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Destination of the Month: The Azores

February 1, 2016

 

Gifted by a king to his nephew, the Azores has a dazzling history once coloured by war and trade.

 

Until the 15th century, the islands were pristine, no indigenous people and nobody had ever settled there. They were known to exist because seven of the islands appeared on the 1351 Medici Atlas.


King Alfonso III gave them to his nephew the Infante Dom Henrique (Henry The Navigator) and the lands were thus colonised.  

 

Now the Azores are growing in fame for tourism.

 

It's often thought they lie in the Caribbean, but this group of nine islands is actually located 900 miles from Portugal, in the mid-Atlantic.


The Azores has a mild climate (reaching 25C degrees in the height of summer) making it the perfect destination for outdoor activities. Winter can be unpredictable, but the islands are never cold.


The archipelago separates into three groups: São Miguel and Santa Maria in the east; the central group of Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial; and Flores and Corvo in the west.  


Because of their remote location, the traditional lifestyle of the Azoreans outside the main towns has remained virtually unchanged.  There is hardly any industry apart from agriculture and fishing. The pace of life is slow.


There are 33 blue flag beaches and natural swimming pools, and the volcanic formation of the islands has endowed them with a spectacular natural beauty.  Vast craters nurturing glistening blue lakes, sheer black cliffs falling into the ocean, lush rolling valleys, rugged mountains, hot mineral springs and geysers combine to form a truly diverse scenery found nowhere else in the world.  


That temperate climate ensures an abundance of flowers, and the deep greens of the lush grasslands contrast markedly with dark volcanic stone walls and neat whitewashed houses.


All the islands are good for walking but some of the most scenic walks can be found on Sao Miguel, Sao Jorge, Flores and Santa Maria.


Alongside whale and dolphin watching, you may enjoy a guided island tour with plenty of photo stop opportunities; colourful festivals including the Festas de Santo Cristo (Christ of Miracles), which takes place in Ponta Delgada between 23-29 May; bathing in a thermal pool; walking through the botanical gardens of Furnas; visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angra do Heroismo (Terceira); ordering a gin and tonic at Peter's Cafe (Faial) – a must for any visitor to the island.


And keep this under your (sun)hat, but a draught beer costs about 90p.

 

 

So, to explore, share our guide: Sunvil, experts in the Azores with decades of experience and a permanent commitment to giving you the highest standards.


Their recommendation for first-time visitors was a three-island tour for 7 days, but we'll be able to tailor-make any holiday you desire, so this is just a suggestion. A great range of accommodation is available across the islands too, and we'd be happy to find your perfect place to stay.


Azores: 3-Island Tour

 

Day 1: Fly from London Gatwick to Ponta Delgada airport on the island of São Miguel. Transfer to the Hotel Vila Nova, located near the 16th century Fort of São Brás and the Praça (Square) de 5 Outubro in the city centre of Ponta Delgada, close to the town’s cobbled shopping streets and 18th century city gates.

Day 2: Morning city tour of Ponta Delgada, starting at the Botanical Garden José do Canto and continuing on foot to see some of the highlights the city has to offer. Stop for lunch (not included). Then continue towards Sete Cidades Lakes by the mountain road. Stop at ‘Vista do Rei’ to enjoy the magnificent view over the two lakes (one blue, the other green) and the surrounding area.


Day 3: Depart from Ponta Delgada to Vila Franca do Campo, the first capital of São Miguel. Continue to the village of Furnas, where you will have time to explore the beautiful botanical gardens and hot springs. A traditional Cozido lunch will be taken at a local restaurant before returning to Ponta Delgada by the north coast, visiting a tea plantation and Santa Iria viewpoint en route.


Day 4: Flight to Faial (1 hour). Transfer to the Hotel do Canal in the heart of Horta, opposite the marina.
In the afternoon, depart for a tour of the island. The route will include traveling by the mountain road towards Caldeira, the highest point on the island at 1,043 metres. Continue north to Capelinhos, the site of the last volcanic eruption in the Azores in 1957 and visit the museum, which details the evolution of the eruption. Return to Horta.


Day 5: Depart from Horta Harbour by boat (30 minutes) to Pico Island and on to the village of Lajes do Pico. This was the centre of the whaling industry in the Azores. Today you can visit the Whaler’s museum (included in the tour) located on the harbour front. Continue to the village of São Roque with a brief stop (lunch not included). Return to Madalena port, visiting the black rocks of Cachorro en route. Return to Faial by boat.


Day 6: Transfer to Horta airport for the short flight to São Miguel. Stay in the Hotel Talisman, an elegantly styled abode in the historical centre of Ponta Delgada.


Day 7: Free time on São Miguel. Opportunity to explore the town of Ponta Delgada, indulge in some shopping and/or participate in whale watching or a swimming with dolphins excursion (pre-bookable), or just relax, before flying home the next day.


Prices start from £1,403 per person, including:

  • Saturday scheduled flights with SATA International from London Gatwick to Ponta Delgada (São Miguel)

  • 7-nights B&B accommodation

  • All inter-island flights, transfers, entrance tickets (botanical garden and museums) and Cozido lunch as stated

  • Guided excursions (minibus and guide or taxi/jeep with an English speaking driver).

Prices based on 2-sharing.

 

 


 

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