of Flores has roughly twenty waterfalls cascading down the lush greenery. They are the westernmost islands of the Azores. The most western point in Europe!
Sao Jorge is one of the best islands for walkers in the archipelago. The landscape is doored with over forty fajas, small plains created by solidified lava. The island is famous for its cheese, a semi hard cheese similar to cheddar.
Pico is dominated by the dormant volcanic cone of Pico, the highest point in Portugal. Walks on the island are plentiful but an ascent of Pico with a guide is a must. Elsewhere on the island you will find vineyards growing the Pico Verdelho grapes.
The island's historic capital Angra do Heroismo is a UNESCO world heritage site and its cobbled streets appear untouched by time. Once the centre of Atlantic trading, a visit here will make you think of pirates and treasure ships. Elsewhere in the centre of the island there is some great walking and cycling, this is another fabulous way to see the island. You can also take whale watching tours from here.
Claiming to be the the sunniest island in the archipelago because it is the furthest south, the small island of Santa Maria boasts some beautiful white sand beaches. There is great diving around the islets off the coast , some nice walking and lovely sea swimming pools, some built into lava formations.