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The islands of the Azores - which to visit and what to do

Azores featured

Situated in the mid-Atlantic, remote, volcanic yet full of life sit the nine islands of the Azores.

The archipelago’s islands are divided into three; the Eastern Group (Santa Maria and São Miguel), the Central Group (Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial) and the Western Group (Corvo and Flores). On first glance, the rocky landmasses all have a similar presence - rugged and green with impressive geological structures, but delve deeper and you’ll find an individual charm on each island.

Whether you’re visiting the Azores for the first time or you’re returning for more exploration, we’ve put together a handy guide to some of the best islands to visit.

São Miguel

Ponta Delgada Credit Gustav Turismo dos Açores

As the largest of the islands, São Miguel lends itself as the perfect introduction to the Azores.

Visit the capital of Ponta Delgada to dive right into the rich culture. Stroll the cobbled streets towards the relaxing squares found dotted around the centre, admiring the crisp white buildings as you pass.

The city is brimming with history from Saint Sebastian’s Church built in the 16th century, to the 18th century Portas da Cidade (City Gates) and the modern-day offerings are just as impressive – with numerous restaurants and live music venues on offer.

Outside of the city, discover why São Miguel is known as Ilha Verde or ‘Green Island’. See the Terra Nostra Gardens and the tree-lined twin crate lakes at Sete Cidades. Get more of a taste of the volcanic landscape at Furnas Valley where you can try the ‘Cozido das Furnas’, a classic stew with an Azorean twist - cooked using natural steam from the ground.

Though the island certainly has plenty to keep you busy, a visit wouldn’t be complete without venturing out into the surrounding waters. With around 25 different cetacean species found in the Azorean waters, you have the opportunity to not only spot some of the ocean giants such as humpback and sperm whales but also to swim alongside wild dolphins.

Our holidays to São Miguel:

Faial

Faial

Faial is the fourth largest island with a vibrant marina. Sit with a coffee and count the ships passing or stroll to sights such as the Castle of Santa Cruz.

Inland, the Caldeira is one of the biggest attractions of Faial. You can climb to the highest point of the extinct volcano that formed the island to see the crater as well as views out to the ocean and neighbouring Pico Island.

There’s also the Ponta dos Capelinhos lighthouse and volcano information centre. Head to the top of the lighthouse to see the newest section of Faial Island, formed in 1957 during an eruption.

For the ultimate volcanic experience, you can take on a full-day ten volcano hike. You will explore the Caldeira and Levada hiking routes, as well as a third trail around the peninsula of Capelo. This is a hard hike of around 20km but is well worth it to appreciate the volcanic heritage and the geothermal power at play.

Our holidays to Faial:

São Jorge

Sao Jorge

Best known for its cheese, São Jorge is a small, cliff-lined island nicknamed island of fajãs (small plains created by volcanic activity or landslides). Some of the fajãs are only accessible by foot, making São Jorge an ideal walking destination.

The route to Caldeira do Santo Cristo rewards you with a natural lagoon that’s definitely worth a dip after a 10km walk, or you can take a more relaxed route from Fajã dos Cubres, considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal.

When you’re finished walking, tour the coffee plantation of Fajã dos Vimes or visit the welcoming village of Urzelina and Manadas.

Our holidays to São Jorge:

Pico

Pico

As the highest mountain in Portugal, Mount Pico is undoubtedly the big draw of the island with many visitors coming specifically to climb to the top of this dormant volcano. The geological wonders continue with a tour of Gruta das Torres lava cave but Pico is much more than its volcanic past.

Spend some time in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and vineyards of Criação Velha, sampling the local produce on a sunny afternoon.

Stroll around the island’s smaller villages and fishing ports for lunch with wonderful views out to the Atlantic.

Or see why Pico is renowned for its marine life. Go dolphin and whale watching and if conditions allow, you could even get into the water to swim alongside the wild dolphins.

Our holidays to Pico Island:


Image credits: Futurismo Azores Adventure, JB Chandelier & Turismo Dos Açores, Gustav & Turismo dos Açores, MauríCio De Abreu, DRT & Turismo Dos Açores

Read 328 times Last modified on Friday, 05 July 2019

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