Sitting in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is Portugal’s nine-island archipelago, The Azores. The very name Azores sounds exotic. It certainly doesn’t sound like the islands are part of Europe but and once you are there, it’s often hard to believe that you are not in somewhere far further flung like Hawaii or New Zealand.
Tourism has yet to reach The Azores in a particularly big way and even in Ponta Delgada, the capital of the largest island, Sao Miguel, you will see little to suggest that visitors are impacting in any significant manner. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see and do here.
The waters that surround the islands are popular spots for dolphins and whales. You can even go snorkeling in the ocean with the dolphins and visitors have reported seeing pods of up to 200 animals. Best of all, however, the interaction with the animals is done on their terms rather than in some commercial and restricted environment. It’s simple, if the dolphins want to swim with you then they will. If they don’t, good luck keeping up with them as they glide into the blue depths below!
The Azores are volcanic islands and inland, the landscapes are nothing short of breathtaking. They also lend themselves to active exploration. At Sete Citades, you can cycle along the edge of a volcano and enjoy a thrilling descent before kayaking on the volcano’s lake? There are gentler pursuits to be enjoyed too. The Portuguese islanders love their gardens and you’ll struggle to find anything as therapeutic as an afternoon spent strolling around the botanical park at Furnas.
Life out on the smaller islands such as Faial, São Jorge, and Pico moves at an even slower pace but there is no let up when it comes to landscapes. This is a fabulous country for walking or jeep tours and, on Pico, you can even visit Criação Velha vineyard which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; tasting is included, naturally!