The Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal and an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic made up of nine islands. While many people have not even heard of these islands… The Azores are truly incredible and feature dramatic landscapes. Including blue hydrangeas, fishing villages and green pastures. The nine islands that make up the Azores are Flores and Corvo to the West. Sao Miguel and Santa Maria to the East. Graciosa, Terceira, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial in the centre.
What Makes The Azores Special?
Colonised by the Portuguese in the 1400s, the Azores islands are all marked by volcanic mountain peaks and each offers different incredible features and tiny cobblestone villages. As the Azores are still quite undiscovered, they are very easy to visit as well as affordable and authentic, maintaining an Azorean charm. Discount and commercial airlines fly to the Azores regularly from Lisbon at very low prices.
While the Azores are not a sunny and beach destination as many would think. Each island offers something truly incredible for each visitor. The weather on the islands does in fact change hour to hour and varies between sun and rain. However, on the island of Sao Miguel, the north-central part of the island receives more sun than the southern part. Known as a vibrant garden in the middle of the Atlantic… Sao Miguel is perfect for enjoying natural landscapes and beautiful viewpoints as well as historic buildings. While in Sao Miguel make sure to visit the Vista do Rei Viewpoint, the Canario Lake and Monte Palace Hotel.
The island of Flores is often described as a smaller version of Ireland or Switzerland. It features luscious green hills and eight untouched lagoons. Additionally, there’s hundreds of clear-water creeks cascading into lakes and into the Atlantic Ocean. The island truly offers unparalleled natural beauty! Flores is a haven for eco-tourism. Plus there’s a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve offering a great selection of local events and festivities as well. The island also offers official hiking trails perfect for enjoying long walks among nature. An island coastal tour by boat is also a great way to discover every angel of Flores. Thanks to its steep cliffs and waterfalls Flores is also one of the recommended destinations for canyoning in the Azores! Scuba diving is also a great activity on the island given the diversity of underwater species.
Similarly, the island of Terceira offers a wonderful selection of natural beauty. Attractions on the island range from scenic viewpoints to natural wonders. Terceira is the second most populated Azorean island with 58000 inhabitants and the third biggest surface area after Sao Miguel and Pico. The island is also home to the Azores’ oldest city: UNESCO protected Angra do Heroismo whose cobbled streets, historic architecture and friendly population five the city as relaxing and quiet charm. The island’s rugged landscape is ideal for exploring on foot or by bike and the nutrient rich sea features whales and dolphins!
Speaking The Language
As the islands are still pretty undiscovered and not flooding with tourism just yet. So it is a good idea to know a few words in Portuguese when traveling to the Azores. Language learning apps like Babbel for example are very useful for learning Portuguese phrases. So it’s always worth having them on hand while there. The islands are a very remote and tranquil destination. For this reason, they are certainly not a party destination. As mentioned above, the weather in the Azores is also incredibly unpredictable due to their location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Azores are also considered to be the European Hawaii as volcanic activity is present on every island. You will find dark black sand on all the beaches in the Azores as well as thermal springs. Another great thing to know before travelling to the Azores is that public transportation is not very strong or efficient. Therefore, getting around the islands can be quite tricky and expensive, so the best solution is to rent a car. Another great suggestion is to fly between islands of different groups (Western, Central and Eastern). Additionally, consider taking a ferry only for short trips in inter-grouping islands, as this too can be fairly expensive.
What’s On The Menu
Many people might not know that the Azores are the only region in Europe where tea is grown! The tea estates on the island of Sao Miguel have been producing organic black, green and orange pekoe teas since 1883. Stop by Gorreana or Porto Formoso to gain insight on the way everything works and experience a hike through the tea fields.
The food in the Azores is also of great quality and one of the main reasons to visit! The local cuisine is based on a healthy Mediterranean diet and food comes in generous portions with a low price tag. The most typical food to try is certainly Cozida das Furnas (Furna Stew), cooked underground with volcanic steam in Sao Miguel. The typical Queijadas and iconic Azorean pineapple are also a few local delicacies. Not forgetting the tender and juicy Bife (steak). It’s a carnivore’s paradise!
As the Azores islands remain undiscovered and still quite remote… Their natural landscapes, rich traditions and beautiful sceneries make them an incredible destination to visit in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
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