The Azores are a paradise of 9 islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 1400 km west of Lisbon, 2000 km east of Newfoundland. Beauty of the evergreen islands attracts not only visitors but there are also numerous myths around the Azores. Some say that they are the remainders of Atlantis, nowadays it is often entitled as the Hawaii of the Atlantic (link forbes).
This Atlantic paradise offers you a mix of untouched nature, pastures as if you were in the Swiss Alps. The surrounding Ocean not only invites for a swim, a sailing trip but it is one of the best spots in the World (link some travel magazine) for whale watching. If you are into hiking, then you can choose from relaxing sea side hikes, exploring hidden valleys or even climb Mt. Pico, the highest spot of Portugal. If you like calm, relaxed,unspoiled seaside towns all having their long history, there are plenty of them.
Each of the 9 islands has its own characteristics. São Miguel, the largest has almost everything, and with its capital Ponta Delgada even a big city. Neighboring Santa Maria is the southernmost island and the place with most sunshine. Terceira is famous for its parties in the summer and there is even a vertical volcanic vent you can visit. Graciosa, the second smallest islands has beautiful rolling hills with farms spread all over it. Faial, the blue island, has with Horta a cosmopolitan harbor town which is contrasted by the impressive volcanic crater on the top of the island. Pico is facing Faial, is not only topped by the impressive 2351 meter high Mount Pico, but has unique vineyards enclosed by lava rock walls. São Jorge is a long chain of volcanic cones, one of the most underrated islands where you can find magic places. Further to the west, Flores combines all the sights of the other islands, among them the highlight is probably its waterfalls. The neighboring Corvo, the smallest of the 9 islands, is inhabited only by 450 people, if you are up to experience remoteness, do not miss it. The Azores, a paradise of 9 islands is truly a place worth to visit.
A green paradise
When visiting the Islands first, you are most likely struck be the intense green of their fields, forests and mountains. Due to their geographical location, they are as far south as Sicily the climate very mild and even sub-tropical. While in the summer the thermometer does hardly rise above 30 degrees Celsius, in the winter it is rarely below 15 degrees. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean provides plenty of humidity for the occasional rainfall. You can spend your time hiking in Jurassic Park like environments in remote mountain areas or enjoy nature in well maintained botanical parks. Agriculture is one of the main industry, no wonder that you will meet up with a lot of cows in the middle of the Atlantic.
Islands in the blue ocean
The Atlantic Ocean surrounds 9 the Islands and determines the lifestyle. You will never be short of fresh fish and seafood. If you look out of the window, you can get a glimpse of the deep blue Atlantic, which during winter storms can turn into a sea of waves and foam. If you like watersports, you can have all of it. Sailing off the shores, or even make your stop-over in Horta when you are crossing the Atlantic. Enjoying the beaches, few of them are sandy, most are natural swimming pools formed by lava stones, a unique experience. One of the highlights of the Azores is an encounter with whales and dolphins, no wonder the Azores are considered to be one of the world’s top destinations for whale watching. If you like it even more adventurous, you can dive coastal caves or among sharks far out in the Atlantic.
The black legacy of the volcanoes
The Azores are of volcanic origin, apart from Santa Maria, all of the islands are considered to have active volcanoes. The last eruption on the surface happened on Faial in 1957/58 when the volcano of Capelinhos erupted and covered parts of the island with ashes. As the islands are situated at the crossing point of three continental plates, the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate, also earthquakes are an everyday occurrence. On the upside, the volcanoes also determine the beautiful landscape, crater lakes, solidified lava flows, caves, natural swimming pools and on São Miguel thermal springs.
The Azorean have a unique culture, formed by the remote location, its inhabitants and its visitors. If you are looking for a calm peaceful place, which managed to keep some of the charm of the last century, here you can still find it. Life is slow, peaceful and as each of the islands is a small world of its own also intimate. Even though the majority of the inhabitants have their roots in Portugal, it is not uncommon to have blond and blue eyed Azoreans. They might be descendants from early Dutch settlers or from stranded sailors. Each island has its traditional festivities, the good thing about them is that the start around Easter time and come to an end in the late autumn. Even if modern entertainment facilities are rare, it is never boring.
And some quick facts
First discovered in the fourteenth century the islands appeared on several navigation charts (link Medici Atlas 1351) well before the official date of discovery in 1427 when the Portuguese explorer Diogo de Silves first took sight of the two easternmost islands. From East to West, the archipelago stretches over a distance of more than 600 km. The Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal and part of the European Union. The about 240 000 inhabitants are living on 9 islands, thereof 140 000 on the main island of São Miguel. The islands can be classified into three groups, the eastern group with São Miguel and Santa Maria, the central group with Terceira, Graciosa, Faial, Pico and São Jorge and the western group with Flores and Corvo. There are direct flight connections to the Portuguese Mainland, selected European and North American cities. Travel among the islands is mainly ensured by air connections, there are regular ferry connections in between the islands of Faial, Pico and São Jorge as well as seasonal connections linking all the islands.