Holidays in the Azores. A guide to beautiful Portugal.

Holidays in the Azores. A guide to beautiful Portugal.

Table of Contents

What to do in the Azores?

The location, landscape and nature of the Azores are so unique that it would be unfair not to visit this amazing place. No matter how much you come here, you will always be short of time. You can see absolutely everything here: the famous mountain lakes of San Miguel, Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo, the amazing Azores beaches, the insurmountable Mount Pico and, of course, a huge variety of marine life, including whales. A vacation here is truly unforgettable!

Whale watching in the Azores

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Whale watching in the Azores

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The Azores islands are probably one of the best places in the world for whale watching. That’s because it is one of the largest whale sanctuaries in the world, home to more than 20 species of cetaceans that either live right here or pass through during their annual migrations. You can see common and bottlenose dolphins as well as sperm whales at any time during your tour. At different times of the year, you can also see different species of animals on the islands. Summer is a good time to see spotted dolphins, pilot whales, striped dolphins, and bearded whales, while in early spring you can see blue whales, sei whales, and fin whales. Because so many cetaceans inhabit and swim through these waters, the chances of you going out on a boat and not seeing anything are extremely slim.

The Azores whale and dolphin watching tours usually last several hours and can be arranged on several islands. Among the tour operators that have received high marks are Futurisimo, departing from the islands of Pico and San Miguel, Terra Azul, based on San Miguel, and OceanEmotion, based on Terceira. Recent tourists agree that it is definitely an unforgettable experience while in the Azores. When we were on this excursion we had a wonderful guide who used to work as a marine biologist. The experience was unforgettable!

Sete Cidades (San Miguel)
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Sete Cidades (San Miguel)

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Sete Cidades is the best place to explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Azores. Conveniently located on the island of San Miguel, Sete Cidades is an area northwest of Ponta Delgada, where there are two huge lakes: the blue and the green, picturesquely located in the center of a caldera 3 miles wide. Here you will find many great vantage points and hiking trails, as well as a small town located at the bottom of the caldera at the base of the lakes. You can visit all of these and other viewpoints if you take the EN9-1A road, which takes you directly to Sete-Sidades.

You can visit all of these and other viewpoints if you take the EN9-1A road, which takes you directly to Sete-Sidades.

For stunning views of the entire Sete Cidades, visit Miradouro da Vista do Rey, the highest point of the caldera, or Miradouro do Serrado das Freiras. From Miradouro da Vista do Rey, you can follow a trail that winds along the west side of the caldera and descends to a small village inside it. There is also the longer Mata do Canario trail, which starts from the stunning Miradouro da Boca do Inferno Lookout. Like the western trail, the Mata do Canario trail runs along the eastern side of the caldera and descends to the village.

Fogo Lake (San Miguel)
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Lake Fogo (San Miguel)

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In addition to Sete Cidades, another stunning crater lake that can be seen on São Miguel is Lagoa do Fogo. Located in the center of São Miguel, Lagoa do Fogo is more isolated than Sete Cidades, making it an ideal spot for solitude if you’re hiking. Otherwise, expect to encounter visitors at viewpoints such as Miradouro do Pico da Barroso, where there is no parking (you have to park on the side of the road).

If you want to get closer to Lagoa do Fogo, you have several options. From Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo (a few steps from Miradouro do Pico da Barroso) you can go down to the lake: the road takes about 30 minutes. But, if you have time, we highly recommend hiking the stunning Praia Lagoa do Fogo trail. This nearly 13-mile round-trip trail takes you through a variety of landscapes, including farmland, woodlands, and evergreen valleys. At the end, you’ll find a descent to the rocky shores of the lake, where, given the length of the route, you probably won’t encounter anyone. Keep in mind, however, that the government of the Azores does not allow swimming in the lake.

Diving in the Azores
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Diving in the Azores

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Have you ever thought about learning to dive? If you want to go to the Azores, now is the time, because the waters in the Azores are just overflowing with a variety of marine life. In addition to being a whale sanctuary (there are more than 20 species of cetaceans), the Azores are also home to many fish, sharks, octopuses, turtles, mobulas (a type of stingray), and more. Along with the diverse marine life, the underwater terrain of the archipelago is no less diverse. Volcanic formations, crater lakes, caves and pinnacles can be found on a dive in the Azores. Shipwrecks are also often found here. Moreover, the archipelago pays great attention to the preservation of its natural landscapes, so you will not find dive sites spoiled by locals or tourists here.

Diving centers are available on all islands except San Jorge and Corvo. If you are not sure where you want to go, it is best to plan your itinerary around the Azores around the island that has the most dive sites. Some popular spots on the islands include Princess Alice Shoal in the waters around Pico Island, the Terceirense shipwreck on Graciosa Island, and Dom João de Castro Shoal between São Miguel and Terceira Islands. Beginners, on the other hand, should look for dive centers that offer lessons or cater to beginners, as they know where you will be most comfortable. Summer is the best time to dive due to warm water temperatures and calm ocean conditions. If you want to see whales, however, you have the best chance of seeing them in early spring.

Furnas Valley (San Miguel)
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Furnas Valley (San Miguel)

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If you want to see with your own eyes the volcanic activity of the Azores, there is no better place than the Furnas Valley. The Furnas area is basically one giant dormant volcano, so hot springs, fumaroles, mud springs and geysers abound. Locals use these geological sites for a variety of purposes, from bathing to cooking. Here you can bathe in the mineral waters, eat dishes cooked in the steam springs (such as stew of cozido das Furnas), and drink tea brewed with water from the volcano (you can find it at Chalet da tia Mercês).

Start your journey in Furnas at Caldeiras das Furnas, the best place to observe the volcanic activity of the area. Here you can walk through fumaroles, bubbling mud springs and geysers. It is also where the cozido das Furnas is cooked, and if you are lucky, you will see chefs taking food out of the vents to nearby Furnas restaurants. If you want a mineral bath, there are several options in Furnas. Terra Nostra Park has a large thermal pool with water temperatures always ranging from 95 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also Poça da Dona Beija, which has smaller pools in a more intimate setting. Both pools are rich in iron and surrounded by amazing tropical foliage. If you decide to take a dip in the former, be sure to explore the incredible gardens, which are home to over 2,000 different species of trees, including Japanese red cedars, tulip trees, palm trees, and more.

Beaches of the Azores
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The beaches of the Azores

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It’s impossible to visit this paradise island and not admire its incredible shores. The beaches are unique in that, like so many of the Azores’ natural attractions, they are peculiar due to the island’s volcanic history. You won’t find long and wide beaches, but rather small areas surrounded by towering rocks and covered in craggy dark or black sand.

San Miguel boasts many beautiful beaches. Praia dos Mosteiroos beach is a great introduction to the beaches typical of this island chain. The beach is small but black sandy and is flanked on the sides by lush cliffs that stretch all the way to the horizon. You’ll also see some striking volcanic rocks protruding from the sea as you look out over the blue waters of the Atlantic. Praia de Santa Barbara has similar geographical features, but gives beach lovers more room on the sand. Conditions here are notoriously choppy, making it a popular destination for surfers. Like Santa Barbara, Praia do Fogo is one of the island’s largest beaches and is especially breathtaking because of the towering wooded cliffs that fringe the beach. The most unique beach on São Miguel is Vila Franca do Campo. Located off the central south coast of São Miguel, the islet is a partially submerged volcanic crater that has become one big swimming hole in the middle of the Atlantic. It can be reached by ferry or kayak. Reviewers praise the beauty of the island, but complain about the crowds and the disorganized operation of the ferry.

Mount Pico
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Mountain Pico

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There are many amazing hikes to be found in the Azores, but Mount Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal, takes the top spot. Mount Pico, which is actually a dormant volcano, is located right in the middle of Pico Island, one of the central islands of the Azores archipelago.

Pico rises more than 2,300 meters above sea level, so this climb is not for the faint of heart. Because of its shape, the climb is completely uphill (the terrain doesn’t level out at any point) and is, for the most part, exceptionally steep. This is the kind of hike you need to start in the morning and you probably won’t finish it until the evening. Know also that if you want to get to Piquinho, the absolute top of the mountain, you will have to crawl on your hands and feet in several places up the trail. In addition, many travelers say that the place is very hot, with warm air coming from it, so plan accordingly.

УЗНАЙТЕ, ПОЧЕМУ ПЕРЕЕЗД В ПОРТУГАЛИЮ – ОТЛИЧНОЕ РЕШЕНИЕ В 2021 ГОДУ

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