The Azores are nine verdant and unspoilt volcanic islands in a subtropical remote spot of the North Atlantic Ocean, 1,500 km from Portugal and on the same latitude as Lisbon. The Azores were formed millions of years ago from lava bubbling up from the ocean floor.The climate here is mild, thanks to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, but humid, and characterised by sudden squalls mixed by sunshine. Europe’s only tea plantations are here, on the north coast of Sao Miguel, as well as pineapple groves, orchards and vineyards.
With the deep water of the Atlantic around the archipelago providing a plentiful source of food, there is a rich marine life, with 25 species of cetacean recorded over the year including sperm whales, pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins. You can usually spot at least a few species on a whale watching trip, one of the archipelago’s top attractions, during the spring and summer, or by going snorkelling with dolphins.Read more
Dubbed the green island due to its lush vegetation, Sao Miguel in the eastern Azores is the largest in the archipelago. The charming colonial town of Ponta Delgada is the island’s capital, with cobbled streets lined with palms. It gained its wealth in the 18th and 19th centuries from the export of oranges, wealth that is still evident in the elegant mansions and churches dating from this period.
Volcanic crater lakes and thermal pools are a common feature on Sao Miguel. In Furnas are mud pools, steam vents and spring-fed hot-water pools, including the inviting Lagoa das Furnas. The thermal activity is so hot here that locals bury pots in the earth to make traditional slow-cooked cozido (stew). North of Ponta Delgada is the beautiful Lagoa das Sete Cidades, twin crater lakes which are the source of a famous legend and which appear as one blue and one green body of water. Set in a caldera in the mountains, Lagoa do Fogo (Fire Lake) has some great views.
Around 150 km from Sao Miguel is the island of Terceira in the central Azores. Its well-preserved Renaissance city of Angra do Heroismo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated due to its rich history as a port city for ships on their way to the New World. In a former Franciscan convent is a museum dedicated to the city’s history, with an interesting collection of artefacts including navigational instruments.
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